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Asia Plan 'Needs More Reform'
Source: qcl.farmonline.com.au
Source Date: Monday, October 29, 2012
Created: Nov 01, 2012

BUSINESS leaders have called on the Gillard government to accelerate key economic reforms if it is to meet ambitious productivity targets contained in the Asian Century white paper aimed at catapulting the nation's living standards into the world's top 10 by 2025.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday released the Australia in the Asian Century white paper, reports the The Australian Financial Review, which sets the goal of boosting the average income by $11,000 to $73,000, pushing Australia from 13th place to 10th, ahead of Switzerland, Sweden and Taiwan.

The white paper warns that "most of what is required to lift Australia's productivity is in the hands of ­individuals, especially managers of businesses".

While business leaders welcomed the paper's emphasis on closer ties with the world's fastest-growing region, they argue the government should do more to deliver reforms that reduce red tape, ­compliance costs and labour market constraints.

Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd said the 2025 ­targets were challenging. "Certainly productivity and efficiency start at the firm level but it is up to government – federal, state and local – to provide the circumstances and the business environment which encourages businesses to be more productive," Mr Shepherd said.

Writing for The Australian Financial Review, ANZ chief executive Mike Smith argues the paper should form part of a broader commitment to reforms that will create a more flexible economy.

"The white paper rightly identifies innovation, research and development and taxation policy among others as areas for focus," he said. "Ultimately this will also need to extend to creating more flexibility in labour markets, for example, by building new workforce skills, supporting mobility and accommodating a range of business operating models."

To reach the government's target, productivity growth needs to be "roughly comparable to that experienced in the 1990s", the paper says. In that period, productivity surged off the back of Hawke, Keating and Howard reforms, including the floating of the dollar, dismantling of tariffs and labour market deregulation.
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