I like to describe myself as a recovering economist. That gives me the chance to avoid the worst of the baggage of being an economist, but still, dip back in when I see compelling economic behaviour (e.g. Stimulus to recover from COVID lockdowns) or some good economic and statistical analysis.
No one needs to be told how important innovation is for an economy, at the same time, no one needs to be told how vital transparency is from an economic, business, political and cultural perspective. Fortunately, there are useful benchmarks and metrics available to measure performance on both of these measures. I have written about these before, most recently, the Global Innovation Index 2020 results, and previously I have looked at the Corruption Perception Index.
As a refresher here are the source reports
At a global level, Australia ranks well. In the most recent Global Innovation Index, we ranked 23rd. From Transparency International’s latest ranking we came in 12th. So far, so good. Sadly we are in decline on both measures. We had the largest increase in corruption for our peer countries in the most recent survey. 2020 does not look like it will be an improvement, even allowing for COVID disruption, the behaviour of the federal government, impact of single-issue lobbyists, Westpac and Crown Casino for examples does not inspire confidence in institutions. We cannot rely on others to fall faster than us. Being less worse is not being right. We might not have the explicit corruption that other countries suffer through, but the intangible corruption is sadly more pervasive. As it rises, the citizenry increasingly accepts corruption until we have lowered expectations.
From an innovation perspective, we do well in terms of education, political and regulatory environments. We fall badly in areas such as graduates in science and engineering, FDI outflows, minority investor treatment and creative goods exports.
The decline in Australia from an innovation and transparency perspective is not good enough. Australia always has prided itself of being the clever country, thanks to Bob Hawke and the lucky country. If public and private sector policies continue on the current trajectory, we will be neither before too long. We have to take advantage of our proximity to Asia, our multi-cultural society and the high levels of skill that the average worker has in Australia. Complacency, a lack of transparency and policy will set us back, and we will no longer be lucky or clever.