Thursday 12 July 2018

Future Wales : The Begging Bowl Economy, lets stop wasting public money !

Our Welsh Government is producing a sad cycle of "failed projects" which have cost us dear in one way of another. Economic redemption apparently comes from supporting projects which look wonderful on the promos but eventually fall short. The authors of these projects seem to be groups of "businessmen" or "entrepreneurs" who specialise in these schemes which promise much but all need impressive levels of public "investment," often without any clear significant long term monetary return, often just promises of local employment. We are the poorest area of Western Europe. Apparently we should be grateful to be "ripped off" to finance questionable schemes. We're obviously too stupid and weak to bite the hand that robs us?

The narrative is that Wales is a poor, weak region which needs charity to fund economic development. The source of this "charity" in the UK government either directly to Welsh Government or indirectly via schemes like the City Deals and the EU administered funds .

 Charity begins at home. But should our own Welsh Government bodies have to give, or promise to give money and other support to private enterprises of questionable pedigree to get these plans to materialise? We live in a supposedly capitalist country where great commercial ideas should naturally attract private finance. Do these schemes frequently fail because  they are not attractive to private investment or because the rather restricted welsh public purse is not enough to sustain them? In reality are we just being ripped off by calculating "grant grabbers" ? An "investment opportunity" is no prospect at all if you can't properly fund it and time and time again we give money to support projects that no private investor would touch.

Not only is our Welsh Government involved but also our local government organisations. Plans for the projects such as the Circuit of Wales, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, etc. which have failed to get funding to progress, still lap up the "seed money" for planning their development. Is this because they are the only projects on the table?

Governments at all levels are not, despite their protestations to the contrary, actually not very good at boosting national economies. They are excellent at taking the credit for economic growth but much of this is clearly not anything to do with their business competence. Yes, we should financially support the development and improvement of  public infrastructure and services. We don't even have enough money for that.  Unfortunately we have too many elected representatives and public servants who ignore our overall lack of funds and are easily persuaded to part with someone else's ,the public's money, without much thought and even less scrutiny.

Investigative bloggers such as Caebrwyn and Jac o'the North  have been exposing what looks like repetitive suspiciously dodgy dealing by various players across Wales who keep on surfacing to take advantage of our clearly desperate or simply clueless elected representatives. That is a charitable interpretation of course. In the queue for the till at Aldi's their motives for throwing away our money are usually given more sinister descriptions.

Links to the blogs mentioned are below. Well worth a read.

Delta lakes Wellness proposed site with Llanelli  town in the distance 

Artists impression of the completed project  which contains a privately staffed care home, scientific research buildings, a leisure centre, a wellness hotel., private health care and drug testing clinics , alternative therapies and  an incubation centre for business start ups, research and development -? not so much grow your own as hatch a scheme no-one understands..

The best thing that Governments can do for economies is improve infrastructure for everybody. Improving roads, rail links and getting us all decent broadband will do more than concentrating on the computer generated graphics of showy presentations by people who usually, and suspiciously, have never  delivered or been involved in a similar multi-million pound project, historic building refurbishment,mountain top race track etc before promoting their current brilliant schemes..

There is a compelling argument that governmental commercial support at all levels should be more in the form of loans than grants. Of course some will default but the lender keeps a handle on the money, which, if loaned wisely, in time becomes available again for similar projects. Charity to deserving causes is  one thing, giving public money away without any close examination of the likely outcomes and no strings attached looks like an invitation to  theft, especially if some of the people concerned have a history of poor business management  yet continue to find ways to milk the system.

What sustainable economic options do we have?  Agriculture, tourism and renewable energy are obvious options but too small, even if fully developed. to sustain a large enough prosperous workforce. The public sector is the major employer and we are unable to provide enough good quality and decently paid jobs for our young people, many of whom will probably leave in search of  better prospects. In fact the loss of their talents accentuates the problem,

We are not a little England. We cannot afford to build ourselves a country which is in the image of England. We do have pockets of decent manufacturing but we do not have the huge financial services industry to" boost the economy." as England does. Some may argue as to the true economic security of  a country dependant on finance, insurance and property, underwritten by massive debt. However, Wales is not poor because we are more stupid, or lazy than other parts of the UK. We are a different geographical area, we are neglected, even by our own elected government, and its time to change that.  We, ourselves have  have to find our own way to confidence and prosperity.

. Siân Caiach,   

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