Theresa May puts her cards on the ta­ble

The Star Early Edition - - BUSI­NESS RE­PORT - Robert Hut­ton and Alex Mo­rales

THE UK’s govern­ment will pick win­ning ar­eas in the econ­omy to cham­pion as part of an in­dus­trial strat­egy aimed at boost­ing Bri­tain’s pro­duc­tiv­ity as the coun­try pre­pares to leave the EU.

An­nounc­ing the long-promised plan yes­ter­day, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said she wanted to see “sec­tor deals” to iden­tify and ad­dress bar­ri­ers to ex­pan­sion in dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries. The govern­ment also aims to tar­get ar­eas where it thinks the UK could ex­cel in the fu­ture, in­clud­ing biotech­nol­ogy, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and mo­bile net­work­ing. Min­is­ters will hold a cabi­net meet­ing in north-west Eng­land to em­pha­sise their de­sire to help parts of the coun­try that have some­times be left be­hind by in­dus­trial shifts.

New ap­proach

The strat­egy “will be un­der­pinned by a new ap­proach to govern­ment, not just step­ping back, but step­ping up to a new, ac­tive role that backs busi­ness and en­sures more peo­ple in all cor­ners of the coun­try share in the ben­e­fits of its suc­cess,” May said.

May has placed the in­dus­trial strat­egy at the heart of her ef­fort to de­fine her govern­ment be­yond Brexit. The plan, sub­ject to a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, aims to draw to­gether poli­cies on trans­port, ed­u­ca­tion, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, en­ergy and con­struc­tion to en­sure busi­nesses have the skills, links and ac­cess to sup­plies needed to ex­pand and di­ver­sify.

The strat­egy is “about the econ­omy of the fu­ture, it’s about en­sur­ing that busi­ness can grow and is en­cour­aged to grow in the UK,” May said on Thurs­day in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view. “It’s also about en­sur­ing that the ben­e­fits of pros­per­ity are avail­able across the whole coun­try, we see that eco­nomic growth and pros­per­ity for ev­ery­one.”

Among ar­eas tar­geted for govern­ment help is tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion. May will an­nounce £170 mil­lion (R2.85 bil­lion) for new in­sti­tutes, teach­ing sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths, that will pro­vide high school grad­u­ates with the skills de­manded by lo­cal em­ploy­ers. May also aims to boost teach­ing of those sub­jects in uni­ver­si­ties, as well as maths in high schools.

“We know we’re go­ing to have to com­pete and have the chance to com­pete with coun­tries around the world,” busi­ness sec­re­tary Greg Clark said yes­ter­day in a BBC tele­vi­sion in­ter­view. “It’s an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive world. You get no quar­ter if you’re not pro­duc­tive. We’re less pro­duc­tive than even our neigh­bours – France and Ger­many – for ex­am­ple, and that’s some­thing we need to ad­dress.”

May’s fo­cus on tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion is likely to please busi­nesses. A sur­vey re­leased on Satur­day of 800 mem­bers of the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors, a busi­ness lob­by­ing group, found that their top pol­icy pri­or­ity is a long-term skills strat­egy, with three-quar­ters of com­pa­nies say­ing it’s “very im­por­tant.” In­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments and bet­ter broad­band were their sec­ond and third choices. – Bloomberg

The prime min­is­ter also aims to boost teach­ing of those sub­jects in uni­ver­si­ties


Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May speaks at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos in this file photo. She wants to see “sec­tor deals” to iden­tify and ad­dress bar­ri­ers to ex­pan­sion in dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries.

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