Journal Column – 28th December

The Christmas period is always a special time of year – a reminder that we should focus more on the important things. The pace of life today is incredible, and each technological innovation, far from making life easier, seems to speed things up even faster. The boundaries between work and family time become increasingly blurred. Leisure is squeezed in when we can find a spare moment.

For many years economists have attempted to compare quality of life amongst nation states by other criteria and not just GVA (wealth) figures. The latest GVA figures (2009 and 2010) are a bit of a mixed bag for us in Wales. The individual figures show that people in inner London earn on average more than 10 times us in South Wales. That the UK is by far the most inequal state in Europe. These are damning figures for the last Labour UK Government.

On the other hand in 2010, Plaid Cymru’s last year in government at Welsh level, the Welsh economy was rebounding faster than any other part of the British state from the recession. After a decade of neglect our interventionist approach aimed at keeping people in work rather than throwing them on the scrapheap was having a positive impact.

However, the quality of life index offers sobering reading for the UK as a whole. The latest figures indicate that the UK is the worst place to live in Europe. Of the nine criteria, we have the second lowest number of sunshine hours; fourth highest retirement age; the third lowest spend in health and care; and the highest food and fuel prices. All this before the austerity cuts fed through. The average family lost over £500 in disposable income this year and worse is to come.

Now there is nothing that can be done about the weather – but politicians need to focus on the other areas and introduce a more rounded approach to policy making.

My new years pledge therefore is to redouble my efforts to build an economic system that works for ordinary people rather than the other way around. The message of Christmas is that life is for spending quality time with those that we care about and that wealth in society should be shared more equitably so that everyone has a better quality of life and equality of opportunity rather than just the select few. Building a political programme around those core values seems to be a good place to start to me.

Nadolig llawen iawn i bawb a blwyddyn newydd dda.

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