Recover, renew, reform – how do we support the Welsh economy after Covid-19?

Commercial Street, the main shopping street of Newport, Wales looking south-southeast toward the junction with Charles Street. Picture by Sionk (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales

In 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 economic crash Plaid Cymru launched its own vision for the Welsh economy ‘Recover, renew and reform’.

Now is the time to refresh that thinking ahead of another economic downturn.

One of the questions many of us are asking during this time in lockdown is how are we going to renew the Welsh economy with many ideas from the business and political world looking to address this very question.

Now, while the current Welsh Government approach and support for business is welcome, there are still too many falling through the cracks.

If I was Minister for the Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty I would have introduced an emergency basic income for all those who couldn’t be furloughed or otherwise supported – a simple way of plugging the gaps in the existing schemes so a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government could provide the right support across Wales in order to recover, renew and reform the Welsh economy.

Our start-ups, our mirco businesses, and our rural enterprises will form the bedrock of rebuilding a new Welsh economy.

However, what we certainly don’t want after this lockdown is a return to old ways of doing things.

In the absence of an emergency basic income, Welsh Government must make sure there is better-targeted support for micro-businesses and sole traders, including those working from home and for the start-up businesses that don’t yet have tax returns.

There are small businesses that are not VAT registered and others such as veterinary practices, dental practices, and many tourist and childcare firms that need addressing in any future business support.

There are many people not caught by the existing Welsh Government fund – for example company directors paying themselves wholly or partly in dividends rather than with salaries.

Those not yet able to get support also include some tourism businesses like Bed & Breakfasts paying Council tax, not business rates, which have been particularly hit by the lockdown, along with alternative practitioners such as chiropractors and osteopaths, including those working from home.

Ensuring we have a resilient economy coming out of the lockdown is essential for the good of both business and the workers they employ.

 

Resilient

Farming is also an important, if not overlooked, component not only of our food production but also the rural economy in general, and we must have a specific package of support to plug the existing gaps.

My colleagues, Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, and Member of the Senedd Llyr Gruffydd, have outlined a way forward for building a stronger rural economy by ensuring more local food is purchased by our schools and hospitals.

Many of these issues were raised by business and worker representatives with the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee when we met last Thursday, and I’ll be pressing the current Welsh Government to take these factors on board in future schemes.

I’m also in no doubt that farming businesses should also be granted access to the Economic Resilience Fund.

There is broad acceptance that it will be necessary for the application processes for some of these businesses to be more rigorous, because, of course, there is a need to protect public money against fraud and it may be more difficult for some of these businesses to evidence their validity. So let’s look at different types of evidence. References from the communities these businesses serve, perhaps.

Ensuring we have a resilient economy coming out of the lockdown is essential for the good of both business and the workers they employ.

The Welsh Government must find ways to support all these types of businesses, and the expected new phase of the Economic Resilience Fund is an opportunity to do just that.

It may not be possible for every single business to get support, but we must try. Plaid Cymru welcomes the approach of the Welsh Minister responsible for the economy he has been responsive to our ideas on business support. In the next few months in opposition and years in government, we will be doing everything we can to recover, renew and reform the Welsh economy.

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Orfenni61RhosdduHuw DaviesDr John BallSian Ifan Recent comment authors
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The Bellwether
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The Bellwether

The words chocolate and teapot spring to mind.

Andrew John Teague
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Andrew John Teague

Can you not explain your analysis!

Kerry Davies
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Kerry Davies

All good ideas mean little without substantial fund raising powers and the courage to use them. Farming, for example, is waiting on the decision of Westminster and DEFRA as to what funding central government will make available to replace the CAP money from the EU. Until that is known any support for farming is premature and might allow Westminster off the hook. Coronavirus and the economic effects are merely a tiny part of what politicians in Wales face imminently. We may well be coming out of lockdown straight into renewed Troubles in Ireland, an even bigger and more permanent drop… Read more »

Sian Ifan
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Sian Ifan

One word again MONDRAGON. After thought: VE DAY Friday 8 May celebrating victory over Hitler/Nazis .Go consider effort of people to survive WWII and how post 1945 society and economy was rebuilt not with out continued effort and self sacrifice. PS: for starters Crachach grant grabbing culture must end . We need grants for the people, society and communities.
Gethin.

Dr John Ball
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Dr John Ball

A series of vague generalities I thought political parties had policies?
We are just over a year from the next Senedd election (apparently PC will break through….) I would have thought that we’d have some idea of an economic policy by now, even if in outline.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Keeping it sketchy suits these people, and in any case lack of real hard nosed business experience reduces most of them to endless theorising and pontificating. Like Labour they see the iniquitous Third Sector as major engine of growth ! Enough said.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Be specific, woman! And I see nothing about generating a real economy in rural areas plagued by tourism.

Orfenni61
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Orfenni61

You don’t say how you’re going to fund an emergency basic income. Also supporting micro business and sole traders is laudable but you can’t build a resilient economy on that. You need bigger business that generates wealth. As for farming, a trade deal with the US will swamp this country with cheap American products and wipe welsh farming off the map.