Jiggery Pokery That Hides the Facts about Productivity; ANALYSIS
Byline: ALEX BRUMMER
AMONG the most breathtaking of the Chancellor's claims is that under his stewardship Britain has achieved a productivity breakthrough.
After decades lagging behind, Britain has caught up with Germany, is ahead of Japan and has halved the gap with France.
It is a triumphalist statement that would be challenged by almost every outside authority, including the Paris-based OECD.
It is even challenged by recent data from Britain's own Office of National Statistics.
A release by the ONS last month stated baldly in its opening paragraph that 'UK productivity in 2004, measured by GDP (national output) per worker, was behind that of the average of all other G7 countries'.
German productivity, it stated, was the same as that in Britain.
In its most recent report, issued at the end of last year, the OECD remarked that despite Britain's economic stability and growth, 'there is not yet any clear and unambiguous evidence of any pickup in long-term productivity growth'.
So how has Brown managed to turn one of the best-documented weaknesses in the UK's economic performance into a triumph?
The answer lies in a new paper, attached to the Budget, which comes up with a fresh way of measuring productivity.
Instead of simply looking at the output of workers per head or per hour, it introduces a new element.
It looks at Britain's productivity in the past and compares it with the present economic cycle. This is the very same disputed period of business activity at the centre of the controversy over Brown's fiscal rules.
The Chancellor has redefined the economic cycle twice, extending it backwards and forwards, to give himself more time to meet his goals. …