A G7 for small countries

Richard Harman writes at Politik:

Gluckman suggested to Skilling that we set up some form of think tank.

The next question was to ask how it would be different.

“What we are doing in the policy community is that all the time we are comparing ourselves to these big anglo phone countries.

“Maybe it’s time we started getting ideas from other small successful economies.”

So Gluckman went and saw then Prime Minister John Key who was quickly enthusiastic about the idea.

The next question was who to invited to join the group.

Gluckman and Skilling decided that a “small” country would be one with under 10 million population.

That meant that outside Europe only three who fitted that bill could be considered advanced — New Zealand, Singapore and Israel.

They then somewhat arbitrarily decided to include Denmark, Finland and Ireland and after a couple of years, Switzerland asked if it could join.

In essence what they had founded was a sort of G7 for small countries

Sounds like a very good idea.

There are three work streams; science and innovation, economics and foreign affairs.

There are two meetings a year.

“Everybody says they are some of the best meetings in the world because there are no country positions taken.

“It’s all in confidence like ‘we stuffed this up, this is how we should have done it’ .

“There’s a lot of very frank sharing of what works and what doesn’t.”

And so, for example, the meetings have recently been looking at how digitisation impacts on small countries.

Here the talk has focussed on the impact of digital disruption and its costs and benefits.

The meetings heard how Denmark had established a Disruption Council to enable open and frank conversations on the pros and cons of digitalization.

Other ideas came from Singapore and Ireland who both focus on developing skills for the digital economy.

We have tended to look to the UK in the past for policy ideas, but they are 20 times our size. Working with six other advanced small countries to discuss policies that do and do not work is laudable.

Other work deals with how to handle trade negotiations and how small countries can deal with the monopolies created by companies like Google or Apple.

The upshot of all this work is that the Small Advanced Economies Initiative has started to gain considerable global credibility.

It is run from Gluckman’s Auckland office, and he is in regular touch with the OECD and EU on work that the initiative is doing, and even the White House(under Obama) has asked for briefings.

Currently, thanks to the Inititatiove,  the EU has staff in Wellington looking at how StatsNZ produces the big data that forms the basis of the social investment programme.

Gluckman believes that already the initiative has produced a cultural shift within Government in Wellington.

“What it has done is change the perspective of New Zealand officials.

“It has made us outward looking.”

Prime Minister Bill English says the grouping is starting to turn into “quite an effective” multi-national policy focussed discussion.

I had never heard of it until reading this article. Good to learn about it.

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