Civitas says the coalition's industrial strategy will do little to boost exports

Industrial strategy simply 'economic tinkering' says think tank

A leading think tank has slammed UK Business Secretary Vince Cable’s industrial strategy as little more than "economic tinkering".

Civitas said that funding is "scarce and often repackaged", while objectives set by the Liberal Democrat minister are too easy to achieve and do not tackle the structural problems in Britain's economy that need to be solved to boost exports and deal with the trade deficit.

The 'What Strategy?' report said the Conservative-LibDem coalition’s strategy had failed to unite industry behind a cause of "national importance" and instead set modest targets "to be easily achieved rather than to spur the sectors to succeed".

Report author Glyn Gaskarth said: "The limited programmes contained in the strategy thus far cannot solve the structural problems in the UK economy in terms of business underinvestment, poor productivity, poor public education, a substantial trade deficit and a weakened manufacturing base.

"This strategy is not an equivalent of the Manhattan project to develop a nuclear weapon or John F Kennedy's pledge to send a man to the Moon. It does not unite industry behind a cause of national importance."

The Government's strategy identified 11 sectors that needed more Government support and earmarked eight fields of technology that Britain should aim to be a world leader in, but Civitas says it fails to properly consider basic economic factors.

Gaskarth said: "Almost absent from the strategy are considerations of the cost of labour, the total level of employment and the exchange rate. The strategy offers no comfort to the UK unemployed, whose skill levels do not match the high skills expected of those that will fill the few posts envisaged to be created by this strategy. It is guilty of a lack of ambition."

The think tank also calls for the Government to cancel its £1bn investment in offshore wind farms and to fund "reliable" energy sources.

"It is difficult to see how the industrial strategy designed by the Government would result in their stated desire for an economic recovery based on business investment, exports and productivity growth," he added.

"Instead we have a UK economic recovery based on cheap credit, increasing house prices and domestic consumption. The industrial strategy appears to be little more than economic tinkering."

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said: "Industrial strategy has been at the heart of the recovery over the past two years. It has the confidence of business who are investing substantial amounts of their time and money.

“Companies trust the industrial strategy; an example is the recent Airbus announcement on significant job creation and opportunities at Broughton and Filton. More than £10bn of long-term public-private investment is giving business the confidence to invest and making Britain more competitive."

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