The People of Wales Will Decide Country's Destiny; Britain Spluttered Back into Growth This Week with the Announcement of a 0.3% Rise in GDP, but Wales Will Not Return to True Economic Health until Grave Weaknesses Are Addressed, Writes David Williamson

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Byline: writes David Williamson

THE leaders of the UK coalition may be relieved to have escaped the humiliation of a triple-dip recession but a 0.3% bounce in GDP chart will not fuel celebrations in Welsh households that have endured five years of economic storms.

Attention will focus on joblessness figures which show that Wales has a higher share of the population out of work than England.

The unemployment rate in Wales was 8.2% of the economically active for the three months to February (down 0.7 points on the previous year), compared with a UK figure of 7.9% (down 0.3 points).

Many of the economic indicators are so profoundly bleak that it is hard to see how a technical recovery will result in a revival in high-quality jobs and living standards in Wales.

The value of Welsh exports for the whole of 2012 fell by PS1.4bn compared with 2011. Wales' 10.2% decrease in exports was the biggest fall in the UK.

Wales' construction sector is in clear trouble.

The Index of Construction this month showed a year-on-year fall of 10.3%, even worse than the UK fall of 8.1%.

Wales' overall position of economic weakness in the UK is clearly illustrated in the tables showing the Gross Value Added (GVA) for each hour worked.

Overall, Wales scored just 84.6% of the UK average in 2011, down from 86.4% in 2004. In Powys the rate was just 65.5%; the largely rural Welsh region had scored 73.2% in 2004.

In contrast, Scotland had a GVA figure that matched the UK average and London's was 129.4%.

Figures released this week showed that the disposable income of people in Wales was PS14,129 or 88.1% of the UK average in 2011 - the fourth lowest in the UK.

We had the fourth biggest rise in Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) per head between 1999 and 2011. This may look like a move in the right direction but Tim Williams, former special adviser to the Welsh and UK governments, last year furiously rejected suggestions that GDHI could be a better economic measurement than GVA.

Arguing that a nurse in Wales was more likely to have higher disposable income than a counterpart across the border because of lower property values, he wrote on his website: "This is the stuff that makes me angry. It combines disingenuousness with complacency.

"It borders on lying and helps no-one in Wales apart from a few deluded people in Cardiff Bay...

"Using it rather than GVA is an attempt to move the goal posts. It is a version of the old joke that the patient's operation went perfectly well and they had the best of care by international standards. But they died."

The average house price in Wales in February was PS160,130, the fourth lowest of the regions of the UK. The average UK price of a house, excluding London and the sout-east, was PS186,054.

One of the deepest problems in the Welsh economy is the level of educational achievement obtained by the children who will be the wealth creators of the future. …