Somehow intuitively anyone who has visited the UK will tell you the same thing: the country feels very divided between the rich South East (where I happen to live presently) and the rest (where I grew up). There have been numerous studies about this matter in the past, and there is an interesting Leader in The Business this week that sums up the horrid scale of the problems – read it here. Now, it is written from a very free-market perspective, and assumes that economic growth is the only valid indicator of success, but the stats are startling:
- Wealth-Creating Britain [i.e. the South East], which takes up only 16% of the British landmass, nevertheless generates 42% of Britain???s economic annual output with 35% of the population… Total government spending in Wealth-Creating Britain comes to only 32% of GDP, below even low tax-and-spend countries such as Ireland (34%)… But √?ber-Dependency Britain Northern Ireland exceeds them all: public spending has now reached a fantastical 64% of GDP in Northern Ireland, the kind of number associated with a miserable People???s Republic of the 1970s.
Now, the real question is what to do about all of this. The article in typical over-the-top neoliberal fashion proposes flat taxes and enterprise zones. Alarmingly, it starts to draw comparisons with Germany after re-unification, where a one-size-fits-all welfare system caused so many problems. It is however the case that these horrible regional disparities, coupled with an increasingly unequal society under the Labour government, are some of the greatest failings of our society. I wonder when the UK’s political classes are going to stand up and do anything about it?