Officials from Wales have failed to convince companies to invest in the country because they could not speak the languages of the countries where their “embassies” were based, an MP claims.
Conservative David TC Davies slammed Wales’ record on foreign direct investment (FDI), calling it an “utter disaster”.
Some responsibilities, including those for attracting foreign investment, were devolved to Wales in 1999.
The Welsh Government rejected Mr Davies’ claims, calling them “completely groundless”.
Speaking during a Commons debate on Welsh affairs, the MP for Monmouth said Scottish and English regions had managed to raise their profile in Europe but “nobody had ever heard of anyone from Wales”.
According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Welsh economy is the least competitive part of the United Kingdom, with regional gross value added per head – a measure of the value of a country’s goods and services – in 2008 placing Wales as the lowest performing UK region.
Mr Davies urged caution over giving more powers to the Welsh Assembly given the track record on attracting FDI.
He said: “Inward investment has been a disaster over the years since the assembly was set up.
“We went from being one of the most successful regions of the United Kingdom to being the second lowest region in terms of the ability to attract foreign inward investment.”
“We’ve heard stories about people who were set up in so-called embassies in other parts of the world that couldn’t even speak the language of the country that they were supposed to be selling Wales to. People who were not seen or not heard of.
“We heard stories in Brussels that while Scotland – [and] to be fair in Yorkshire and other regions of the United Kingdom – had been very successfully raising their profile, nobody had ever heard of anyone from Wales.”
Mr Davies also pointed to other concerns over Wales’ education, energy and healthcare sectors as important factors in encouraging companies to invest.
In response to Mr Davies’ comments, the Welsh Government called them “completely groundless”, adding they “spectacularly fail” to reflect the reality of what is actually happening in Wales”.
A spokesman pointed to the latest official figures showing Wales
has experienced the best improvement in winning FDI projects compared to anywhere in the UK.
He added: “Our success in terms of attracting FDI and supporting export growth, combined with an unemployment rate now below the UK, clearly demonstrates that the Welsh economy is continuously outperforming the rest of the UK.”
The CBI has outlined some recommendations it think would help drive the Welsh economy.
- A greater focus on selling Wales around the world and attracting further foreign direct investment.
- Ensuring the planning system is reformed to become a “true enabler” of economic growth
- Setting up a ‘buddy system’ to grow mutual understanding between the Welsh Government and the country’s key businesses