With just under three weeks to go until the Assembly Elections, all the political parties have been promoting their plans for the economy in Wales.
Of course, most of the big policy levers that affect the Economy here are held in Westminster. But what does the business world think the new Welsh Assembly Government could do to help Wales prosper?
Merthyr-born businessman Mike Samuel wants quicker decision-making. He says he has the product, customers and most of the finance in place to bring new life and 200 jobs to an industrial unit in Rassau making modular buildings. He’s applied for a half-a-million-pound repayable loan – not a grant – but says he’s finding WAG slow to make a decision. In the meantime he says he’s losing contracts and his business backers are looking at other places to invest. Plaid’s leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, who’s been responsible for Economic Development in Wales for the last four years, says viable business projects in six key sectors, including manufacturing, will be considered for support.
Certainly there will need to be growth in the Welsh private sector if it is to absorb the 50,000 jobs set to be lost in the public sector here. Anne-Louise McKeon Williams’ could be one of them. The mother-of-two works at the Newport passport office. Anne Louise and 580 of her colleagues will find out next month if their campaign to overturn the closure decision and save their jobs has been successful.
Twenty-seven per cent of jobs in Wales are in the public sector, compared to 21 per cent in England. We are too dependent on them, according to David Rosser, the director of the CBI in Wales. He says the new government will need to encourage the private sector to grow and it shouldn’t over-regulate or over-legislate. He believes Economic Development should not be placed at the door of one department, but it should be a culture which runs throughout government. The CBI says every government decision and every investment should be measured on how it will impact on business and economic growth inWales.
Securing economic growth and improving Wales’ poor performance in terms of prosperity compared to the rest of the UK should be at the heart of the next government’s agenda. We’ll have to wait and see.