Economy Needs Infrastructure Boost Says First Minister

by G Roberts
(North Wales)

Welsh Labour's First Minister Carwyn Jones has called on the Tory-led UK Government to come up with a new approach to create jobs and growth in economy before it is too late.

The call comes ahead of the Chancellor's autumn statement tomorrow when he will give an update on the state of the economy and respond to the latest analysis from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

Speaking today, Mr Jones called on Ministers in Westminster to re-think their current economic policies given the performance of the economy.

The First Minister said: "The Welsh Government is doing all it can to protect the people of Wales against the cuts being imposed on them and using the levers we have to stimulate economic growth.

This includes speeding up major infrastructure projects and improving training for our workforce. Our driving aim is to create jobs, promote opportunities and generate business confidence in the Welsh economy.

"However, ultimately it is the UK Government that holds the macro and fiscal leavers that can make the most difference and the route they have chosen is simply not working. The number of people unemployed continues to grow, the jobs we need for our young people are simply not there.

All the economic indicators are going in the wrong direction. The OECD has just predicted that the UK will return to recession next year, the much feared "double dip".

The latest ONS figures show the economy only grew by 0.5% in the third quarter of this year. This comes as people face rising living costs and soaring energy costs, squeezing communities everywhere.

This situation simply confirms our growing fears for the economic outlook. The cuts are too deep and too fast, choking off what fragile growth we have seen so far. With the Chancellor preparing his
autumn statement the time has come for a new approach.

I have met with the Prime Minister and written to him twice in recent weeks to again press the case for increased investment in vital road and rail infrastructure here in Wales.

We urgently need policies that provide a shot in the arm for the economy and stimulate the growth we desperately need. It is not too late for the Chancellor to make the right choices for the good of the whole country.

Investment in infrastructure is crucial to any recovery. However, we are doing this against a backdrop of our capital budget is being cut by a massive 50% in real terms over five years.

We have been doing all we can to maximise investment in public infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy.

But for investment in Wales to continue, the UK Government needs to go further than what they have currently committed too, because responsibility for some infrastructure developments rest with then, particularly rail and energy.

Measures recently announced by the Welsh Government to support the economy, include:

  • A £55 million package to support business growth in Wales.

  • Launched a £75 million Job Growth Wales scheme that will create 4,000 jobs a year for three years for young jobseekers across Wales.

  • A £38.9 million economic stimulus package to be spent on measures such as more resources for the Young Recruits and Skills Growth Wales programmes, capital investment for our schools and social housing and more investment in the Arbed energy efficiency programme.

  • £90 million of centrally retained capital funding to be spent on infrastructure projects across Wales.

Wales leading the way again it seems.

Photo by H Brinkman, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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