No sooner had I finished writing my last post on the Welsh Assembly Government's failure in terms of economic development than I read this piece in WalesOnline by the Llanelli-based Tinopolis media group's Chairman, Ron Jones. All I can say is that I agree with every word and it deserves to be reproduced in full here:
THE Welsh Assembly Government has decided that we need an Economic Renewal Programme.
The first objective of which is to “To better understand the structure of the Welsh economy, its key characteristics and drivers and gain consensus on the vision for the future economy of Wales”.
This is followed by the usual clichés of “renewed approach to economic development”, “meet the needs of new and existing businesses”, “stronger and more sustainable economy”, and “increase the prosperity and long-term well-being of the people”.
Cliches generally have a grain of truth but when we read that our government has yet to understand the structure of our economy we should be worried. I sense that we are on the brink of one of those dispiriting “something must be done” moments in Welsh history.
After the billions of pounds spent and the efforts of the many hundreds of WDA and now WAG staff over so many years is this as far as we’ve got? Our politicians announce that the answer to our economic problems is another strategy. Probably nobody outside WAG could even guess at the number of strategies, re-launches and fresh beginnings Wales has suffered over the last decades.
To avoid facing up to the failure of all previous strategies our government has declared this to be year zero. We should now pretend that changes in the world economy occasion a re-focussing of our efforts, building on the excellent work and success of the past.
Our economic past is not history, we are living in it. The business model for Wales has been broken for years and we need to acknowledge that before we can move on. Wales has not had an easy ride. It had imposed on it an economic model ill-fitted to the modern world. We were once a land of entrepreneurs. We had farmers, merchants and manufacturers who served their markets and sustained the economy. We weren’t rich but we survived. Governments in London weren’t about to waste money on the Welsh and they didn’t.
Since those days Wales has suffered nationalisation, privatisation, government to whom Wales was a nuisance, unworldly trade unions and our, the people’s, unwillingness to face reality. All have conspired to create not a post-industrial society but a society at ease with living off a public purse to which it makes an insufficient contribution.
Just consider a few of the things we have allowed to happen. Nationalisation removed our corporate base and moved control to London with a profound impact on the business infrastructure. Successive governments over 50 years supported failing or doomed industries. Nicholas Edwards saw Wales as Greater Cardiff. Our WDA ended up pursuing any company prepared to move operations to Wales whilst ignoring indigenous business. Our well-funded universities have made virtually no contribution to our economy. A bloated public sector hoovers up young talent with better salaries and less risk.
The great levers of the economy are outside Wales, but we were entitled to hope that devolution would at least bring an understanding of our economy, empathy for what our country needs.
Instead, post-devolution we have created the foundation of an economic nightmare. The public sector stole Objective 1. We lost the wasteful hundreds of the WDA only for them to reappear within WAG, now hidden in a new fog of bureaucracy and hidden from public view.
The petty regulation beloved of Tory and Labour governments in London has been accepted and gold-plated. Crucially, our people are poorer now than any in the UK and falling further behind.
Faced with this, searching for a new strategy is an insult to the people of Wales. Something should be done is an empty phrase but perhaps WAG should at long last stop analysing and consulting. We are at the stage where anything is better than that.
According to Betsan Powys, Ron Jones's Tinopolis media group is bidding to produce the news on ITV in Wales. All I can say is I hope he gets the contract - it's about time that a critical Welsh media held our unimaginative and incompetent Welsh politicians to account rather than just regurgitating their press releases!