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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK
Assembly's economic strategy under fire
CBI-Objective One graphics
Business leaders from the CBI in Wales has branded the Welsh Assembly's economic strategy as "ineffective."

The assembly's draft strategy document had failed to take in the "big picture" in Wales and focused too hard on minor detail, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

The First Minister stressed the strategy was at draft stage
It is the second time this year the assembly has been criticised by commerce experts.

In March, the CBI and other industry groups threatened to withdraw co-operation with administration on the Objective One regional aid scheme amid complaints over a lack of consultation.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the assembly's plans were only at a draft stage.

CBI Wales director David Rosser said the assembly's economic draft document had "relied too much on relatively minor initiatives like trade missions."

It has missed out on the big issues like education, transport and planning systems, he said.

Fundamental measures

"There are a lot of good measures being proposed in the draft economic strategy," said Mr Rosser.

"But they are not enough by themselves - they won't replace having a fundamentally competitive business environment in Wales.

"If we are to grow the economy to the step-change the assembly is saying we need to, we need to sort out the M4 around Newport.

"We cannot expect to grow the economy of Wales by the extent we are aiming for and only have a two-lane motorway feeding 70% of the population - the assembly needs to get to grips with the issues."

Comments rejected

But First Minister Rhodri Morgan rejected the comments, saying: "This is a draft economic strategy and if they feel strongly, then we will try to accommodate them when we have tested how widely felt that view is.

"We tried to focus on firms and clusters of companies driving the Welsh economy up the value chain because we can no longer afford to be the lowest-cost producer in Europe."

The CBI is also angry the assembly is still considering plans for supplementary business rates after they were rejected in Scotland and England.

Assembly chamber
AMs have been too narrow in their thinking, says the CBI
Mr Morgan acknowleged the body's concern and said: "Everyone wants something akin to the American model of the Business Improvement Districts, by which business can agree with a local council - on a voluntary basis - on areas that need improvement, to raise the tone of an area.

"Everyone agrees on the desired outcome; we're not that far apart on the issue and no final decision has been made - it is just a matter of how you do it."

Transport talks

On the attack of the assembly's transport strategy, he said there was a Europe-wide consensus, and an agreement after talks in Kyoto, on developing new policy.

"It's not a matter of the old days, in which the path to economic development was to build motorways right across the country.

"We can't do that anymore and we don't have the money."

Mr Morgan said the assembly administration might have a different view on plans to develop a relief road south of Newport, for example, and said the emphasis on building roads of 25 years ago would never return.

But the CBI called for the assembly to "establish itself as a pro-business body - something it has not yet done".

BBC Wales's Miles Fletcher
"The CBI is upping the ante"
CBI Wales director David Rosser
"We need to get to grips with the fundamentals"
See also:

14 Mar 01 | Wales
CBI threat to quit 1.2bn scheme
18 Jul 00 | Wales
Wales's windfall worry
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