Since 1994 the GCR has seen huge economic strides. Today it is a bustling regional economy contributing as much as a third of national economic output. However the regional economy is still trapped in structural conditions set by past development paths. Despite government’s best efforts to date, and fairly healthy growth in the mid-2000s, it is still largely uncompetitive, vulnerable to sudden shocks such as that witnessed during the COVID-19 crisis, and unsustainable in its reliance on increasingly scarce and costly resource inputs. More than anything it is profoundly inequitable. While it provides prosperity to many, it offers only despair to others.
All stakeholders recognise that an “inclusive economic development” paradigm is required to address low and imbalanced economic growth in the GCR. To some extent higher levels of growth will lift many boats, and so an inclusive economy still requires the traditional emphasis on creating an enabling/conducive regulatory environment that does not hinder business formation and expansion; promoting competitive advantage of key sectors of the economy; attracting investment and enabling trade; and building supportive infrastructure that reduces the friction of doing business. But more than this, inclusive economic development requires a dramatically different growth path that proactively facilitates opportunities for new and previously marginalised economy actors, generates wider employment, proactively links communities to economic opportunities, mitigates the effects of spatially unbalanced growth by supporting lagging parts of the region, and enables more equitable distribution of growth returns to all participants in the economy.
There are many economic concerns in building a regional economy – from labour market developments, to macroeconomic conditions, to matters of firm strategy, and so on. While GCRO’s research into the conditions for a more inclusive economy is wide ranging, there is a specific focus in this theme on the particular ‘city region / regional economics’ issues of the GCR’s economic geography.