Wales politics

Labour minister: 'We don't know what we're doing on economy'

Lee Waters
Image caption Lee Waters said the Welsh Government had "pretended to know what we're doing on the economy"

The Welsh Government has "pretended we know what we're doing on the economy" for 20 years, deputy economy minister Lee Waters has said.

He said efforts to improve the economy under devolution have not worked and it is time for a different approach.

"The truth is we don't really know what we're doing on the economy," WalesOnline reported him as saying.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said there have been "major improvements" in the last 20 years.

Llanelli Labour AM Mr Waters, given a ministerial job by First Minister Mark Drakeford last December, made his remarks to an audience at an event in Cardiff on Monday.

According to WalesOnline, he said: "For 20 years we've pretended we know what we're doing on the economy - and the truth is we don't really know what we're doing on the economy.

"Nobody knows what they're doing on the economy.

"Everybody is making it up as we go along - and let's just be honest about that. We've thrown all the orthodox tools we can think of at growing the economy in the conventional way, and we've achieved static GDP over 20 years."

Wales has regularly come bottom of the UK's table for measuring the strength of the economy.

Mr Waters was launching a £3m fund, to help social businesses create jobs and provide essential services.

He said the Welsh Government wanted to increase "the number of grounded indigenous firms in our communities".

In response to the WalesOnline article Mr Waters wrote: "My point is that in a rapidly changing environment, with Automation and Brexit, no government in the world can claim to be in control of the economy. That's why we need to experiment, learn and scale."

Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies tweeted that he disagreed with Mr Waters but he'd prefer a minister "who speaks plainly and clearly and challenges the status quo to one who turns up and reads out a civil service brief".

"#savelee," he added.

Plaid Cymru said the comments were "remarkable".

"He blames the state of Wales on economic orthodoxy. We blame it on a lack of innovation from successive Labour governments," a spokesman said.

The Welsh Conservatives' Russell George said: "It's deeply concerning to hear the team behind Wales' economy being so blasé about the sorry state of our nation's economy."

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "We have seen major improvements across many parts of our economy over the past 20 years but it is clear there are significant new and emerging challenges.

"We have to work differently to deal with the global shifts of increased mechanisation, automation and of course, Brexit. The old ways of doing things are not sufficient in the face of such challenges.

"Lee Waters, as Deputy Minister for the Economy is working under Ken Skates to respond to these changes and to develop new and innovative approaches to grow the Welsh economy."

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