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Economic change is in the air

May 23rd 2018

With economic announcements coming thick and fast, Victoria Winckler asks if a change of approach to our economy is in the air?

 

Something seems to be in the economic air. This week we have seen the launch of the Welsh Government’s new economic contract, today the Western Mail reports that the possibility of new laws to boost pay are being explored by the Wales TUC and former Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, and the preferred bidder for the new rail franchise announced today is also reportedly a new, not-for-profit model.  Alongside that, retail giants are shedding jobs and fears about automation continue apace.

What’s going on?

All of these developments are recognition that our economic model needs to change.  There’s a clear expectation that businesses must give something back to the wider community, whether it’s doing a bit more for their workforce and the environment, or using their own procurement powers to better effect.

Welcome though they are, three announcements in a week do not amount to a radical shift in policy. Indeed they need to be set against the high tech, inward investment, grants-driven approach that has been the mainstay of economic development policy for decades.

Instead of random announcements, Wales needs a coherent, effective set of policies that will achieve an inclusive economy.

That’s what our latest report – Creating an Inclusive Economy in Wales – sets out to do. Working with Wales Co-operative Centre, we start off by looking at the defining features of an ‘inclusive economy’ – which we see as one with:

  • Diverse and resilient businesses to create wealth and provide goods and services

  • Decent work for everyone to generate an income to live on

  • Knowledge and skills so people can secure a livelihood and progress

  • A say in economic decisions so that people’s needs are taken into account.

This isn’t a random wish-list, but are points drawn from what leading thinkers identify as the hall-marks of a thriving and inclusive economy.

How to do it?

What to do is of course the most important – and hardest – thing to do because we are really at the cutting-edge here. We developed six key steps:

  1. Grow the Foundational Economy

  2. Grow the Social Business sector

  3. Boost pay and conditions at work

  4. Make the most of procurement

  5. Connect people to jobs

  6. Listen to people

Behind these six steps are some really challenging ideas, like introducing a South Wales travel-card capped at the equivalent of an hour’s pay, and establishing social and community reference groups in each of the new economic regions.

If you want a radically-new approach to how we ‘do’ economics in Wales, please read the report, let us know what you think, and support us to take it further with a regular or one-off donation.

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation.

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