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So Australia wants to become innovative. The Lucky Country wants to become the Smart Country. It wants to embrace disruptive innovation, face the future boldly and feed the teeming masses of Asia with our clean and green food. Yet, when the choice was there for Australia’s leaders to either choose to grab the opportunity with both hands or to pretend ‘she’ll be right, mate’, they chose the latter. In fact, they chose the latter with such alacrity that at least three Prime Ministers have fallen over the issue. Yet, now our leaders are telling us that we have to become more ‘risk-taking’, ‘entrepreneurial’ and willing to tolerate failure. All good sentiments, but our leaders have been found wanting on the greatest economic challenge of our time: climate change.
The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) recently released a new report analysing the relationship between the growth of the financial sector and productivity growth. The empirical findings are particularly worrying. The BIS economists estimate that in countries experiencing rapid growth in their financial sector, financially-dependent industries experience 2.5% lower productivity growth than in countries with slower growing financial sector. To put that into perspective, the OECD average of productivity growth was 1.6% during 2009-12. Clearly, this is a disturbing finding for any economic policy-maker. What do the BIS findings tell us are the appropriate macroeconomic policy settings for productivity growth? What does this mean governments can actually do? And what does it mean in terms of winners and losers in an economy?