Our self-limiting attitude?
One of the more surprising elements of modern Welsh life is the desire among some to abrogate responsibility and blame external factors for issues within Wales. Whether it is the Welsh economy, Welsh public services, our relationship with the English, or ever more parochial concerns, the “victim” narrative creates an environment where Wales gives the appearance of wanting to limit itself to small dreams. Wales has seemingly become obsessed with Wales in the context of Wales.
Our failure to embrace wealth creation?
The respected journalist Simon Jenkins, in a Guardian article last year, wrote of Wales’ need to break from “the politics of grievance and subsidy”. One entrepreneur to whom we spoke said “profit and competition are the dirtiest words in Wales”. Unless Wales can detach itself from these attitudes it will be increasingly difficult to build a prosperous economy with effective public services. If we do not embrace wealth creation how are we going to fund Wales in the coming decades?
Our lack of accountability?
When the Assembly first came into being there was much talk about accountability and government transparency: it would be wonderful if Welsh politicians and civil servants were to fully embrace this in practice. Successful democracies need the comfort of a vibrant press to hold politicians to account, and this is especially important in a small nation such as Wales with young political institutions. We have many excellent journalists within Wales, but there are concerns that politicians or civil servants could express their displeasure at unfavourable coverage by limiting “offending” journalists’ access to stories and choosing to spend advertising budgets elsewhere. It would be disastrous if the media became a mouthpiece for Wales’ political establishment and real care needs to be taken in regard to this. If we are to see a vibrant Wales, we must ensure that all levels of government within Wales act transparently and are held publicly accountable.
Our lack of Civil Society?
Our once proud history of independent thinking, discussion and debate has been ebbing away and we need to ensure that civil society in Wales is cherished, supported and encouraged. Moreover, a strong civil society would promote greater government accountability. The often stifling political consensus and culture of conformity mean many ideas and innovations never see the light of day. People who will happily express their concerns and ideas in private rarely voice them to a larger audience and this reticence serves Wales poorly.
Our lack of mentors?
Support and the presence of family, immediate and extended, played a huge part in Wales’ success in the past. Family provided encouragement, nurture and practical assistance. Family played instrumental roles in guiding and caring for people, particularly the young and the elderly. Times have changed, as has family structure: the roles once played by family, schools and faith-based institutions have been supplanted by solutions from the state that have been less than successful. If we are serious about transforming Wales, we need to look at strengthening families and communities and, through doing so, encouraging mentors and role models.