Xavier Sala i Martin: The reason I come to AEF is ideas
16 May 2019 21:00

Xavier Sala i Martin: The reason I come to AEF is ideas

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - Xavier Sala i Martin, Professor of Economics at Columbia University and the man behind the Global Competitiveness Index, has shared his thoughts on the importance of the Astana Economic Forum (AEF) for global community, Kazinform reports.

"I think it's a good idea that Kazakhstan has international forums where ideas are shared. One of the areas in which Kazakhstan, according to the Global Competitiveness Index that the World Economic Forum does that I created for them, is the weakest is innovative ecosystem. Many people tend to confuse innovation ecosystem with RND, it's not RND. It's about exchanging ideas, connecting ideas, learning from what works and what doesn't work in many areas of businesses. And in this regard I think it's a very good idea that the Kazakhstan authorities realize where the problems are and one of the ways to solve them is these kinds of forums. Therefore, I welcome forums like this for the benefit of the country," Sala i Martin said of the forum.

He continued by pointing out that economies that tend to be very concentrated in few sectors need to shift their focus to diversification and that the exchange of ideas will help them do so.

"We are in the middle of the mother of all technological revolutions with biotechnologies, sharing technologies, artificial intelligence, manufacturing technologies, nanotechnologies, all coming at once in a very short period of time. I encourage you to remember what phone you had 10 years ago. The speed at which the things are changing... It's going to be very hard for countries to adapt and, therefore, sharing information will end up being crucial. You don't have to invent everything you use. Innovators have to build on what is already known. You don't have to invent the wheel all over again, you just need to talk to somebody who has invented the wheel and copy it. So, you need to adapt technologies, you need to use these adaptations to come up with your own versions of these technologies for your businesses, for your governments, for your citizens, for your schools," he said.

Sala i Martin stressed that ‘ideas are like dark matter', one cannot see them but they happen to be the most important part of the economy. "The reason I come here is ideas. Ideas are the oil of the 21st century," he added.

The expert shared an opinion that rankings are not important. "We do rankings because that's what the press likes, but rankings are a little bit misleading because they give the impression that competitiveness is like a football game. If I win, you lose. If you win, I lose. Competitiveness actually means being able to be productive, being able to increase the standards of living, the levels of prosperity of citizens and all countries can do that at the same time. In order for me to improve doesn't mean you have to go down," he noted.

"I think it is way more interesting to go inside the index and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each particular country," said Sala i Martin, adding that innovation ecosystems and institutional environment are Kazakhstan's weakest points.

He went on by praising Kazakhstan for decent score in education and urged the country to prioritize education. "We need to give students the tools to compete with robots, to compete with artificial intelligence. We need to value curiosity, value the question rather than the answer. We need to teach students human values, things that robots cannot do," Sala i Martin emphasized.