About 5% of the UK population live in Wales, an economic output of 4% with a GDP of around 80% of the UK average. Gross added value (GVA) has declined from 84% ave UK in 1989 to 70% in 2019. Wales has a fiscal gap of around 9bn. Cardiff remains the primary source of GDP relying principally on retail, finance, media and tourism sectors. Cardiff has received more investment in the regeneration projects in the late 20th century than any other part of Wales.
The Welsh Nationalist Plaid Cymru, argue that independence will allow Wales to embrace more innovative economic policies, but that is hard to reconcile without understanding the underlying economic conditions and their historic development. They argue that fiscal responsibility both collection (taxation) and expenditure can only be fruitfully managed if Wales is fully independent. They do not, at least at present, describe in detail how to address the fiscal deficit of £9bn.
If Wales is to move forward it must improve its wealth creation. This does not mean an economic free for all, but it does mean that government of whatever hue, does develop strategies to improve the Welsh national income. From that improvement will follow the quality of life for all the people of Wales.
Wales has certain advantages not shared by the rest of the UK, not least its natural beauty and its rich agricultural heritage, plus its very strong cultural profile, but much remains to be done to put Wales nearer the top of the European tourist destinations.
In agriculture the picture is much more complex, and there are extensive areas where neither arable or livestock are suitable. A strategy to marry these fringe areas into tourism would surely make sense.
To make Wales accessible through to the western and northern coasts is crucial to opening up the Welsh hinterland, via a good communication system. The tardiness of the Assembly government to address these issues is lamentable.
The great festival of Eisteddfods International and National are unique and truly something to shout about. The WNO, the orchestras and choirs and theatres of Wales all need to be encouraged to put Wales on the Culture map of the world. The Millennium Centre in Cardiff is a beacon for cultural progress, we need more investment and international awareness as in the likes of ‘Cardiff Singer of the World’.
Wales must not allow Cardiff to be the centre of all things. Sure, we want and have got a capital city to be proud of, but we also need thriving centres for west to centre to north, which will attract industry, skills and investment. The University towns of Swansea, Aberystwyth and Bangor are already centres of excellence, and we are yet to see how the Welsh Government is to capitalise on this vital resource. Erasmus may be in short term confusion but Wales must capitalise on its academic heritage.
First among equals is most obviously roads and communication systems. Wales has to grasp the nettle and open up its lovely face to welcome industry, technology, tourism and advanced agriculture.
Achieving these goals are key to Wales’s long term future. Yes, let us be proud to be Welsh, but better even to be proud and successful as a nation.