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A new economic plan for Wales

This week, Welsh Government has published Prosperity for All: Economic Action Plan which outlines how the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates, will work to support Wales’ businesses as well as grow the economy across the country.
This plan is long awaited and overdue but there is much welcome thinking contained within it. It is now time to move towards outlining proper detail that translates this from ambition and vision to meaningful action for business and the economy.
As with the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, the document has identified some of the weaknesses of the Welsh economy, such as low productivity, and we hope to see these strategies complement each other to tackle these challenges. 

An important aspect of the plan is a focus on developing regional economies. At the moment the Welsh economy is regionally imbalanced which is something that we must work together to redress.  For too long, interest and attention has been focused in particular areas of Wales to the exclusion of opportunities elsewhere in the country.
Moving away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach means that we can fully exploit the particular opportunities within each region including, but not limited to conversations on the Growth Deals. Allowing regions to identify their own priorities based on the needs of their businesses is the key here.
As part of this, it is encouraging to see emphasis on the rural economy following much work by the FSB. However, the Cabinet Secretary could go further than this, and adopt a Rural Challenge Fund to support rural Wales, as recommended by the FSB in our Rural Taskforce report which would stimulate new thinking on developing the rural economy.
The Cabinet Secretary also announced an economic contract for the first time.
The approach to the economic contract is innovative. A contract is something that must be beneficial to both parties, and we very much hope this will be the spirit in which the contract is used. It therefore needs to be easy to comply with. As with any contract, there needs to be a clear understanding on both sides as to what constitutes a ‘breach’.

The Action Plan identifies a number of ways in which we can ‘raise the ask’ of larger firms through the contract. For our part, we’d like to see a stronger emphasis on leveraging the impact of Wales’ larger firms’ to help develop their Welsh supply chains and we feel that this needs to be specifically detailed as one of the ‘calls to action’.
In consulting with business during the next stage, we would expect to see clear indicators and targets to measure success. Businesses operating on the ground must be able to see what this strategy means for them in reality. 
Overall, this document strongly hints at the recalibration of thinking that FSB has been calling for and seems to be heading in a positive direction. However, Welsh Government needs now to intensify a meaningful consultation with business to make it more tangible. Welsh Government must create a partnership with business that helps this plan to succeed.”