Get real on the state of the Welsh economy

Regular readers of this blog and my newspaper columns will have noted a number of pieces on statistics related to the Welsh economy over the years.

Just before Christmas, the latest GVA data (which track the prosperity levels of the various nations and regions of the UK) was released by the UK Statistics Authority and over the last weekend, I finally got some time to examine them in more detail.

Perhaps the most shocking finding was that an extra £4.2 billion would have been generated in if the Welsh economy had growth kept pace with the UK average over the last decade.

The analysis of Gross Value Added (GVA) rates between 1997 and 2007 also reveals that the gap between London and other parts of the UK has widened, with Wales among the hardest hit. The average annual GVA growth rates for all regions apart from London was higher between 1989 and 1997 than over the last 10 years.

In 2007, the GVA per head for London was 152 per cent of the UK average, with Wales at 75 per cent and bottom of the UK prosperity league table. In contrast, London was at 138 per cent of average prosperity of the UK in 1997 whilst Wales stood at 80 per cent.

During the period 1997-2007, the London economy grew in overall terms by 91 per cent as compared to a growth of only 54 per cent for Wales. The UK economy grew by 69 per cent.

Remember this is before the current downturn took hold and, yes, these figures are utterly shocking, especially given the billions extra that have been made available to support business through Europe and the Treasury.

However, even worse is the fact that successive Assembly Governments have been in a constant state of denial about the declining state of the Welsh economy for years.

I remember reading this 2003 piece with a mixture of disbelief and incredulity and this response has set the pattern for Assembly responses ever since. If you don't believe me, read Rhodri Morgan's response to the figures in today's Western Mail.

As a result, there has been a general inability to grasp the deep rooted structural problems within the Welsh economy and, more importantly, developing strategies to address them. Clearly, if you believe that it ain't broke, then why should you fix it. This is despite warnings for a number if years from academics such as Professor Phil Cooke, who warned about this at the beginning of the century.

Is is time for a new economic reality and to develop a new approach to managing the Welsh economy?

Of course, it is unlikely that politicians will do anything, as noted previously, but watching the video below may well help them to take the first step.



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