Audio: Wales’ economy ‘coming to a point of crisis’
The founder of IndyCube has criticised politicians for failing to address the weakness of the Welsh economy.
Mark Hooper has called for radical changes in response to the threats posed by increased automation, climate change and exiting the European Union.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Nation.Cymru, Hooper, who set up IndyCube 10 years ago, admitted he’d previously tended to blame Labour for problems but now feels they are systemic and responsibility should be shared across the political spectrum.
Indycube is a co-operative which runs co-working spaces in over 30 locations in Wales and is currently expanding into England.
“The economics of Wales are going to deliver us 40% of our children living in poverty, so we’re coming to a point of crisis that I think politicians are failing to consider, realise, (or) accept,” Mar Hooper said.
“But the worst thing is, they are failing to come up with any sort of alternative.”
He dismisses the use of financial inducements to persuade companies to create jobs in Wales adding: “We’re actually giving over our limited state resources to companies who don’t need our state resources. These people are already well off.
“We’re just encouraging them to come here with jobs that … won’t be here in the next 10 years.”
Hooper also expressed doubts about the City Deal initiatives: “The City Deal in Cardiff and the Swansea Bay City Deal talk about the benefits of agglomeration, so bigger is better. But that agglomeration – even if it works – the assumption that it trickles down to the communities outside that, on the periphery, is increasingly an argument that is failing.”
Instead, he believes universal basic income could offer a solution. The scheme pays a sum of money from the government without the recipient being required to work or look for work and is currently being trialed in Canada and Finland with pilot schemes under consideration by the SNP in Scotland.
Critics have suggested the money could be a disincentive to work but evidence suggests people are more likely to set up a business of their own with a basic income and to feel more confident caring for an elderly relative and bringing up a family.
Hopper believes we can benefit in Wales from changing priorities and becoming a less acquisitive society: “We need to choose a different course. I think we need to reconsider, not our place in the world but our place within ourselves.
“This is about us taking responsibility for ourselves, allowing communities to have their head. It’s not going to be easy. It may be we can’t afford to be this consumerist society that advertisers want us to be, but we may be happier.
“We may be less riddled with guilt. We may be less depressed. That’s where I think we need to look.”