Why is Wales so poor? (Economy, language and more)

Discussion in 'Wales/Cymru' started by lewislewis, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. lewislewis

    lewislewis Lumumba Cymru

    We are often told how Wales has a lower GVA per head than most other parts of the UK. Wales is significantly poor. We are told that 'Wales is too poor to be independent', 'Wales has the poorest areas of Western Europe' and that we aren't really catching up with the rest of the UK either. All of these statements, as depressing as they are, are rooted in fact.
    The symptoms of this poverty are obvious- endemic low pay and in-work poverty across Wales, growing unemployment (and when employment grew in 2007 it was mainly low-paid jobs), ill health and the mass emigration of most of our educated graduates.

    Why is Wales so comparatively poor, when we have such massive amounts of natural resources? Why so poor when we have more heavy industry (and you'd assume that creates wealth) per head of the population than anywhere else in the UK? Why so poor when we create more energy than we consume? Why so poor when we have a history of being the first industrialised country?

    I am none the wiser, but would appreciate any answers!
  2. lewislewis

    lewislewis Lumumba Cymru

    No takers?
  3. editor

    editor hiraethified

    I'll have a go:

    It's because most of the wealth was taken out of the country. When south Wales was the biggest coal exporter on the planet and the dock and mine owners were making billions, that wealth wasn't reflected in the standard of living for workers who were ruthlessly exploited.

    Moreover, vast areas of Wales now are either post-industrial wastelands/short term low-paying industrial parks or isolated farm land. Add to that the lack of decent cross-Wales transport links and it's not surprising that the money is flowing out of - rather than around - the country.

    Of course, some parts of Wales are still doing very nicely, thanks.
  4. niclas

    niclas Active Member

    Perhaps a better question (no offence LL!) is to ask how we can change the situation for the better.

    As in all countries, workers have been systematically robbed. We have the dubious distinction of being one of the world's first industrialised nations and therefore one of the first post-industrial nations. Extreme, amazing wealth has been extracted from the people and natural resources - not for nothing was the world's first million pound deal done in Cardiff Coal Exchange.

    We need:
    control over the means of production for community benefit,
    production for need not greed,
    localisation of food rather than its globalisation,
    pioneering new forms of green technology (e.g. hydrogen cells)
    using our "intellectual factories" (colleges) to develop new technologies and smart manufacturing industries to deal with climate change, the end of oil and other fossil fuels
    and lots of other stuff

    I doubt any of this will happen unless workers in Wales have the independence to think and act for ourselves. If we stay as we are, we will remain a remote and insignificant appendage of some post-colonial power.
  5. isitme

    isitme Banned Banned

    maybes you get shafted cos it's easy for london to

    welsh are even worse than geordies for not noticing how shitty it is if they build some flagship thing like your parliment or the arts projects in newcastle which are all well and good but don't actually do much to help the poor people

    someone suggesting wales is a bit fucked is usually greeted by a load of nationalist bollocks, (like how it was such a big thing getting a welsh parliment, how much did that cost and many jobs did that create?)
  6. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    I've never been a nationalist, but when you look at what the EU has done for Ireland, Greece and Portugal it makes me reconsider. The trouble is Plaid would make us all speak Welsh, and I'm not going for that. If only they'd get off the language stuff I'd vote for them.
  7. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    I agreed with you at the time, but as it turned out the Assembly's made life significantly better in Wales. No prescription charges, minimal uni fees etc.
  8. PAD1OH

    PAD1OH New Member

    I think an end to the excuse that coal being taken by england as the only reason for the current situation would be a good start.

    Thinking that a modern economy can be built on coal is a joke.

    less of the past and more of the future please..
  9. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Historically Wales has always been economically peripheral to larger markets over the border. And to further disolve economic power, it has been cut into three peripheries. South Wales being economically peripheral to the larger markets of Bristol and Gloucester, Mid Wales to Shrewsbury, etc and North Wales to Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.

    It was always more economically viable to take goods to these larger markets. It's all very well having a large coal, wool or meat resource - but the Welsh population didn't itself need much more than a relatively small percentage of these products. The bulk of the income was selling over the border.
  10. PAD1OH

    PAD1OH New Member

    peripheral physically or mentally?

    maybe not peripheral enough....

    Places like Ireland, Iceland are as peripheral as you can get but they have done some great things with their economies. Ok they are both bad examples in the current climate but I sometimes think location is overplayed.

    Both Ireland and Iceland were very open economies but they also focussed on building internal markets, skills, social structure etc.
  11. editor

    editor hiraethified

    I'm not entirely sure of that. At the turn of the 20th century, south Wales was an industrial powerhouse, outputting coal, iron and steel and running a vast export business that made Cardiff's docks busier than New York's. The railway network was one of the densest in the UK, forming a massive infrastructure that stretched right across the south of the country.

    I really can't see Gloucester - or perhaps even Bristol - competing with that level of wealth generation at the time*.

    (*for the bosses, natch).
  12. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Building internal markets is the key I think. I wouldn't be too suprised if some people in North Wales used to buy coal in from Lancashire pits.
  13. editor

    editor hiraethified

    One of the major obstacles to creating a Welsh economy has always been the lack of an internal rail infrastructure. You can't get from south Wales to north Wales without going through England - and even when it was technically possible in the 1950s, it was along a painfully circuitous route.
  14. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    All the economic, and therefore political development that had happened up until that time had all focussed over the border. South Wales was the Kuwait/Ryhad of it's day. Lots of people working to get fuel out of the ground to send it elsewhere. Just because the infrastructure of export and delivery had expanded massively, didn't mean there was any pressure or need to create wider cross markets within Wales or decent political structures.

    So many of the ME Oil states try to diversify out of Oil and fail. They also struggle (or more commonly don't even bother) to develop political infrastructure.
  15. Belushi

    Belushi 01 811 8055 R.I.P.

  16. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Lord Bute- the owner of much of Cardiff docks - became the richest man in the world at the time, so there certainly was 'nuff cash generation going down, but because Wales was effectively ruled by England, the country saw precious little economic benefits from their labours.

    That legacy is seen in the lack of love felt for Engand in some quarters today.
  17. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    I don't think it would have made much difference if it had it's own parliament. Look at the energy rich states - they are hardly bastions of direct democracy and wealth distribution. I don't know anything about him, but You think Lord Bute would have crashed the cash around to his fellow countrymen if he was Welsh? I am guessing he never gave much away to the masses of urban poor in England.

    Where in the world at the end of the 19th C was there anything resembling wealth redistribution? The idea that there is some historical justification for the resentment a modern day resident of South Wales may have for resident of a town or city a hundred miles to the east is fairly lame.

    It's a simplistic in the extreme to see the wealth created from South Wales industry as going "to England". It no more went to England than the wealth generated in Yorkshire factories went to England. The same capitalist exploitation occurred throughout. The only difference being that Welsh were able to but a nationalist (and false) personification to their exploitation: "the reason we are exploited is because we are welsh and they are english".
  18. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Have you read the Monbiot article? As he correctly points out, all the transport links were designed to take things out of Wales with litle provision for serving Wales as a whole.

    And if certainly felt like Wales was being ruled by England during Thatchers reign when the Tory government - a government without a single seat in Wales - closed the mines and shafted the people. You'll find many of those still dumped on the scrapheap look to Westminster as the ones to blame for their plight.

    And it is different to Yorkshire, because Wales had been on receiving end of cultural oppression too - read up on the aftermath of the Treachery of the Blue Books as a good reference point. We weren't even granted a capital city until the mid-1950s for fucks sake.

  19. You mean Wales was being ruled by the tories. What happened in Wales also happened to northern England, and the fact people (mainly southern) had voted for it didn't make anything any sweeter.
  20. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    I don't disagree with you on what happened. I just disagree with you on the nationalist bent that gets placed on top. Apologies for the chop-job here, I realise they are painful to read.

    I haven't read this article, however I do know the era reasonably well. The transport links were designed and implemented by capitalists to get maximum profit from the resources they controlled. They were not designed and implemented by capitalists to get maximum benefit to their english compatriots.

    Now you are skitting about history, cherry-picking. However this example is more illustrative of my point: The exact same thing was the case across much of the north of England. Westminster destroyed millions of lives across industrial and mining towns in the north.

    This is certainly a difference. But is largely OT in terms of poverty in Wales.
  21. editor

    editor hiraethified

    I'm not saying that other industrial parts of the UK didn't suffer equally, but you can't just strip away the historical and cultural context of what happened in Wales.

    Many English people may not think of Wales as a separate, bona-fida country, but to most Welsh people it most certainly is. It's not an area. It's a nation.
  22. derf

    derf Banned Banned

    Looking at editor's posts most of what he has said could equally be applied to Yorkshire.
    An area based on heavy traditional, but now dead, industries where people feel alienated from central government and claim to be Yorkshiremen above English.

    They don't sound so far removed from each other.
  23. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    I don't think there would be that many who are particularly interested either way to be honest. Why would someone in Lincoln or Middlesborough or Gravesend decide that Wales wasn't a country? And more significantly for this thread - why would that in itself make Wales poor?

    Nations come and nations go. Wales came, went, and came back again. The notion of what is Wales is different now to the notion people had 1000 and 500 years ago. For all nationalists and nations there is always a desire to reverse engineer a seemless historical narrative of a country. That the notions we hold now are true and constant to some ancient ideal, much attacked but never sullied. My opinion is that this is fantasy. The historical and cultural context is more to do with current justifications of nationhood - which political entities require for a mandate to rule.
    UnderAnOpenSky likes this.
  24. isitme

    isitme Banned Banned

    except everyone in yorkshire competes to say they came from the worst rather than the best part :D
  25. editor

    editor hiraethified

    On the surface they are similar, but if you understand the full historical and cultural context, then you'll appreciate that Wales' story is a different case.

    Perhaps as an Englishman you're unable to comprehend the difference, but to most Welsh people it's as clear as day.
  26. llantwit

    llantwit 

    @Derf: Surely it's most clear in the fact that Wales is actually a separate nation, recognised as such by most people.
    Just because it isn't a nation state doesn't man it's not a nation.
  27. PAD1OH

    PAD1OH New Member

    but surely the point is that until Wales can define itself in relation to itself and not how it relates to England and what happened in the past it's not going anywhere.
  28. editor

    editor hiraethified

    I guess it's been rather difficult for Wales to define itself when it's being ruled by people from afar that no one voted for.

    It's changing now for the better. The sense of national identity is growing as is the growth of the language and the arts.
  29. PAD1OH

    PAD1OH New Member

    it is. this is what makes wales a nation. It is recognised as a nation.

    we still can't make primary legislation and have to go begging to westminster when we want to make certain policies etc.... :hmm:
  30. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Everyone in the country is ruled from afar by people no-one voted for. The entire political system is a sham democracy. Sticking a welsh flag on top and putting 'Cymru' as the prefix of everything from buses to biscuits won't make a jot of difference.

    And what does any of this have to do with why Wales is poor?
    UnderAnOpenSky likes this.

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