The WDA



Having spent the last two weeks in sun-drenched Portugal sitting on the beach reading and relaxing, I haven’t been anywhere near the blogosphere or, for that matter, Welsh news.

Of course, I then had to leave my phone on last Wednesday whilst sitting by the pool and received a call from the highly talented David Williamson of the Western Mail, who wanted me to comment on a story they were running on an IWA article by Brian Morgan calling for the resurrection of the WDA.

My comments from David’s interview can be read here.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the story itself, only that it has taken so long for this call to be made. Ironically, my column for yesterday’s Western Mail was on the same subject but was written two and a half weeks ago before I went away on holiday.

My view is pretty clear about this and is similar to that made by Dafydd Wigley, namely that we need to thoroughly investigate whether the current merger of the WDA into the Department for Economy and Transport has benefited the Welsh economy.

My own belief from bitter experience is that it has not and that the whole process of supporting business has become overly bureaucratic, directionless and focused solely on process rather than outcome.

Worst of all, the department seems to be worried more about what the Minister will think about any decision rather than the effect of any support on the businesses themselves.

That is not to say that we should just bring back the old WDA as it is easy to forget that it was beset by many problems, not least a silo mentality by many of the departments within the organisation which stifled its overall effectiveness. We mustn't also forget that the WDA, despite it best intentions, did not succeed in arresting Wales's economic decline relative to the rest of the UK during the last decade.

Therefore, any review should certainly re-examine the case for a separate economic development body away from the day to day interference of politicians and, more importantly, this should be based on best practice from other similar small economies. The question, of course, is whether such a review will actually take place in the near future?

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