We had a good launch for Welsh Labour's Economy Commission last week at Redline Karting in Caernarfon, a venture set up by some of the former Friction Dynamex workers. Since setting up in June last year they have already had 10,000 visitors and they have taken four people on who have been long-term economically inactive. Labour's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Arfon, Martin Eaglestone, helped organise the event.
A website has been set up to promote the Commission, and full details of its chair, members and remit will be announced in due course.
I set out some of the challenges below.
For twenty years progressive parties in Western societies have seen investment in skills as the key response to globalisation and the competition from the emerging economies. Upgrading the skills of our own people has been the emphasis, so that our own economy can be based upon high-wage not low-wage industry.
The one clear lesson from the Burberry campaign in the Rhondda was that Wales must compete with other countries, not on the basis of low wages, but on the skills of our people and our strengths as a nation.
What happens though now that the emerging economies themselves are interested less in low-wage manufacture and assembly-line jobs, but are increasingly competing with us for high-tech, high-skilled jobs? Emerging economies like India and China are already key players in the knowledge economy and likely to increase their share of innovative industries.
Even our higher-skilled graduates face competition in a global graduate base of some 2 billion workers.
What will be the key elements of economic success in the second decade of the 21st century, and the second decade of the National Assembly?
Welsh Labour's Commission on Economic Policy will explore these issues, and look at the challenge of developing a smart sustainable economy that plays to Wales's strengths and opportunities, while learning from global best practice.
While many of the key economic levers lie at a UK level, including fiscal and monetary policy, and Wales will continue to benefit from membership of the British and European unions, the policies of the Welsh Assembly Government will have a critical role to play.Welsh Labour's Commission on Economic Policy won't duck the difficult questions. These include:
- how to make Wales the best place in Britain for entrepreneurs to start and develop a business
- how best to harness support for - and grow - industries which cannot send their jobs offshore (eg construction, tourism, retail and service industries)
- how to develop those high-growth sectors where Wales is already established (eg aerospace, media, ICT) and better target new sectors which offer long-term promise
- how to work collaboratively with large businesses already established in Wales to help us understand best practice in their sector, gain a view of the global market place and create a value chain for smaller indigenous businesses
- how to ensure we are developing our economy sustainably, as well as developing companies that are in the business of sustainability
- how to maximise innovation opportunities and make optimum use of our research base in Wales, including our higher education institutions
- how to take advantage of Wales's natural assets, including its countryside, coastline and cultures - and above all, the flexibility, ingenuity and skills of its people
- how to ensure that the quality of life that Wales can offer becomes a unique advantage
- how we can better match the economic development and skills agendas
- how to identify and exploit new sources of investment
- how we can better use every pound of public sector spending, through procurement policies, including social and offset clauses, to maximise opportunities for local labour and local enterprise
- how we can ensure that trades unions have the capacity to continue their process of modernisation and to support the skills needs of their members
- how to stimulate the rebuilding of manufacturing
No aspiration should be out of our grasp, no challenge too difficult, no ambition too tough.
This policy commission will help frame our vision to the voters of Wales over the next decade. It will set out the noble aim, not simply of meeting our historic goal of full employment, but of forging a Wales where all of our young people, with work and effort, can build a future based around quality skills and good wages.
Welsh Labour's commission will draw on expertise from within business and the labour movement. Just as we have acted to deliver a positive deal on workers' rights and are listening to business on skills, we will listen and act to meet the challenges of the future.
The best way to deliver the high-quality jobs we need is through a strong partnership between Labour in the Assembly, Labour at Westminster and Labour in local government.
To compete with the best in the world, Wales needs to be part of a strong Britain. At no time has this been better demonstrated than when we all worked together to deliver the defence academy in St Athan.
So it is up to Welsh Labour to prove to every part of Wales, that we are still the party of the economy and the only party people can trust with the future of their jobs and families.
We welcome evidence and contributions from all angles. We do not claim a monopoly of wisdom.
We want an open debate and the best possible brains engaged in it.