Urgent Call to Arms to Welsh Diaspora; Successful Entrepreneurs and Executives like Sir Howard Stringer Could Help Shape Economic Policy in Wales Says Professor Jones-Evans

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Urgent Call to Arms to Welsh Diaspora; Successful Entrepreneurs and Executives like Sir Howard Stringer Could Help Shape Economic Policy in Wales Says Professor Jones-Evans


Byline: Professor Jones-Evans

LAST week, the unemployment figures in Wales resumed their upward trend after two months of a "statistical blip" in which the numbers fell.

According to the Office for National Statistics, unemployment rose by 7,000 over the three months to July, bringing the total to 116,000.

This has left Wales with 32% of working-age adults either unemployed or economically inactive, a rise of 54,000 since the same period last year.

While there are encouraging signs the economy may finally be recovering, the revelation that the UK government has been planning expenditure cuts of nearly 10% could have a disproportional effect on the Welsh economy, given the high dependence on the public sector which some economists have suggested to be as much as two thirds of the wealth generated in Wales.

This could mean tens of thousands more jobs being lost in councils, higher education, the NHS, and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) under the Treasury's current estimates, although the scale of these cuts could depend on whether areas such as health are safeguarded by any new Government.

As for the private sector, it remains my belief Wales entered the recession earlier than the rest of the UK. That is not to say we will emerge out of this earlier than other regions as there are still dangers that large overseas employers could, if influenced by the domestic situation back in their home countries, make the decision to cut and run.

The recent example of Bosch, with 900 jobs hanging in the balance, is testament to the uncertainty that remains in the global economy.

While many may perceive the loss of public sector jobs as a threat to the prosperity of Wales, others will see it as a golden opportunity to rebalance the economy away from dependence on the public sector and in developing a vibrant and sustainable private sector.

How do we do this? The biggest problem with the seven economic summits organised by WAG is that, at least according to government politicians, they have essentially achieved only one tangible outcome, namely the ProAct scheme. This was a programme I suggested in this column last November and, as I said at the time, "Rather than watching impotently as firms lay off key workers, why doesn't the Assembly Government set up a multi-million-pound key fund which enables businesses to temporarily move their workers, during the current economic crisis, onto skills training courses? …

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