In times gone by, a bride-to-be’s family would negotiate a dowry, so that the husband would agree to marry their daughter. It was an important consideration as to which woman the groom would marry. I wonder how these women felt – arguably their future life was as much to do with the amount of money her father was prepared to give, as it was the person she was, and was becoming. For me, I would find that deeply hurtful. It seems the same thing is happening to us as a Country today. Welsh Government Ministers from Carwyn Jones down are falling over themselves to pay foreign companies to take us on. These ministers are paying big foreign companies a dowry for our workers.
Every single time we pay somebody to set up in Wales, a little more of our pride gets wiped away. Because unless we pay them, they won’t come here and employ us; because they don’t actually think we’re better than someone else, somewhere else. Well I think we’re better than that, and I’m also completely unconvinced by the economic argument behind doing it too.
First off, they don’t need the money. Loads of these foreign companies can afford to make these investments from their current resources – they don’t need our money. If they think our workforce is good enough for their investment, they’ll invest in us. If they need a massive (in terms of our meagre cash resources) financial incentive to come here do we really want them here? Are they after us, or just our money?
The Welsh Government have recently announced the following four Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) agreements, and they exemplify the point perfectly:
We (I use ‘we’ as ultimately it’s our money, spent on our behalf, by those we elect, for our collective benefit) have just invested £14.7M in Ford so that they’ll build their new engines in Bridgend. Ford’s latest market cap stands at $61BN. They’ve been in Wales for a while, I accept, but why do they need our money to ensure the overall investment went ahead?
On the 6th of October Edwina Hart announced we were investing £1.4M to support CapGemini (a consulting firm) in creating of 100 jobs in Treforest. The company’s latest net worth is €13.9BN. They too don’t need our money to make this investment.
Here’s a biggy! On September 10th, Sony, with a market capitalisation of ¥4.3TN (yep that’s Trillions of Yen), announced that we had just lent it £1.1M for a new addition to their Pencoed facilities, just outside Bridgend. This one is a loan, but surely there’s no case that Sony needs our money more than hard pressed public services, or even owner managed businesses across the Country.
And then this week, First Source Solutions, an Indian company (capitalised at 22BN Rupees) were given more of our limited cash to add call centre staff to its Cardiff operation. We don’t know how much we gave them, as neither the Company or the government were prepared to say – I wonder, are they running scared of justifiable criticism? Hiding the facts is poor government, as it suggests the officers and ministers don’t have full confidence in the decisions they have made. Perhaps they’re right not to be confident.
There have been others, and there will be more.
Secondly, we need to find wealth creators rather than job creators. Simply put, wealth creators will also create jobs (often higher value jobs too). On the other hand, job creators will never create wealth. Any wealth created on the backs of these Welsh workers doesn’t stay here – it travels straight over the Severn Bridge, on to Heathrow and onwards to a far flung part of the world. I’d call this exploitation – and the fact we encourage and fund it ourselves would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.
Lastly, these huge businesses are highly susceptible to world market movements, and will, with limited warning simply up-sticks and go. The recent FSB Wales report ‘What Wales Could Be’ called for support to be focused on grounded, rooted, local businesses, to encourage them to grow to be the mid-cap businesses of tomorrow. I absolutely agree.
The politicians who take these decisions need to be held accountable. The officials who negotiate the deals too. Their focus on FDI is keeping Wales poor, and is wrong minded. Worse still, it shows they don’t believe we’re good enough to succeed without this ‘dowry’. That diminishes self-belief and hurts our collective confidence.
Some of us believe we’re worth it.