Saturday, January 29, 2011


In 2009, a new fund was established in partnership between the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), the Welsh European Funding Office and the European Investment Bank.

Known as JEREMIE and managed by Finance Wales, it would have the ability to invest up to £150 million in Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) across Wales.

So what has been the performance of the fund to date?

According to the latest data, it had invested £42 million in 256 SMEs by the end of September 2010 and leveraged in another £75 million of private sector investment.

One could argue that is a remarkable achievement, given that the economy was still struggling out of recession and there was little appetite for growth amongst the business community. On the other hand, the high street banks had reduced much of their lending to the private sector during this time and the fund could be seen as potentially the only source of cash for companies wanting to expand across Wales.

One key factor in its success could be the fact that the funding is available across the whole of Wales. Previously, there had been criticisms that the organisation had, due to financial restrictions, focused its efforts only on the poorest parts and thus neglecting those more prosperous areas in which firms with the highest potential for growth, and this need for finance, were based.

For example, the majority of this year’s Fast Growth 50 firms were based outside the less prosperous areas of Wales and, under the previous funding mechanism supported by Objective 1 funds, would not have been eligible for access to this type of support.

Another positive aspect of the fund is its sectoral approach which (thankfully) seems to be in contrast with the rest of WAG’s economic policies.

As those who regularly read this column are aware, the Economic Renewal Programme (ERP) has restricted the industries it will help through its business support programme. Indeed, the Minister is on record as stating that “We are a small country and can’t give support to everybody and so we have to prioritise and we have made that priority the six key sectors.”

Of course, academic research has shown that such an approach does not reflect the reality of growth within the SME sector. In fact, business services and the wholesale/retail sector - two industries that have been excluded by WAG - provide almost half the high-growth firms in the UK and the diverse range of companies featured in the Fast Growth listings over the last twelve years backs up those findings.

Given this, it is fortunate that this fund is not restricting its investment activities to those six key sectors identified by WAG. In fact, it is the tourism industry, with £6.8 million of investments in 16 businesses, that has attracted the most funding to date. Other sectors neglected by the ERP, such as the food industry and business services, have also attracted high rates of investment from JEREMIE.

In contrast, high technology businesses in areas such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, energy and biotechnology have attracted only a third of the fund to date.

This unequivocally demonstrates that funding to businesses, whether in the form of loans, grants or equity, has to be market driven and not restricted by the sectoral foibles of policymakers and politicians.

To date, the majority of the fund has been in the form of loans, although Finance Wales is increasingly taking equity positions in companies. There has also been a lower default rate than expected since the fund started, a situation that can be partly explained by an examination of the type of investment by stage of growth.

However, the fund is not being used by start-ups as a source of finance. Only nineteen of the investments to date have been classed as “early stage”, with the vast majority of the money earmarked for expansion of existing businesses.

This suggests that whilst growth companies with potential are finally being supported in Wales, new businesses are not getting access to the vital funds required at the start of a new venture.

The decision not to invest in new businesses is clearly one for Finance Wales and it directors but given WAG’s so-called emphasis on entrepreneurship, one would expect such a large public fund to have a more balanced portfolio especially there has been a 28 per cent decrease in the number of new businesses being created in Wales during the last five years (compared to a 2 per cent increase in Scotland).

With evidence suggesting that banks are increasingly reluctant to lend to new companies, then it is clear that in such a “market failure” situation, the government must be encouraged to fill this finance gap through mechanisms such as JEREMIE.

Yes, it is encouraging that existing growth companies are being given the funding to expand their operations but equally, there is a duty on a public financial fund to have a more balanced portfolio of investments and to support new businesses as well as those that have been growing for a number of years.

If the aim of the Assembly Government, through its focus on a knowledge-based businesses within the ERP, is to create the Googles of the future then it must surely provide an increased level of support to new businesses.

It may increase the risks to the overall fund but it will also make capital available to those entrepreneurs, especially within technology sectors, who are currently starved of cash but have the ability, ideas and talent to transform the Welsh economy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The US Economy Fires Up to End 2010

The GDP growth rose considerably to a annual rate of 3.2% up from the previous 2.6%

The market seems to be doing pretty well and those GDP numbers are pretty solid. Just the same I have some worries.

Housing is not looking any better and I think it is or at least could get a little worst. That scares me a bit. I think we are going to see a lot of foreclosures in the future and a lot of banks are going be taking on properties that they can not sell and I think that will be most of them.

Homeowners of course will do their best to stop foreclosure through a mortgage solution such as loan modification or even refinancing. But many will not be able to afford their mortgage payment or rather the home.

I suppose only time will tell. I would just hate to see things take a turn for the worst as I am not sure the economy has what it takes to pull itself back up from a double dip.

Cash for Keys

Lenders give thousands of dollars to homeowners who lose their home because of foreclosure. This foreclosure relocation assistance help homeowners cover the cost of moving out of their home and into another residence.

The amount paid to the homeowner or renter may vary from the amount of a thousand dollars to five thousand dollars. The program is also offered to real estate agents who gain a commission. They do so by lowering the amount paid out and keep the difference for themselves. It is wise to talk to the lender yourself to get the best amount available.

This financial aid for homeowners who lose home in foreclosure through cash for keys like programs are supposed to create good will, but is that the real motivation for the lenders?

Perhaps the reasons behind cash for keys and foreclosure relocation assistance is actually two fold.

  • One reason is to get the renter or homeowner to depart quickly. No one wants to sell a home that has old owners refusing to leave.
  • Secondly to create an incentive to for the former occupants to resist damaging or destroying property out of spite against the lender. 

HAFA - Foreclosure Alternative Help

HAFA is the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program created for homeowners who can not afford to keep their home.

President Barrack Obama helped establish the program through his Making Homes Affordable Plan and it is for the homeowners who are not capable of making a payment even if those payments are reduced through the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Obama Foreclosure Alternatives

In that case the homeowner is offered other mortgage solutions that do not let the homeowner keep the home but allow them to walk away with no mortgage debt. This is done with a short sale or perhaps a deed in lieu.

Obama Cash for Keys Program

Along with the foreclosure alternative the homeowner is able to receive a few thousand dollars of foreclosure relocation assistance through the Obama cash for keys program. Typically the cash for keys program available through HAFA allows homeowners to obtain 3,000 dollars of financial aid.

Foreclosure Relocation and Financial Assistance

Homeowners and renters alike are losing their homes at a rapid rate. These homeowners and renters must vacate their homes because of the home being sold due to a foreclosure sale. Many who lose their home in this manner are often left feeling vengeful and out of spite will cause damage to the home or property.

Lenders thought that angry complaints and phone calls from the former homeowner were the least of their problems and they were wrong. Former owners would get their revenge by trashing the home. A new risk management tactic was soon formed called Cash for Keys. Simply put, it is a program designed by lenders providing financial assistance to occupants who must depart and relocate elsewhere because of the foreclosure sale.

The agreement is usually fixed with conditions and requires the former homeowner or renter to agree then honor these terms and conditions including move out dates. If the former homeowners meet these terms and conditions, lenders will pay a lump sum of money to the evicted party.

Typical homeowners might be offered a monetary sum of twenty-five hundred dollars given if they vacate the foreclosed home within forty-five days and leave the residence in good condition. The program recognizes the financial hardship and relocation expense of those affected directly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


According to the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills amongst young people are is simply not up to scratch, highlighting a lack of high-quality specialist teachers, poor student performances and negative perceptions of the subjects.

Their report showed that the proportion of students in Wales taking sciences and maths at A-level is significantly below the rest of the UK, and the teaching of combined science as opposed to separate biology, chemistry and physics at GCSE was proving ineffective. 

The Committee recommends that WAG works to recruit and retain teachers with specialist expertise, and says government and industry need to address gender stereotypes in the subjects, which were seen as “male” domains. It also calls for more partnerships between schools and employers to allow pupils to get work experience. 

Interesting to note that whilst the WAG spokesperson noted that “The minister has made a clear commitment to raising standards across the board in Wales", I believe that there has been no major announcement, in the year since his appointment, on STEM subjects.

Perhaps he should take a leaf out of the book of Mike Moritz, Wales' most successful businessesman. 

During my visit to his headquarters in Silicon Valley earlier this year, the man who invested in Google, Yahoo and Youtube was unequivocal that

"nurturing, developing and attracting the best talent is the key economic strategy that Wales should focus on...providing the resources necessary at the primary and secondary school level to nurture the home grown scientists, engineers and technologists of the future. For example, by stimulating and supporting science within Welsh schools, Mike Moritz believed that you could develop a whole new generation of idea-driven young people that could help develop the industries of the future".

As I wrote at the time, it is a simple message but again one that has been largely ignored by policymakers and politicians in Wales. 

Given the concerns raised by the Committee, surely it is time that WAG took this seriously, not only for the sake of the economy but. more importantly, for the future of our young people.

In fact, some would argue that there is little point of WAG giving public money towards a £400 million university project in Swansea if we are simply not producing the quality and quantity of Welsh students from our schools in STEM subjects.

Home Affordable Mortgage

There is a huge need for mortgage assistance amidst a growing population of homeowners in financial hardship. This need has not been over looked.

There are many government mortgage assistance programs and these efforts only seem to be growing in both number and level of effectiveness.

Below you will find a list of homeowner assistance programs developed to provide homeowners the opportunity to obtain beneficial debt help that enables them to make home affordable.

Home Affordable Mortgage Program List

Home Affordable Refinance

This is the Obama refinance program that allows homeowners to refinance their current mortgage to a home loan with a more favorable and affordable monthly payment

FHA Short Refinance

Allows underwater homeowners to reduce their principle by at least 10% by refinancing.

Second Mortgage Modification

Gives lenders incentives to eliminate second lien mortgage debt.

Home Affordable Modification

This is the Obama loan modification program that allows homeowners in financial hardship to lower their monthly mortgage payment by restructuring the payment terms of their home loan and thus make home affordable. This program allows homeowners to stop foreclosure and overcome mortgage default.

Unemployment Assistance and Modification Program

This government mortgage assistance program allows homeowners who are unemployed to obtain mortgage relief via forbearance and than modification

Obama Foreclosure Alternatives

Provides homeowners who have long term financial hardships that prevent them from being able to keep their home the opportunity to stop foreclosure and walk away with no mortgage debt. Foreclosure alternatives such as a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale are utilized to help these homeowners. Participants are also granted up to 3,000 dollars of foreclosure relocation assistance through the Obama cash for keys program.

Hardest Hit Fund

This program provides billions of dollars to the local housing authorities of states that have been hit the hardest by financial hardship caused by the turmoils of the down economy.

How to Get an Affordable Loan Modification

If you are a homeowner who wants to reduce their mortgage payment via the Obama mortgage modification program known as HAMP the Home Affordable Modification Program than you need to follow the step by step process listed below.

Qualify Yourself

The first step is to determine if you meet the basic qualifications for affordable mortgage modification program.

Preliminary HAMP Application

Next you need to obtain, complete, and submit the preliminary modification request application. This is what the government refers to as the Request for Modification Affidavit. This application is what starts the ball rolling and will get you into a HAMP trial modification.

Prepare Financial Package

With the initial application you should send a financial package that includes the following documents listed below.

  • Tax Form 4506-EZ. This form allows your lender access to past tax returns you submitted to the IRS.
  • Income documentation such as pay stubs and bank statements. Submit at least three months worth.
  • Document certifying that you have not been convicted of felony larceny, fraud, forgery, money laundering, tax evasion, or the like in the past 10 years.

Successfully Complete HAMP Trial Modification

You must make all your trial payments on time and respond to the packages and inquires your lender will send in the mail. Play it safe and utilize the envelopes and payment coupons provided.

Get Approval (or Unmentionable) Decision

Wait for lender to evaluate debt, income, financial hardship, and the like.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


On Monday, I had a response to the Yes for Business article from the VoteNoWales2011 twitter that asked   "How many businesses in Wales support more powers?".

I naturally replied by asking "How many businesses in Wales are against more powers?".

Obviously without a detailed survey, that may be a difficult question to answer but it is worth noting what the FSB, which has 10,000 members in wales, said last year on the matter after a survey of their members, namely:

“Generally the FSB supports the transfer of power from Westminster to Cardiff Bay where it can be demonstrated that the powers would be used to benefit Welsh business. We would stress the importance of ensuring that the decisions made by the National Assembly for Wales should not put business in Wales at a disadvantage to counterparts in the rest of the UK."

Personally speaking, I feel that the Yes for Wales campaign has been weak in terms of explaining what further powers would do for the business sector in Wales. Certainly, it would seem its leading lights have largely ignored my article on the subject!! In addition, there has been some critique on the blogosphere regarding Peter Hain's hyperbole regarding further powers on the Welsh economy.

Yet, as I explained on Saturday, Wales may soon be able to create its own laws directly, laws that can, if properly enacted, create a real competitive advantage for Welsh business.

So, here is a challenge for anyone in business in Wales?

Let the Yes for Wales campaign know whether there is any current law that is negatively affecting your business or, better still, which could make your business more competitive, and how you would like that law changed for the better through the National Assembly for Wales.

That would demonstrate the real and tangible benefit of further powers for Wales and the Welsh economy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Is there a difference of opinion developing between the CBI in Wales and its UK parent organisation?

During the last few years, there has been an obsession by the Welsh CBI in backing large businesses, a focus which culminated in their backing for the Economic Renewal programme and the statement that CBI Wales agreed

"with the first minister that Wales largest 'anchor' companies are key to economic growth and prosperity. In fact, Wales is more dependent on large companies than England, as Wales' largest 1.8% of companies account for 69% of national turnover. As a result, we stated that only targeted government action to support these 'anchor' companies will deliver real growth and employment".

In contrast, John Cridland, the new CBI Director-General-Designate, recently stated that

“With the UK’s 4.8 million SMEs providing 60 per cent of private sector jobs and accounting for half of all private sector turnover, we have much to do to help these companies achieve their full growth potential.”

In addition, Sir Richard Lambert, prior to leaving the CBI this week, supported his successor by stating that:

"What I want to focus on this morning is the short-term, and the need to do everything possible to support the creation of new jobs in the private sector over the next few years. For a number of reasons, this means developing policies that are specifically targeted at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs are the main source of new jobs in the UK. The big multinationals - the companies that the Prime Minister usually gathers around the Cabinet Office table when he is discussing these matters - taken together and over time are reducing their headcount in this country."

I know who I agree with and you must wonder why the CBI in Wales takes a very different view of what is needed to boost the economy and why the Welsh Assembly Government seems to be in complete agreement.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Over the next few weeks, there will be considerable debate over whether the National Assembly for Wales should be granted further powers.

The two camps supporting and opposing further powers are putting their arguments to the public, with each hoping that they will prevail when the polling booths open in just under six weeks’ time.

So, let me take this opportunity to put my own cards on the table.

For those who have read this column during the last seven years, my views have always been that that Wales should be given every opportunity to maximise its economic potential.
As a result, I will be voting ‘Yes” on March 3rd.

But not because we have a devolution deficit relative to the other parts of the UK as some politicians have argued but because I believe that greater powers can make a real difference to Wales and the Welsh economy.

Indeed, I believe that the assumption that full law making powers for the Assembly would not help Wales, as indicated by several business organisations during the original devolution debate, is no longer valid.

In fact, the real question is how we can use further powers to support indigenous businesses to grow and flourish and make Wales a more attractive business environment for inward investors?
I believe that a more radical Assembly Government, with increased devolved powers, could use legislative powers to boost investment and profitability whilst cutting administrative burdens for companies in a range of areas. This would certainly be an improvement on the current settlement where economic development policy in Wales has been largely straitjacketed to pre-devolution economic levers previously operated from Westminster.

More importantly, if further powers are devolved to Wales, then it does give the Assembly the opportunity to adopt a pro-business approach to legislation.

Only last week, the First Minister stated that he believed “in seeing a burgeoning and thriving Welsh private sector being the engine of recovery. I want to lead a country where business feels Government its on its side, not on its back”.

Now if that not just political rhetoric and is how Carwyn Jones really feels, then I challenge him and the leaders of all the main Welsh political parties to immediately pledge that any new powers devolved to Wales will have no detrimental effect on business.

In my opinion, that would have an immediate and positive impact on the campaign for further devolution amongst the Welsh business community.

After nearly twelve years of devolution, Wales still needs to improve its economic performance relative to the UK and further powers must be used to positively enhance the economic performance of individual businesses and the Welsh economy as a whole.

For example, the National Assembly could look to reduce much of the legislative burdens on the tens of thousands of micro businesses that spend the majority of their time dealing with unnecessary red-tape. Such a move by legislators would make an enormous difference to the competitiveness of the vast majority of Welsh firms.

We have waited too long to argue the case for greater legislative powers and its effect on economic and enterprise development. During the enquiry by the Richard Commission into further powers for the Assembly, I was extremely disappointed that the economy was not discussed in any real depth. In fact, I believe that when the vote is won in March, the first step that the National Assembly should take is to set up an internal cross-party commission to thoroughly examine how additional powers can create competitive advantage for Welsh businesses over the next four years.

Since devolution, our nation has experienced a growing confidence, especially amongst our entrepreneurs. Unlike the lukewarm attitudes from many business organisations and their members back in 1997, the last decade has seen a growing number of businesses, especially those in new knowledge-based sectors, embrace the opportunities created by greater self-government.

Devolution has also encouraged larger businesses, especially within banking and finance, to create Welsh headquarters for their divisions that were previously managed from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.

With increased legislation that can positively enhance their opportunities, I expect that more investors and large firms will look to Wales to support a pro-business type of legislative environment over the next few years, and that can only be good for the Welsh economy.

Therefore, I can only be hopeful that a higher proportion of those heading Welsh businesses will consider the possibility of adopting a more positive approach to further devolution that can make a real difference to Welsh businesses and, more importantly, those sixty members elected to the fourth Assembly after May will respond positively to this opportunity.

To me, Wales is the greatest nation on this planet and there is now the opportunity to create a legislative environment in which entrepreneurs and innovators can flourish.

Used properly, further powers can help us fulfil the potential we all know exists amongst our business community and I hope that everyone who wants to create a more prosperous Wales will make the right decision on March 3rd.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Having been a member of the  Institute of Welsh Affairs for many years, I was under the impression that despite have becoming part of the Welsh establishment, it remained an independent, membership-based think tank that "owes no allegiance to any political or economic interest group".

Yet last week, it allowed the First Minister to give a speech at the North Wales branch’s annual dinner that even the most independent observer could only describe as highly political.

Here is one extract:

"So, I say to all Welsh Liberal Democrats – voters and members alike. If you still think of yourself as a radical. If you still believe in social justice. If you want to build a better society, then there is a home for you in Welsh Labour. That is my message. Come home. Come and join us. Help us build a better Wales together. Because of our values and radical traditions it falls to Welsh Labour yet again to be standing up for Wales. In the coming months this will be Welsh Labour’s benchmark – on the economy, jobs for young people, welfare reform, public services, the environment, broadcasting, investment and infrastructure. Standing up against the Tory / Lib Dem broken promises over tuition fees, standing up against getting rid of the essential Educational Maintenance Allowance for our young people, on the VAT rise, on scrapping the St. Athan military academy, on fuel prices. I will be standing up for Wales. Welsh Labour will be standing up for Wales".

All good knockabout stuff on the hustings or at the local Labour Club dinner.

However, it is simply unacceptable for an independent thinktank's event to be used as a political soapbox by the leader of one of the parties who will be contesting an Assembly election in less than five months time, even if he is First Minister.

By pandering to the Labour Party in this way, has the IWA finally crossed the rubicon of political independence?

Worst of all, consider how those attending the dinner whose political allegiances are different to the First Minister must have felt listening to this party political broadcast?

I can just imagine the howls of protest from the Welsh Labour establishment if a Conservative leader had made a speech at an IWA annual dinner that directly attacked his or her political opponents.

Owen Smith's PA would be working overtime!

Of course, if the IWA is politically independent, then I am sure it will have no problems in  giving the other three party leaders the same opportunity to attack their opponents at the other annual branch events during the next few months.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Typical Reverse Mortgage Borrower

Are you considering a reverse mortgage loan?

If you are you may be wondering if you are a right fit for this particular type of mortgage product. As an effort to help folks dig into this question and find the correct answer for their unique situation I have given a brief and accurate description of the typical reverse mortgage borrower.

The typical reverse mortgage borrower is an elderly homeowner whom is in need of some cash and or cash flows. The borrower will initially own the home out right or owe very little. The borrower will live in the property secured by the reverse mortgage loan. Usually the borrower is single, widowed or divorced and lives alone.

What is a Reverse Mortgage Loan?

The reverse mortgage was created to help elderly homeowners who need to increase their income.

A reverse home loan is a backward operated mortgage product that pays the homeowner in exchange for the right to the equity value in the home has to offer up to the amount owed at the end of the loans life or term.

A reverse mortgage loan is a loan that can be either obtained in a lump sum, line of credit, or the traditional reverse mortgage installments. The equity in a home is reduced in accordance to the money borrowed an the costs incurred.

A reverse mortgage loan is a mortgage product that offers elderly borrowers a cash flow solution in the form of a secured loan.

A reverse mortgage is a non-recourse loan and debt. This means that only the value of the home may pursued as a source of repayment.

Related Articles

Reverse Mortgage History

FHA Reverse Mortgage

FHA Reverse Mortgage Equity Conversion Loan

FHA Reverse Mortgage

The FHA reverse mortgage loan is known as HECM – Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.

A FHA reverse mortgage is of course guaranteed by the FHA.

There are some general requirements that a borrower must meet in order to qualify for a FHA reverse mortgage loan. Below I have listed just the very basic FHA reverse mortgage qualifications for borrowers interested in utilizing this financial tool.

Qualifications for FHA Reverse Mortgage

  • At least 62  years or older
  • One - Four Unit dwellings
  • Own the home, or the existing traditional forward mortgage is close to be paid off more specifically it can be paid with the proceeds obtained from the reverse mortgage loan.

Related Resources

How to Refinance and Lower Your Mortgage Payment

Reverse Mortgage History

History of the Reverse Mortgage

The reverse mortgage loan is a government inspired mortgage product designed to help elderly homeowners tap into their home equity with out the risk of losing their home.

HUD administered the program starting in the late 1980's. This was done through the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987

Initially a test run was approved in which 2500 mortgage insurance policies were authorized for issue. Three years later in 1990 which was actually closer to 1991 the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 expanded and set in motion the modern day system used to insure reverse mortgage loans with FHA mortgage insurance.

Related Articles

Thoughts on Mortgage Loans

Refinance - Lower Mortgage Payment

Monday, January 17, 2011


Last week, I wrote a piece about China’s Vice Premier trade mission to the UK which started with a trip to Edinburgh where separate talks were held with the Scottish First Minister.

I also noted that, during the visit, the Chinese Vice Premier did not come to Wales, and the fact that many were now starting to ask why Wales was excluded from the agenda for the visit by this high-powered Chinese delegation, an agenda which resulted in trade deals worth £2.6 billion with most regions of the UK except Wales?

I made the case that part of the answer lies in the fact that there has been a real personal commitment by the Scottish First Minister - who has visited China twice a year for the last two years - and whose discussions with senior Chinese officials undoubtedly influenced the Scottish trade deals that were made last week.

In contrast, I questioned the trade record of our own First Minister since he was appointed to the post at the end of 2009 and asked ow many times has he led trade delegations to major economies around the World during the last 12 months?

The blog entry was picked up by Matt Withers in the Western Mail. In his article, the Welsh Assembly Government refuted my analysis, with a spokesman saying that Wales’ business links and relations with China were “extremely strong and stretch back many years” and stating that:

  • In October, the Deputy First Minister met with the Chinese Ambassador to discuss Wales-China relations
  • In 2000, Premier Wen Jiabao, then vice premier, visited Wales and this led to a Memorandum of Understanding between the major industrial area of Chongqing and the Welsh Assembly Government, agreeing to collaboration and co-operation in a number of areas, from education to sustainable development.
  • WAG is directly promoting Wales to China and has offices in the capital Beijing, China’s largest city Shanghai and in Chongqing. It also regularly run trade missions to China for Welsh companies.
  • Cardiff has an office of the China-Britain Business Council that helps companies to grow and develop their business in China.

Sounds all well and good one talk with the Chinese Ambassador didn't make any difference in getting this delegation to visit Wales did it? Indeed, the fact that WAG has to point to a trade visit that took place over a decade ago demonstrates their desperation to defend their poor track record.

Given that it was the current Chinese Premier who led that delegation, you have to wonder what sort of impression WAG made to stop them returning again and, more importantly, what investment has resulted  during the last ten years as a result of that meeting?

Certainly, the Scots have every right to toast each other with 30 year old single malts after a series of deals signed last week which:

  • secured the jobs of more than 2000 workers after Grangemouth oil refinery signed a partnership deal with PetroChina. 
  • led to a multi-million pound contract to deploy Scottish energy-from-waste technology in China has been hailed by the Chinese vice-premier as further evidence of a "flourishing" green technology exchange between the two countries. 
  • allowed Scottish salmon to be directly exported into China for the first time, helping to support a rural industry that supports 6,000 jobs in Scotland and is worth £500m to the economy.

As I noted, Alex Salmond has made a real effort to build links with one of the World’s fastest growing economies and this dedication has obviously paid dividends with various commercial deals signed between China and Scotland.

And how many deals came to Wales as a result of the Chinese trade visit? I think we all know the answer to that.

It is no good sitting down in Cardiff Bay waiting for the leading investors such as the Chinese to come to Wales. Personal and professional links with overseas governments and companies take time to build, especially with Asian nations where the concept of “guanxi” (or relationships) are critical.

One visit is never enough and, as Alex Salmond has shown, you only get the opportunity to make significant commercial deals if you demonstrate commitment and dedication to your potential partners.

If Wales is to succeed internationally, then our government’s attitude must change, and change quickly, as it is clear that they have yet to realise that an overseas visit from a leader of a nation can open doors to commercial opportunities that entrepreneurs can only dream of.

Despite the usual bluster of WAG's press office, there is little evidence that Wales has any real profile with one of the most powerful nations in the World. China, in looking to develop strong international partnerships in sustainable technologies, preferred to look to our Celtic cousins in Scotland whose leaders had made a greater effort to sell the strengths of their nation.

That is clearly not acceptable in an increasingly globalised World, and it is critical that in the future, our own political leaders make a real and sustained effort to sell the advantages of Wales to the World. If they do not, then there are other parts of the UK, such as Scotland, that will work hard to develop such links and attract jobs and investment to their region.

Welsh Labour have adopted the slogan "Standing Up for Wales" for the May elections.

Certainly, on the evidence of their performance in attracting Chinese investment into the Welsh economy during the last decade, then "Sitting Down for Wales" may be a more apt slogan.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


In the Economic Renewal Programme document, it was suggested that 

"all businesses in Wales will have access to next generation broadband by the middle of 2016, and that all households will be enabled by 2020. This is ahead of the EU’s target of ensuring that all of the EU population can access 30Mbps broadband by 2020 with over half able to beneļ¬t from speeds of 100Mbps by this date. We need a full procurement exercise and State Aid approval to achieve this aim. The next steps are to engage quickly with the market during summer and autumn 2010 and then to commence a full procurement exercise by spring 2011".

Yet at least one business is ahead of the game when it comes to getting this multi-million pound procurement contract. 

According to the Daily Post on Wednesday, the Director of BT Wales allegedly suggests that BT is already in talks with the Welsh Assembly Government over its procurement plans, which will result in all of Wales having access to high speed broadband technologies by around 2015.

In fact, the article seems to suggest that a deal is already on the table with regard to the broadband rollout:

"The WAG has put in £50m and we have put in £78m to do this, as it’s a wholesale deployment...The technology is available on wholesale basis to any provider wanting to offer that product, not just BT. It’s up to the WAG how quickly this all happens in Wales but it is doable by 2015.”

Of course, BT may just be "pushing the envelope" when it comes to trying to secure the contract (and who can blame them). 

However, unless this has been misreported, it suggests that WAG is already in discussions with one potential contractor before the procurement exercise has started.

Personally speaking, I believe that WAG, through the European Structural Fund programme, could have done a deal with BT over broadband years ago, as as happened in Cornwall.

Yet I can only wonder what other potential contractors will feel about this, especially as businesses are being urged "to attend an event to learn about the Welsh Assembly Government's plans to procure a first class, globally competitive next generation broadband network for Wales" on March 26th at Cardiff City Stadium?

Deal done?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Excellent news today from Trojan Electronics, one of the 2010 Fast Growth 50 companies, regarding their plans to create an additional sixty jobs through their expansion.

What is not so edifying is the sight of the Welsh Assembly Government trying to claim some sort of credit for these jobs because they had partly funded the premises into which Trojan Electronics is expanding.

It is a shame that WAG was not so quick off the mark in congratulating Trojan and the other FG50 firms back in October 2010 when the 2010 list was announced. In contrast, the UK Government will be inviting the fifty firms to a Westminster reception to celebrate their success later this year.

Does this mean that the next time a private property developer has any new tenants within an office block in Cardiff, that they will also be claiming credit for the jobs created?

Are we now going to get a Ministerial press release every time a company uses any road paid for by WAG to deliver goods to a new customer?

To be honest, you can't blame them.

The Economy and Transport press office currently seems to be scraping around for any sort of news story to try and justify the poor economic record of this current government. Indeed, the whole department seems have done very little since July (when the Economic Renewal programme was launched) apart from reshuffle senior staff across responsibilities.

In fact, the only worthwhile stories they have to present (and ones which seem to be kept below the radar) are related to the last round of Single Investment Grants, a policy which has now been abolished by the Minister who is so keen to congratulate the companies receiving government support!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


According to various press reports, several lucrative business and Government contracts are due to be signed with China this week when Li Keqiang, its vice premier, visits the UK.

Mr Li, who is widely expected to become Chinese Premier in the future, began his four-day trade mission yesterday with a trip to Scotland to hold separate talks with Alex Salmond, the First Minister, and Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary.

He was scheduled to visit the Pelamis wave energy project in Edinburgh as much of the bilateral talks will focus on Scotland’s renewables and low-carbon energy industry. The First Minister also hosted a lavish state banquet at Edinburgh Castle, having visited China twice in each of the last two years to promote Scottish enterprise.

Mr Salmond said: “It is important the Scottish Government, our agencies, businesses and educational organisations continue to do all they can to advance our relationship with China, particularly as we pursue every opportunity to build sustainable economic growth across Scotland. I am delighted the vice premier will begin his state visit in Edinburgh. China already has the largest deployment of on-shore renewable technology and Scotland is a world leader in off-shore energy.”

Of course, the obvious question is why is Wales being excluded from the agenda for the visit by this high-powered Chinese delegation, which consists of 50 Government officials and 100 business leaders, and is viewed as important to increasing Britain’s trade with China?

Given that our export performance is the worst of all the UK regions and we have the lowest proportion of exporting businesses, surely it should be a WAG priority.

More importantly, has anybody asked why WAG is so slow off the mark when it comes to building links with the major economies of the World?

Is it because, for much of 2010, the civil service and politicians were obsessed with the internal wranglings of the now defunct International Business Wales (IBW), rather than on going out there and selling Wales to the World?

As the visit is being organised by UKTI, there is obviously an issue here regarding the relationship with the UK Government's main overseas business advocate. Surely, it isn't that difficult for WAG and UKTI to work more closely together?

Only last week, Ieuan Wyn Jones went on record to say that  “Raising the profile of Wales in the UK and overseas has been a goal and a priority of mine for some time. One of the key priorities of our new policy ‘Economic Renewal’ is making Wales a more attractive place to do business and the image and reputation of Wales is an important influence on and reflection of the business environment".

It doesn't say much for the profile of Wales in the UK and overseas when we are snubbed by one of the the most important business delegations to visit these shores in recent years.  More importantly, what efforts are being made by our civil servants to build these links with major trading partners rather than relying on spending millions of pounds on yet another trendy, visually pleasing but ultimately pointless marketing campaign?

If Alex Salmond has visited China twice in the last year, what is the record of our own First Minister in this regard? How many trade missions has the Deputy First Minister led during 2010?

Someone suggested to me recently that Welsh politicians are being told not to travel abroad because it is not "the thing to do" when public finances are under pressure. If that is the case, then someone has clearly lost the plot because of the increasing obsession by the press and some politicians over the travel expenses of those who are trying to promote our nation to the World.

Indeed, if such attitudes are prevalent within those who advise our senior politicians and prevent them from visiting key trading partners, then it is no wonder that Wales has been ignored by one of the most important trade delegations to visit these shores in recent years.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Having once worked at the cutting edge of technology – I was using email twenty years ago – I must admit to have become increasingly isolated from many recent technological developments on the internet.

I did eventually start blogging four years ago and, like another half a billion people, now have an active Facebook profile.

After only three months of activity, I have over 600 contacts on the linkedin business networking site. However, the one piece of social networking that I have avoided like the plague has been Twitter.

Until now.

For those of you who are still blissfully ignorant about Twitter, it is a service that enables its users to send and read messages called ‘tweets’, which are text-based posts of 140 characters or less displayed on the user's profile page. This enables users to update their current profile succinctly and quickly.

Whilst it can be used on a computer, it is the growth of the mobile phone, particularly the iphone, which has enabled Twitter to explode as a vehicle for social networking.

Since its official launch in July 2006, it has grown to over 175 million accounts, with the number of users increasing by 300,000 daily. There are currently 95 million Twitter messages (known as tweets) posted every day, which equates to roughly 640 tweets per second.

Perhaps the fascinating aspect of Twitter is that it enables the user to “follow” other users of their choosing. This causes their updates to appear on your home page or phone and they, in turn, can follow you, enabling a sort of personalised social news network to be created.

That all sounds well and good for those who simply want to let their friends know whether they are in the pub or sitting on top of a mountain. But why should businesses become involved with Twitter? What can 140 characters say about your business that is meaningful in any way?

In fact, detractors of Twitter say that it takes you away from other productive work, is just for nerds, can’t replace proper marketing and opens up your business to potential cyber attacks from competitors. On the other hand, those who use Twitter suggest that it can be used to undertake market research, improve brand awareness, increase networking and generate new opportunities.

Like any other tool, it is the way you use it that is important.

At the simplest level, Twitter can be used to share the latest news and events about your business, and can be set up to notify customers about the availability of new products or services. You can also offer incentives, such as discounts, samples and free coupons to those who follow you on Twitter, generating interest in your company.

For example, numerous businesses have begun to ask customers to turn over their Twitter account information as part of a loyalty programme. Frequent shoppers get a point for every pound they spend and an extra point if they post a message about their purchase on Twitter, thus utilising word of mouth marketing online to sell the company’s products and services.

Therefore, an estate agent will tweet about new homes on the market, a restaurant will tweet about their lunchtime specials and a local business group will tweet about events and promotions.

As well as keeping in touch with external stakeholders, Twitter is a great collaboration tool for communicating with your employees and work colleagues. Rather than sending endless emails, short tweets to your team members will enable people to learn about the type of work you do.

Of course, whilst there are advantages to Twitter as a great communications tool, there are also drawbacks that can seriously damage your reputation and that of your business, especially if you post whilst in the wrong frame of mind. Indeed, the one rule of thumb that everyone should live by in the world of social media is “Don't Twitter while you're bitter"!

However, for many, including myself, the beauty of Twitter is that it enables you to keep up with those people within the same ecosystem as yourself, be it in politics, business, sport or even stamp-collecting. In a society where information is truly power, Twitter can give you access to almost instantaneous news and opinion as well as enabling you to send your messages or thoughts to the world.

Two weeks ago, I was ignorant of Twitter and what it can do.

By the time you read this article, I will probably have tweeted at least twice this morning on business and the economy.

Whilst it will never replace my columns in the Western Mail and Daily Post, Twitter has the potential to be used as a discussion area during the period between each one, a conduit for more ideas or just as a way to engage in conversation with me.

I look forward to your tweets @DylanJonesEvans.

Friday, January 7, 2011


In the excellent article by Rhys David on the IWA Click on Wales website, he notes that

“we should aspire to make 2011 the year when Cardiff airport begins to offer a range of important European business city destinations rather than the broadly holiday destinations currently on offer.

Difficult, indeed, when our international business links are withering with the withdrawal of many of the multinational operations that used to populate the Welsh business scene, but essential if we are to build a competitive economy.”

A truly important aspiration for South Wales (as I would expect that North East Wales benefits from the proximity to both Manchester and Liverpool Airports). However, it is an aspiration that is, unfortunately, dying a slow death, as the graph below shows.

From a peak of 2,024,428 passengers in 2006, the number flying from the airport in 2009 had fallen to 1,631,236. This represents a decrease of 19.4 per cent. In contrast, over 5.3 million people now fly from Bristol Airport.  

According to the CAA, Cardiff is now the bottom of the league table of "second tier" regional airports in the UK.

The question is whether anyone is interested in doing anything about this abject situation and it is worth reading a recent article from Denis Campbell  of UK Progressive which should have started a real debate about the future of our only international airport but didn't.

In fact, the comments from the current managing director seem to be in complete contrast to the detailed Master Plan put forward in 2006 in response to the UK Government's White Paper on the future of aviation in the UK and which outlines how Cardiff Airport could grow over the upcoming years. Indeed, whilst the Master Plan estimated that there would be 3.25 million passengers flying from Cardiff Airport in 2010 and yet the CAA's latest statistics indicate that only 1.42 million did so last year. 

The announcement of the new route from Newquay to Cardiff announced this week is obviously better news but it is hardly going to add massively to passenger numbers nor link South Wales to major business centres in Europe.

To put it bluntly, something serious has gone wrong over the last few years. Worst of all, the perception is that very little seems to be done about addressing the decline of the airport.  

Given the importance of an international airport to the attraction and retention of foreign direct investors as well as the development of tourism, surely it is time that Cardiff Airport, along with the Welsh Assembly Government and organisations such as Cardiff and Co, to come together to try and solve this problem once and for all. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The UK Coalition Government has announced that twice as many unemployed people as previously planned will receive government funding to help them set up a business.

The new enterprise allowance will now be available for up to 40,000 new businesses by 2013, as the coalition seeks to boost the recovery by encouraging private-sector growth.

Under the terms of the allowance all those who persuade business experts that they have a feasible plan for a start-up will be eligible for the funding.

Whilst this is a non-devolved area, then one would assume that Wales should be targeting for at least five per cent of this support to support the long term unemployed here, especially within our more deprived communities.

This would mean an additional 2,000 businesses being created at a time when the number of Welsh entrepreneurs has been in decline although I would expect that our business support agencies could, with their experience and expertise in this area, get a higher share of the funding for Wales.

Certainly, it would be interesting to know what WAG is doing to ensure that this fits in with the existing entrepreneurship “strategy” it claims to have in place under the Economic Renewal Programme and maximises this support to ensure we make the most of this funding.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Over Christmas, I have been asked whether I am a member of the new business advisory panel set up by the Secretary of State for Wales in December.

Well, I am glad to say that I actually have been invited to be a member of the panel and attended the first meeting in Gwydyr House on December 14th (I am third from the left in the photograph above).

It was a very different type of meeting to the ones I have previously attended as a member of the Business Partnership Council organised by the Welsh Assembly Government, which tended to be formal and dominated by politicians and civil servants.

In contrast, this event was far more relaxed, everyone was given the opportunity to have their say and yes, there were actual entrepreneurs and businesspeople sitting around the table in addition to the CBI and the FSB. There was even a representative from the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that there was joined up thinking between Westminster and Cardiff Bay. Indeed, David Rosser and I seemed to agree on the majority of issues we raised at the event!!

Certainly, there was a frank and open discussion (especially about the rail link between London and Cardiff) and it is clear that the Secretary of State intends to listen very carefully to the group on a  range of issues.

The panel will also be given access to other members of Cabinet during future meetings. For example, Vince Cable may be attending the next meeting and a number of us are keen to discuss the role of the non-devolved Technology Strategy Board in Wales and its role, to date, in stimulating innovation.

I feel very privileged to be part of the group and it should be a fascinating series of meetings over the next few years.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thoughts on Sales and Sales People

A high performance sales person is one of the most valuable assets a company can have.

The purchase opportunity a consumer will pass up if left to their own isolated mind and will, the consumer will buy and pay twice the price if helped by a good sales person.

To better explore this notion let's take a look and explore some thoughts on home loan lending and the loan agent.

The loan agent for the modern day private lender is there for one reason. They are there to hold the borrowers hand, keep them happy, and most importantly to see them through the entire closing process. This is important because the borrower and home buyer has a lot to deal with. The never ending list of closing costs can be overwhelming and borrowers often want to back away as they become overwhelmed with all the financial obligations and contracts.

Because good sales people are hard to find and historically impossible to control, the typical employee to employer arrangement has proved a poor performance strategy.

Salary is a commitment and if the employer is wrong about the hired employee than they are out quite a bit of money. Sales people have a reputation of taking their own interest to the extreme. If they are guaranteed money this is gonna make managing them even worst. Why go the extra mile if there is no perceived self benefit?

Thus the commission has proven to be a great fit for the marketing and sales side of business operations.

Sales people are also good at extracting the highest price tolerable by any one given borrower. Thus loan origination points are a great match for originating loans. The sales guy is able to pull huge commissions and thus make a fruitful living and the lender carries zero risk.

By giving sales people a optional margin and commission take depending on the price obtained for any given product a company is able to give their sales reps greater opportunity for tremendously less risk. The price and risk is passed on to the consumer. If the consumer or borrower negotiates the price down to the bare minimum than they have avoided the extra cost of the reps allowable premium. The rep in this scenario still gets a commission. The commission is not as high as it could have been if they were able to get the consumer to purchase the product for a higher premium.

Sales people learn to live and cope with this uncertainty.

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Simple Thoughts On Mortgage Lending

When you take out a home loan you are literally buying a dollar for three dollars. By the time you are done paying the mortgage you will have paid the lender three times the money they lent you. This is how most businesses work.

Businesses purchase inputs, transform them into an output that is worth more. Business operations create value through this transformation process.

Lenders find people who need more money than they could possibly come up with themselves by the time they need it. This person is the borrower. They also find people who have more money than need during this same short term window. The lender than connects these two. They act as a broker.

Lending money is easy. Managing the risk of losing money in a way that consistently yields more return than loss is the trick.

Thus the real trick that lenders typically and historically do so well is to find opportunities to loan money to those who will do their best to pay back that money plus interest over a period time. One payment at a time. They do this by finding folks with steady consistent income that have a history of paying their bills and following through with their past financial obligations.

Middle class consumers who are the typical mortgage borrowers are by themselves to risky to be trusted with such a sizable loan over such a long period of time. A lot can happen in thirty years.

The asset being purchased with the loan is what creates the security for the lender and allows the American dream to be more than a dream. The fact that the lender is able to obtain the right to force a sale of the property secured by the mortgage loan is what allows the American dream to become an American reality.

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Business Basics - Understanding the Certainty of Uncertainty

Ivy League College Level Education with out Leveling Your Personal Finances

There are many reason we don't all graduate from those prestigious Ivy League Schools such as Harvard, Stanford, or MIT. These great educational institutions are very expensive. They are insanely competitive.

The admission offices only have room for so many, and they want the very best.

So for the vast majority of Americans it is simply not possible to get into these schools. Most US students won't be able to hear and be a part of these wonderful lectures and academic experiences.

Most of us will never have the opportunity to see what goes on behind those institutional walls of academic excellence.



Everyone is able to be a part of these institutions and classes. You can take whatever class you want. You can take these classes when ever you want. All the high caliber schools around the world are available free. They are free to all via the Internet and a special website called AcademicEarth.Org

If you would like to get a free Ivy League Eduction that will not break your finances via Academic Earth simply follow the step by step instructions I detail in that article titled...

How to Get a Ivy League Education Free

How to Get a Ivy League Education Free

This article describes how to get a free ivy league caliber education.

What if someone told you that you were able attend the same lectures held by the same professors that only the academic elite and or extremely rich were able to attend through top notch universities such as Harvard?

Would you believe that person?

Believe it.

How is this possible? 

The Internet.

More specifically a wonderful website known as Academic Earth.

This is a how to article describing the step by step process one can follow to attend a vast and impressive library of current and ongoing lectures from the top rated Universities and elite professors that the planet earth has to offer.

  1. First thing one needs to do is to hop on the computer and get online.
  2. Once you have made your way on to the Internet. Go to your browser and point it towards the following URL... 
  4. Next step is to take a look around and decide which degree you would like to unofficially obtain. You will find that the website is nicely put together and organized. It looks a bit like and other like sites.
  5. After you have decided on a topic and had a chance to look around the site pick your first class and hit play.
  6. Make sure you have a note book and even a spare laptop or iPad may be of use.
  7. Finally start watching and taking notes or just relax while you get a free 3,000 dollar lecture. 

With Academic Earth you can get all the benefit with out ruining your personal finances.

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Lindsay Lohan - She is Back - Video of her Photo Shoot in Skimpy Black

Well much of the blogging and vlogging world have their hopes up and are excited about the release of Lindsay Lohan from rehab. Her endless stream of content inspiration so much of the online publishing community craves will most likely start flowing as it once did.

That it ever really stopped. But with her out and about the quality, excitement, and financial profitability of all inspired content should soar as it did before.

I know vloggers such as Phillip DeFranco, and bloggers such as Perez Hilton are happy and busy.

I thought I would get in the fun and post a video of her.

This video is a photo shoot of Lindsay Lohan wearing seductive black outfit. The theme is dark, bloody, and of course sexy.

Love her or hate her Lohan makes the entertainment world go round.

Be sure to tell me what you think of the video.

Special Thanks to

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How to Refinance and Lower Your Monthly Payment

This article is a step by step guide on how to refinance and lower your mortgage payment. It is intended for homeowners who need to lower their monthly payments in order to stay current on their home loan.

I have another post in which I describe what borrowers are the best match for this particular mortgage payment solution. I suggest you make sure you are a good fit for refinance help to lower your payment before you move forward.

Below I have created a list of nine steps to take in order to refinance and lower your monthly mortgage payment.

Steps to Refinance and Lower Your Mortgage Payment

  1. Create monthly budget.
  2. Write hardship letter.
  3. Income and tax documents.
  4. Call your lender.
  5. Ask about refinancing options for distressed borrowers.
  6. Complete financial package that they request.
  7. Submit financial package.
  8. Follow up to make sure they received it and ask when to expect a reply.
  9. Wait for approval.

Refinance Help - Lower Mortgage Payment

Many homeowners, who are still current on their mortgage, are worried about making their next monthly mortgage payment on time. Some will be able to make the next payment, but they know that something has to be done in the near future, or they will default.

These homeowners need help making home affordable for the long term.

If you are a homeowner who has found yourself amidst a financial hardship during these slow economic times than you know of the stress and worry it brings to your life.

If you are dealing with this stress, if you are a homeowner who knows you have to do something or you will eventually default on your mortgage, than be sure to read the rest of this post.

You can refinance your mortgage to a loan with more favorable terms. You can lower your monthly payment.

Characteristics of Homeowners who May Be Able to Lower Their Mortgage Payment by Refinancing

  • They have at least 9 - 12 percent of home equity that has accumulated.
  • They are still current on their mortgage payments.

Those are only generic qualifications. If you are interested in a specific program than you need to reference the applicable qualifications for that refinance program of interest.

If you are a homeowner who meets this basic borrower profile than you may be able to refinance and lower your mortgage payment.

Where to Go From Here

If you want to explore this opportunity or move forward towards refinancing your mortgage loan than I suggest taking a look at another recent article of mine that lists all the steps involved in refinancing your loan to lower your mortgage payment. The post is titled and linked below...

How to Refinance and Lower Your Monthly Payment


This week, I begin my eighth year as a columnist within the Western Mail and my ninth with the Daily Post.

More relevantly, as today is the first day of 2011, it is a good time to look back at the economic events of the last twelve months.

In January 2010, there could be no doubt that the Welsh economy had been hit hard during the recession of the previous year.

Statistics would later show that whilst the public sector was largely protected from the worst ravages of the economic downturn, over 88,000 jobs were lost in the private sector across Wales.

Perhaps the biggest symbol of the inability of politicians in Wales to plan properly for the fallout from the changing state of the global economy was the news that Bosch was to close its South Wales plant with the loss of 900 jobs, with hundreds more lost through the supply chain of small local companies.

For a number of years, some of us had been urging the Welsh Assembly Government to create strong relationships with the major employers across Wales, and yet again, the politicians were left to bemoan the loss of another major employer by trying to shut the gate after the horse had bolted.

One can only hope that the Bosch episode finally hammered home the importance of having regular dialogue with the five hundred major inward investment companies that currently account for almost a third of employment in all large businesses in Wales.

Whilst tens of thousands of jobs were being lost across businesses in Wales, those working within the bowels of the Department of Economy and Transport were busily preparing the government’s new economic strategy.

Widely heralded as ending the grant culture even before it went out to consultation with business, this “Economic Renewal Programme” promised to re-energise the Welsh economy, a promise that politicians have been making since the Assembly was born in 1999.

The regular readers of this blog will know my views on a strategy that clearly did not reflect the views of the business community and offered little empirical evidence back to its conclusions. Indeed, most of the strategy now seems to be predicated on abandoning business support and funding at a time when small firms need every help they can get and instead using this money “saved” to pay for superfast broadband across the country.

The jury remains out as to whether the new economic renewal programme will work or not, but given that the Director General of the Department of Economy and Transport has been sent to Anglesey by his Minister, it doesn’t exactly show confidence in those officials who devised the strategy in the first place. Indeed, much work remains to be done by those replacing him to persuade the private sector that government in Wales is really on its side.

The highlight of my year was, without doubt, the hour I spent with Michael Moritz at his Sequoia Capital headquarters in California. Being the Welshman who invested in companies such as Yahoo, Google and YouTube, the 60 minute meeting was an opportunity to learn from someone who is widely seen as one of the leading gurus of the internet age.

And what was Cardiff born Moritz’s simple message to Wales?

It was one of encouraging the import of global scientific talent whilst, at the same time, providing the resources necessary at the primary and secondary school level to nurture the home grown scientists, engineers and technologists of the future. i.e. if you nurture, develop and attract young talent within science, engineering and technology and surely as day follows night, venture capital will follow that talent to create the industries of the future.

Yet, there is little evidence of this approach being embraced by either the public or the private sector in Wales. Given the spectre of increased youth unemployment across the nation over the next few years, it is a message that politicians at both Westminster and Cardiff Bay should begin to take seriously over the coming months.

The end of the year saw the ritual round of reports stating that Wales remained firmly at the bottom of the prosperity league table.

Given the fact that the first Assembly Government had set a target to increase Wales to 90 per cent of the UK’s prosperity by 2010, the fact that Wales remains at 74 per cent in 2009 demonstrates that successive governments have simply failed to utilise the economic levers at its disposal along with billions of pounds of additional European funding.

After twelve years of devolution, our competitiveness remains the worst of any British region, we have the lowest number of new business starts, the R and D spending by private sector companies remain pitifully inadequate, and we have the smallest proportion of exporting companies in the UK.

One can only hope, with the fourth Assembly election looming in May 2011, that the political parties will finally say enough is enough and finally begin to ask some serious questions over the ability of the Welsh economy to grow and develop and their role in enabling this.

Our over-dependence, relative to other UK regions, on the public sector at a time of government cutbacks will mean that we will need private firms, both large and small, to take on the burden of growing the Welsh economy.

The question is whether, after the abject economic performance since 1999 that has seen the worst growth record of any UK region, there we will finally see a radical set of policies put forward by the main political parties during the next four months, policies that can transform this nation.

For the sake of Wales, one can only hope so as we need a new approach that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation to create a flourishing economy that is driven by the skills and talents of its people.