In one of the Welsh Conservatives’ first major manifesto announcements, Russell George MS, the Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire and Shadow Minister for Economy, has outlined plans to re-establish the best aspects of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and the Development Board for Rural Wales to get Mid Wales on the road to recovery.
To help revive the Mid Wales economy, in addition to re-establishing the best of these organisations, a Welsh Conservative Government would ensure that there was a one-stop shop approach to business support.
Mr George said:
"Our plan is to rebuild Wales by creating new skilled jobs across a range of sectors. We have an ambitious plan which will support new firms and encourage existing businesses to grow and export, and will move us away from the command-and-control economy of the current Welsh Government.
"To help revive the Welsh economy, we would bring back the very best of the hugely successful Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and Development Board for Rural Wales as well as bringing together the Development Bank of Wales and Business Wales.
"Our aim would be to create a more nimble, agile, and dynamic business entity to respond to the needs of firms large and small after the pandemic. This one-stop shop for business would be arms-length from the stranglehold of Welsh Government and would drive new opportunities for inward investment and private sector growth into all four corners of Wales."
Mr George suggests that the Welsh Government's decision to scrap the WDA in 2006 puts Wales at a disadvantage in terms of job creation, a position from which we have yet to fully recover. The decision was also criticised in an OECD-written report commissioned by the Welsh Government.
Mr George added that a re-established WDA forms a central pillar of Welsh Conservative policy to rebuild Wales post-Covid, noting:
"The WDA's reintroduction would give Welsh firms a much-needed cutting edge, as we seek to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Brexit, and would build capacity in a creaking economy in desperate need of a turbo-charge.
"With the challenges we face moving forward, and with the Welsh Government's disastrous two decade track record of economic mismanagement, it’s time we put on the afterburners in Wales and inject some real urgency to help the private sector to thrive.
"While immediate support is the priority, and more funding is needed now to support our businesses, the package of financial assistance should not solely be a support package for the "here and now" to navigate the worst effects of the Coronavirus but also as a means to future proof the Welsh economy as we eventually move into a recovery phase, allowing businesses to adapt their business model, innovate through the use of technology, and ensure that they are in a strong position to capitalise upon the opportunities of future growth.
"I appreciate these are unprecedented times, but we must remember to look to the future. I believe that a reinvigorated Welsh Development Agency can form a central part of this economic future for Wales."