Thursday 24 July 2014

Credit stealing and blame avoidance

For those who will fill the jobs generated, there is no doubt that Wales’ reported success in attracting inward investment is good news.  It’s not clear how many jobs there really are however.  There has been a tendency in the past to overstate the numbers, and I’ve long been sceptical about claims that “n” jobs have been “safeguarded” and would otherwise have been lost.  When the organisations giving the grants or aid and the organisations receiving them all have a vested interest in presenting the highest possible numbers, there is obviously a potential to, shall we say, ‘use the most optimistic forecasts’.  And some of the jobs will not arrive for 3 to 5 years, which leaves ample scope for ‘changed circumstances’ to lead to a revision of the numbers.
I’m not sure what it says about the Welsh Government’s economic policy.  I had thought that the emphasis was moving away from attracting inward investment in order to concentrate on growing and developing indigenous businesses; not least because of experience.  Whilst some inward investment into Wales has created some sound long-term employment, there are plenty of other examples of a short-term presence which moves on when the grants run out.  In effect, policy often seems to be whatever is happening at the time; events drive policy rather than policy driving events.
Political reaction has been predictable.  The Tories point to every failure in economic policy as being down to the Welsh government and claim the latest news as a success for UK policy; whilst Labour point to every failure as being the fault of the UK government, and claim the news as a success for their policies.
They can’t both be right of course – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t both be wrong.  I don’t simply mean that the policy pursued by the UK government would have been much the same if Labour were in power (although it would have been) or even the same thing in reverse in Cardiff Bay (although it’s easier to conceive of a Labour UK government than of a Tory Welsh government).  I mean rather that economic policies pursued by governments at both ends of the M4 might actually have had a negligible impact on the outcome.  Governments like to pretend they’re in control when things are going well, and pretend that things are out of their hands when things are going badly.  I suspect they’re right on the latter, but simply deliberately understate the applicability of that conclusion.


Anonymous said...

"Governments like to pretend they’re in control when things are going well, and pretend that things are out of their hands when things are going badly." Quite so! But perhaps you should have added in the word 'recent' as in recent governments. I don't recall Churchill or Thatcher governments ever stooping so low.

On a slightly different subject but in the light of Hazel Irvine's comments what exactly is the status of Wales? And, if indeed it is in every sense of the word a 'country' in its own right should the people of Wales demand an immediate vote on self-determination (much akin to that taking place in Scotland).

Apologies for the change of theme, I certainly don't want to wreck your blog but the question is surely pertinent.

John Dixon said...

"I don't recall Churchill or Thatcher governments ever stooping so low." I think if you look back over the Thatcher years - and Callaghan, Heath, and Wilson before that (my memory doesn't go back to Churchill) - you will find plenty of references to 'international' factors when the economy was doing badly, and plenty of 'how good our policy is' statements for when things were going well.

Your other question requires a longer answer than is sensible in a comment on a post on an entirely different subject, so I'm not going to deal with it here.