Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy
The Coronavirus pandemic isn’t just a public health crisis. It’s an economic crisis too.
The Welsh economy is now facing its biggest challenge for a generation with unemployment predicted to reach 120,000 by the summer.
So many of us have lost loved ones. So many of us have lost livelihoods. And so many of us are hurting.
But there are glimmers of hope and we must hold on to those.
The vaccine roll-out is continuing at rapid pace – with an army of health and care workers and volunteers leading the vanguard. There are signs that cases are falling. And spring is on its way.
We now need to start planning for the recovery. Working out how we will build back not just better, but well.
That means creating jobs, supporting businesses get back on their feet, and ensuring a bright future for our children.
To do that we need ambition and innovation.
And Plaid Cymru has a recovery plan. A plan to Re-build Wales.
Within its first few hours, a Plaid Cymru government will announce a £6 billion green economic stimulus, creating almost 60,000 jobs through tasking the National Infrastructure Commission with delivering shovel-ready investable projects.
These could include building thousands of new social homes, retrofitting existing homes, expanding and electrifying the rail network, and delivering the fastest broadband to all parts of Wales.
We would introduce a Welsh Youth Guarantee giving secure employment to every 16–24-year-olds on at least a Living Wage, zero-interest loans to get businesses back on their feet, and a reskilling programme giving those who were recently made redundant a £5,000 retraining allowance.
A Plaid government would also implement a new ‘local first’ procurement policy to give preference to small and medium-sized local businesses – setting a target of increasing Welsh firms’ share of public procurement from 52% to 75% – creating up to 46,000 jobs.
We will learn lessons and ensure that the post-pandemic recovery sees Wales working faster and smarter than the pandemic response – with an unrelenting focus on protecting livelihoods.
We will support our children in catching up with their education by focusing on recruitment drives for new teachers and teaching assistants. And in order to transform a care system which has been under-paid and under-valued for far too long, we will establish thousands of new decently-paid positions in care homes, homecare and healthcare.
Our plan’s commitments to young people will address the fact that they have had their lives turned upside down during the past year – those in education have faced huge disruptions which are forecast to cost them in more ways than one for years to come, and those in work are statistically far more likely than older cohorts to be employed in sectors forced to shut by coronavirus.
This plan is our route out of the impending economic crisis.
It is an ambitious but deliverable raft of measures, which will help address not only the aftermath of the crisis, but long term injustices and imbalances in our economy that successive labour Governments have failed to address.
The next Welsh Government must be ambitious if it is to step up to biggest economic challenge we have faced for decades.
May the 6th is an opportunity to vote for Wales.