Correct analysis, wrong conclusion

What is the point of research and analysis if the conclusions drawn are wrong? How can an institution correctly analyse the problems in our economies and yet call for more of the same actions that have caused the malaise?

Case 1: Australia’s Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission (PC) is a Government agency that exists to make recommendations as to increasing Australia’s productivity. In March, it released its most recent analysis with a 5 year forward looking timeframe with many recommendations.

The report begins with the heading for part 1, “Australia faces a productivity predicament”. The authors certainly got that right. And to fully demonstrate to everyone that they got it right, they went on to write a report that fills over 1,000 pages. Goodness knows how much time and taxpayer funds were wasted in the production of a 1,000+ page report that I expect few people will ever read. Improving productivity means doing more with less and the PC ought to remember that.

Of course, we do have a productivity predicament, although I would say it is more a problem than predicament. The PC report, after setting up a framework for analysis, went on to make recommendations. I will list some as examples:

“Make best practice teaching common practice; Consolidate support for life long learning; Leverage information to improve quality; Pursue trade resilience through openness; Prepare for increased global trade in services.”

And on it went. Dozens of recommendations like these. These bureaucrats must think that the longer they make the report, the less likely it is that it will be read and therefore they are less likely to be found out as waffling incoherent fools.

A good PC report would comprise no more pages than necessary to write down the words “Abolish” and “Delete” and apply them liberally to red tape, green tape, most Government agencies, most of the burgeoning public service, and most Government regulation.

Instead, the vast bulk of the PC recommendations call for more action by government agencies.

Case 2: The World Bank

This week the World Bank warned of a coming decade of lost growth primarily as a result of less work, less investment and less trade. The Bank cited the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as particularly damaging and “were set to create lasting damage to economic performance, undermining efforts to improve global living standards, reduce poverty and address climate change.”

(Note to younger readers: if you want to work in a transnational institution, remember to append “and address climate change” to a good number of your paragraphs when writing reports. It doesn’t have to make sense or be in context. Just shove in a liberal sprinkling and you will improve your credibility substantially.)

Again, the Bank is right that the world economy is not in good shape. And then came the killer conclusion: it will take “a Herculean collective policy effort to restore growth in the next decade to the average of the previous one”.

The bureaucrats at the World Bank seem to think like those at our PC do. They believe productivity is driven by Government. In fact, productivity is stifled by Government.