Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thoughts on Global Competitiveness (Part 1)

In today's highly competitive global economy, every nation recognizes that "knowledge" is the engine for growth and prosperity (thus the term "knowledge-based economy"). Many leaders of developed countries are investing their future in key areas such as science and technology, business management, policy making/implementation, and international trade. Their approach is largely based on being at the right place, at the right time, and with the right people. Many learn from other countries and then add value to what they have learnt, thereby gaining an advantage over their competitors. For the country that originates a good idea, it should not just feel proud and contented but must continue to push the envelope further lest it be left behind.

Some people might suggest that we should not take a narrowly defined view of global competitiveness that creates win-loss situations between nations, especially at the expense of the developing and under-developing countries. The more liberal minded would suggest that human beings are all equal and that we should therefore cooperate rather than compete. After all, our difference is skin-deep (pun intended) and our universal human traits are more dominant than our cultural differences.

I do not disagree fundamentally with the "universal" view of humanity. Human being as a species does share a lot of commonalities across cultural divides. However, I would submit that healthy competition for a higher reward, be it the Olympic gold medal or the Nobel Prize, is good for our global village, as long as the ultimate benefits (e.g. eradication of small pox, research on AIDS and cancer) are being made available to many rather than just a few. The challenge is of course the choice of the primary reward system (e.g. profit) and the mechanism(s) by which the benefits are distributed to the rest of the world (e.g. multilateral trade). I will leave this challenge to my more learned friends in the micro- and macro-economic fields to explain and tackle.

(to be continued)

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