Labour Minister admits Welsh Government ‘pretended to know what they were doing’ on economy

Lee Waters. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

The Welsh Government has been judged harshly by opposition parties after Deputy Economy Minister Lee Waters admitted that they “pretended” to know what they were doing on the economy.

“For 20 years we’ve pretended we know what we’re doing on the economy – and the truth is we don’t really know what we’re doing on the economy,” the Labour Llanelli AM said.

“Nobody knows what they’re doing on the economy. Everybody is making it up as we go along – and let’s just be honest about that.”

He was speaking to leaders of the co-operative sector at a lunch in The Clink restaurant at Cardiff Prison, and his comments were reported in the Western Mail.

Plaid Cymru were quick to criticise his comments, calling them “no laughing matter”.

“It is quite remarkable that the Welsh Government’s own deputy economy minister has admitted that Labour hasn’t known what it’s doing on the economy for the past 20 years,” a spokesperson said.

“While Lee Waters may find it amusing, we certainly don’t. Stalling growth, increasing child poverty, and life expectancy in decline are no laughing matter.

“In his speech to cooperative sector leaders, Mr Waters said there was ‘a degree of disappointment among some people … who feel that devolution hasn’t achieved its potential.’

“The truth is that it is his Labour party that has failed. They have run out of ideas, and as Mr Waters himself said, the Labour party is ‘making it up as [they] go along’.”

Conservative Shadow Business Minister, Russell George AM, also replied to the comments.

“It’s deeply concerning to hear the team behind Wales’ economy being so blasé about the sorry state of our nation’s economy,” he said.

“Wales has been led by Welsh Labour for over twenty years and in that time we’ve seen failure after failure, and now Labour Ministers are confirming that they knew this all along.

“On the same day that Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies questioned the First Minister over the government’s handling of taxpayers’ money, we reflect on a catalogue of serious financial problems for Wales.

“As a result of the Labour Government ‘making it up as it goes along,’ earnings in Wales are the lowest in the UK; regional inequality is a national embarrassment and Wales has the slowest growing economy in the UK, with little progress made over the past 17 years.

“Welsh Conservatives have a clear plan for the future of Wales, and if this Government doesn’t know what it’s doing, it should make way for one that does.”

‘Orthodox’

Mr. Waters went on to say that the Welsh Government had “thrown all the orthodox tools we can think of at growing the economy in the conventional way,” but had only achieved static GDP over 20 years.

“The levels of GVA per head now are the same they were in 1999. And that’s not from a lack of trying,” he said.

“There’s no failure on the part of ministers and civil servants. Boy, have they tried!

“But it’s an approach that has its limits for Wales – and we need to try a different approach.”

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said that this “startling acknowledgement” was “remarkable”.

“He blames the state of Wales on economic orthodoxy, he said. “We blame it on a lack of innovation from successive Labour governments.

“In two years’ time, people will have the opportunity to install a new administration which actually has the skills, ideas, and motivation to restart our economy by electing a Plaid Cymru government.”

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