Published on 9 November 2020
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Building Forward: Investing in a resilient recovery

Wealth Economy Report says government must invest in social, natural and physical assets for pandemic recovery and to deliver on levelling-up.

The insight that a sustainable and resilient economy and society require investment in the whole range of assets that constitute true wealth is shared by more and more policymakers and business leaders. This shift is welcome but it is being accelerated by the fact that society is facing some profound challenges.

One is, of course, the pandemic and its impact on economies and societies. Another aspect of social fracture in many countries is its geography, and the need to ‘level up’ those places where people have had too few opportunities to get on in life. 

This need to focus on the ‘where’ as well as the what, why, and when also speaks to another underlying issue, concerning many governments before the pandemic: disappointing growth in productivity for at least the past decade. Economists regard productivity as a key indicator of long-term economic prosperity, closely related to increases over time in wages and living standards. 

There has been an immense amount of economic research on barriers to productivity growth but far less on how they relate to each other, as well as on the need to co-ordinate policies and decisions by business and individuals. Investment is needed in all of the components of wealth because they complement each other. The returns to any single element will be higher if they are treated as a portfolio. A key part of the Wealth Economy project is understanding those links: how do nature, health, and education interact to make people productive? What role does trust play in investment in conventional physical assets?

This report by the Wealth Economy team focuses on the practical, immediate policy lessons emerging from our approach. The pandemic, alongside mounting evidence of the consequences of climate and biodiversity crises, has opened many people’s eyes to the fact that this is a fork in the road. Building back is not the challenge; it is Building Forward to something better.

Without adequate buffer stocks, whether that is proximity to clean air and green space for all, or sufficient investment in skills that people can adapt, or communities where neighbours want to help others, there is no resilience.

Professor Diane Coyle

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Authors

Diane Coyle 2018

Professor Diane Coyle

Bennett Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

Professor Coyle co-directs the Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes. Biography Professor Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at...

Dimitri Zenghelis

Dimitri Zenghelis

Special Advisor: The Wealth Economy

Dimitri Zenghelis is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute at the LSE where, from 2013-2017, he was Head of Climate Policy. In 2014 he was Acting Chief...

Matthew Agarwala

Dr Matthew Agarwala

Project Leader: The Wealth Economy

Matthew Agarwala, Economist, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Cambridge. Matthew Agarwala is an economist interested in wealth-based approaches to measuring and delivering sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity. His research is motivated...

Saite Lu

Dr Saite Lu

Affiliated Researcher

Saite Lu is an Affiliated Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, and the Mead Fellow in Economics at Emmanuel College where he supervises College economists on a range of...

Julia Wdowin

Julia Wdowin

PhD student

Julia Wdowin is a PhD student at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. She has previously worked with Professor Diane Coyle on the ‘Wellbeing, progress and public policy’ programme. Her...

Marco Felici

Marco Felici

Marco is a PhD student at the Department of Land Economy and his research focuses on household finance, housing and well-being. He was previously a Research Assistant at the Bennett...

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