Is the UK better connected than we thought?

A report suggests the UK is the sixth-best connected country in the world. With trains like ours...?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 22 Nov 2011
Considering yesterday’s comments by the Prime Minister, in which he all but admitted that unless the UK gets its export hat on sharpish, growth will become even harder to come by, this is rather surprising: a report has suggested that the UK is the sixth-most ‘connected’ country in the world. Baffling, n’est-ce pas? Particularly when you take into account that one of the criteria DHL’s Global Connectedness Index looks at is transport infrastructure. Nevertheless – it shows a rather better-connected country than the one David Cameron was talking about yesterday.

For those who weren’t glued to coverage of yesterday’s CBI conference, the PM spent much of the duration of his speech pointing out in no uncertain terms why the UK needs to improve its export links to emerging economies, as well as infrastructure (particularly broadband). But DHL’s findings suggest there’s less to worry about than he had imagined. In fact, the UK comes top of 125 countries when it comes to ‘breadth’ of connectedness – that’s not only the number of countries we have links to (in terms of trade as well as information, capital and migration), but also how far away those countries are. By contrast, smaller countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and Luxembourg scored highly in terms of ‘depth’.

The UK also ranked top for ‘capital account openness’ – how open the Government is willing to be about international financial transactions – and fourth for financial freedom – how independent banks are from regulation. No wonder the Government is willing to risk its reputation to defend the City from Europe’s plans for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax. Although the fact that the UK came second in terms of transport and communications infrastructure raised our suspicions: if an ancient, creaking train network that collapses every time it rains qualifies as the second-best in the world, rail technology has a long way to go to meet MT’s expectations…

What is similarly eyebrow-raising about the survey is the rest of the countries that form the top 10: Netherlands, Singapore, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium, Hong Kong and Malta. Not exactly the G8, is it? Although DHL pointed out that the countries that forged the most ties abroad tend to be ‘border countries’, ‘which indicates that much of today’s globalisation is actually regionalisation’. That rather suggests that everyone – the UK included – could do a little more to foster connections further afield. Which, in a way, is exactly what Cameron was saying yesterday.

As you were…

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