This is the opening page of the report “Wales: Time for a realistic perspective” I co-authored.
Wales is not an economic basket case or lost cause. Yes, there is significant scope for improvement, but with sensible policies and careful stewardship, there is little reason why we cannot grow our economy from its current base.
Interminable discussions about the Barnett Formula obscure the reality that, per capita, we receive more money from Westminster than a number of English regions. Our desire to compare ourselves to Scotland blinds us into believing that an increase to our funding is a game changer, when it’s not. An additional £300 million or so on top of a block grant of around £15 billion is not going to catapult our economy in any way.
We have so much in our favour as a country. There is still a feeling of shared heritage and togetherness amongst many people, and our small population ensures that it is relatively easy to connect with the decision makers. People speak of “Team Wales” and whilst much can be done to move away from the leeks, daffodils, rugby and beer stereotype, we do have something special that gives us a platform on which to build a successful nation.
For such a small nation Wales has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It is an amazing place to live; a green and pleasant land that provides a quality of environment and natural resources that too many of us take for granted. People travel from around the world to visit Wales and we need to appreciate and capitalize on our surroundings.
The Welsh business community is beginning to regain its confidence and companies such as Admiral, Toyota and Airbus are valuable assets not only in the wealth they generate, but also in the aspiration and best-practice they encourage. Yes, there is more we can do to encourage indigenous Welsh business, but slowly Wales is re-inventing itself – away from its heavy industrial past – and developing businesses that can survive in today’s competitive global markets.