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The Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission: Our reaction

February 23rd 2021

The Bevan Foundation says today’s announcement provides a vision for reconstruction, but detail and delivery are critical factors

The Government’s announcement makes the right noises

Today’s announcement of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission provides some good indications of a what a fair covid recovery could look like. The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales set out a vision which included elements of an ethical and green recovery,  based on fairness and sustainability rather than growth and recovery for their own sake. There was an important acknowledgement that the impact has been and will continue to be worse for specific groups including young people, women, BAME and disabled people and those in lower skilled jobs. It was an announcement made in the certainty that unemployment in Wales will increase further.

What’s new?

The £30 million announced for the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors will be welcome news to some of the hardest hit sectors in Wales. That the support will be available to associated supply chains is an encouraging recognition of the relatedness of different sectors, and the knock-on effect from one industry to other parts of the economy. The allocation of an additional £270m to Development Bank of Wales for business loans and equity will also be welcome news to (eligible) businesses.

Having the right skills mix to deliver a reconstruction is essential. The creation of a “Covid commitment” however, seems short on ambition. Its guarantee to people over the age of 16 stops short of guaranteeing a training placement, education or employment. Rather, it commits to access to advice and support through expansion of existing programmes. Support for training and skills does however extend to £3,000 incentives for employers creating apprenticeships – crucially, for people of all ages.

What’s familiar?

The commitment to the foundational economy as a provider of essential goods and services is also re-iterated while acknowledging challenges remain. Whether it has the capacity to drive reconstruction to the extent that may be desired is another matter. Manufacturing plays a critical role in the supply of many foundational goods, so here’s hoping this will be reflected in the new manufacturing plan to be published later this week. Given Wales’ existing manufacturing capacity, this will be vital for making the most of its manufacturing potential for supplying our essential or foundational needs.

The government’s “town centre first” commitment is restated, but disappointingly continues to miss the point that towns are far more than their town centres, and that Welsh towns are still in need of comprehensive towns policy.

The devil is in the detail

The intention to strengthen the economic contract is promising but similarly to some other elements, the devil is in the detail. Understanding firstly what impact the economic contract has had in extracting “something for something” actions from business will inform where it needs to be strengthened. Does strengthen mean extending it more widely? Will it include for example, enforcement and penalties alongside awareness raising of what responsible business is and why it matters? It is light on substance, so it remains to be seen if fair work really will be a key pillar in covid reconstruction and recovery.

Overall the vision set out by the Welsh Government today indicates some important and a few solid commitments. Alongside them are a number of aspirations light on detail, for which concrete delivery will extend well beyond the current Senedd term.

Compiled by the Bevan Foundation Team

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