Lee Waters AM, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport
The Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan has already set the direction with a shift away from a sector approach to economic development to one focused on place – making the communities we live in stronger and more resilient. It places a greater emphasis on tackling inequality, and signals a shift to a ‘something for something’ relationship with business.
The next step in that approach is to nurture and grow the foundations of our local economies. Care, food, housing, energy, construction are all examples of the Foundational Economy. The industries and firms that are there because people are there. The food we eat, the homes we live in, the energy we use and the care we receive: those basic services on which every citizen relies and which keep us safe, sound and civilised.
These aren’t small parts of our economy. They account for four in ten jobs, and £1 in every three that we spend*.
I want to update Members on the progress we are making in this area and to trail some of the work ahead.
Today, I am leading an event which brings together leading Foundational Economy stakeholders and acknowledged experts from across the UK and Europe to discuss its significance for Wales. I want our approach to learn from best practice and the expertise that leading practitioners provide. The event provides an important step on that journey of learning and translating that learning into practice.
I will also shortly launch a new fund which builds upon the £1.5million Foundational Economy budget agreement with Plaid Cymru. This will enable us to support a wide range of innovative and experimental projects which will enable us to trial different approaches across Wales. I expect the fund to be open to bids early in the new financial year and based upon the discussions I have already had with some interested parties, I expect it to generate significant appeal across Wales.
More broadly, I want to see us match the commitment we already provide to some of our largest employers, with an equal emphasis on local ‘anchor institutions’ and the network of disparate and scattered firms that are essential to contributing to a sense of place and to well-being in our communities. This will require a shift in our thinking and doing as we embed the Foundational Economy into our wider economic development approach.
I will keep Assembly Members updated as this work evolves over the coming months.
*Estimates on the size of the Foundational Economy provided by academic researchers at https://foundationaleconomy.com/