Wales needs a government focused on growing the economy. To say this is not to ignore the impact of UK government policy, however, this article is solely focused on the devolved administration.
It was somewhat refreshing when the then Welsh Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters MS made the candid admission:
“For 20 years we’ve pretended we know what we’re doing on the economy – and the truth is we don’t really know what we’re doing on the economy. Nobody knows what they’re doing on the economy.”
The Deputy Economy Minister further conceded:
“Everybody is making it up as we go along – and let’s just be honest about that. We’ve thrown all the orthodox tools we can think of at growing the economy in the conventional way, and we’ve achieved static GDP over 20 years.”
These were not the first such startling admission from a Welsh Government Minister, just under a decade ago the then Business and Enterprise Minister Edwina Hart MS stated:
“I regret about the capitalist system, if you want to go to history lessons perhaps I need to go back to Karl Marx and Engels and we could have a discussion about those issues.”
After more than twenty years of Labour governance, the Welsh economy desperately needs a boost. That boost can only come from a government focused on building the economy, prosperity and jobs rather than yearning for Marx.
There was a faint glimmer of hope for the Welsh economy during the Welsh Labour leadership contest in 2018 when Eluned Morgan MS stated the economy would be “her number one focus”. Instead, the Welsh Labour membership opted for Mark Drakeford, the man whose platform was “21st Century Socialism”.
The next Welsh Government must prioritise growing the Welsh economy. Distractions like agitating for independence as Plaid Cymru aspire to would be to the detriment of the people of Wales. Labour ministers seem more interested in rhetoric than delivering for the people of Wales.
The focus of the Welsh government should be on fostering entrepreneurship. Focusing on Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to create jobs, drive investment and grow the economy. SMEs in Wales account for over sixty per cent of all employment in Wales, yet the Welsh Government seems focused on large enterprises as a means of driving employment.
The foundation for economic growth must be infrastructure. From connecting towns, cities and rural communities to enable commuting and connectivity like fibre broadband for the post covid world. A world that has led to many companies becoming remote-first while at the same time school pupils have been learning remotely. Connectivity or rather the lack of it can impede opportunities and enterprise.
We also need a skilled workforce. By expanding technical and vocational education for pupils and expanding adult retraining provisions, we can develop a workforce capable of rebuilding the Welsh economy. The focus should be on high quality, resilient employment opportunities.
Taxes on businesses are undermining the high street. By cutting business rates, we can unlock our high streets and by allowing entrepreneurs to rent empty retail units rent-free for a period of time, we can kickstart the local revival of our local economy that we desperately need.
Finally, a Welsh government focused on rebuilding the economy should be making a case to the UK government to create free ports, special economic zones and implement corporation tax cuts. Working in tandem with Westminster for the good of the people of Wales.
Welsh voters should heed the candid admission of Lee Waters MS and vote for change.