“It is vital that the business community in Wales plays a more direct role in supporting the development of the Welsh economy”.
The Welsh Assembly Government must listen and respond to the voice of business. The Welsh Conservatives have consistently called for a stronger role for the Business Partnership Council, putting it at the centre of Government. By providing effective policy input and independent monitoring, which have been lacking from the approach of this Assembly Government and preceding administrations to the development of economic policy, the BPC would provide an exemplar that could be emulated in other parts of Britain.
The concept of the Business Partnership Council was developed in 1999 to ensure that the voice of business is central to the development of the Welsh economy. Chaired by the First Minister and with its membership comprising WAG Ministers and representatives from Business Wales, the Welsh TUC and the Social Enterprise Network, its role is to consider issues that relate to the functions and responsibilities of WAG that affect the business community and make recommendations on the measures needed to improve the performance of the Welsh Assembly Government, its agencies and sponsored bodies.
The Way Forward
The current model of the BPC is doing little for the Welsh economy and needs some form of independent assessment. It is apparently not taken seriously by WAG Ministers and has recently been renamed as the Council for Economic Renewal. The Welsh Conservatives should aim to reform the BPC by making it formally responsible for agreeing and measuring strategic economic development objectives. The First Minister and a senior representative from the Welsh community would jointly chair it. This would demonstrate the importance of government and business to the future of our economy. It would produce an annual report that would come before the Assembly, so that it can be debated to encourage further progress and bring scrutiny to bear on those areas in which Wales is not doing as well as we should be. It could also set out a work programme to identify the dynamics driving the economy, giving independent intelligence about Wales’ economic performance, which would help the Government. There also needs to be a review of how business could contribute in other ways to support the development of economic policies. Other nations, such as Ireland, India and the USA, have developed new models of interaction with business that focus on the support of entrepreneurship and innovation as tools for economic development. For example, the Indian Government has recently established the National Innovation Council whose role will be to draw up policies for fostering an environment for innovation, especially among small and medium enterprises whilst President Barack Obama has created a National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identify new ways to take great ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs.