Audio: Wales’ economy ‘coming to a point of crisis’

Mark Hooper. Picture by Mark Mansfield

The founder of IndyCube has criticised politicians for failing to address the weakness of the Welsh economy.

Mark Hooper has called for radical changes in response to the threats posed by increased automation, climate change and exiting the European Union.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Nation.Cymru, Hooper, who set up IndyCube 10 years ago, admitted he’d previously tended to blame Labour for problems but now feels they are systemic and responsibility should be shared across the political spectrum.

Indycube is a co-operative which runs co-working spaces in over 30 locations in Wales and is currently expanding into England.

“The economics of Wales are going to deliver us 40% of our children living in poverty, so we’re coming to a point of crisis that I think politicians are failing to consider, realise, (or) accept,” Mar Hooper said.

“But the worst thing is, they are failing to come up with any sort of alternative.”

He dismisses the use of financial inducements to persuade companies to create jobs in Wales adding: “We’re actually giving over our limited state resources to companies who don’t need our state resources. These people are already well off.

“We’re just encouraging them to come here with jobs that … won’t be here in the next 10 years.”

Hooper also expressed doubts about the City Deal initiatives: “The City Deal in Cardiff and the Swansea Bay City Deal talk about the benefits of agglomeration, so bigger is better. But that agglomeration – even if it works – the assumption that it trickles down to the communities outside that, on the periphery, is increasingly an argument that is failing.”

Responsibility

Instead, he believes universal basic income could offer a solution. The scheme pays a sum of money from the government without the recipient being required to work or look for work and is currently being trialed in Canada and Finland with pilot schemes under consideration by the SNP in Scotland.

Critics have suggested the money could be a disincentive to work but evidence suggests people are more likely to set up a business of their own with a basic income and to feel more confident caring for an elderly relative and bringing up a family.

Hopper believes we can benefit in Wales from changing priorities and becoming a less acquisitive society: “We need to choose a different course. I think we need to reconsider, not our place in the world but our place within ourselves.

“This is about us taking responsibility for ourselves, allowing communities to have their head. It’s not going to be easy. It may be we can’t afford to be this consumerist society that advertisers want us to be, but we may be happier.

“We may be less riddled with guilt. We may be less depressed. That’s where I think we need to look.”


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Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Is Mark proposing that Wales leads in a race to the bottom without competitors by changing Priorities? Wales cannot be less ambitious than under the labour government. At the same time he is saying that the “economics of Wales are going to deliver us 40% of our children living in poverty”. Well let’s face it we are importing poverty and child poverty from England where hundreds of thousands of poor and sick people are being pushed out by English labour and English Tory local authorities, with large numbers arriving here in Wales. This is funded by the Welsh Government with… Read more »

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

That’s an argument for a federal UK, and actually a very good one. You’re also absolutely right about the problems of Wales importing poverty from England as a direct result of the Welsh Labour Government’s policies, which they get away with precisely because of the lack of scrutiny they are exposed to.

If Wales is ever to succeed economically, then Independence is the most likely way to bring that about but within ‘the art of the possible’ a federal system may be a very useful intermediate step.

Max Wallis
Guest

Look at the fiasco’s of WG and WDA strategies. Making out we can lead in aerospace (while we quietly become a military supplier and re-fitting provider). Ignoring the renewables industry (compare Scottish success). Now proposing to throw £100 million or more into the hopelessly uneconomic Swansea lagoon – a private development when joint public-private initiatives are needed. Handing over South Wales metro planning to franchiser bidding, instead of a public body that can transparently plan an consult. Still stuck with the English (Blair + Redwood) hands-off approach, despite Rhodri espousing ‘clear red water’ over public services provision.

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

It’s interesting to see the topic of a Universal Basic Income coming up yet again here, after Ben Gwalchmai mentioned it in his article just a few days ago. I strongly support it, for many reasons, but one reason is that I think it’s the best way to tackle the endemic poverty that exists in some areas of Wales (including ones where I have family) arising from generations having been actively discouraged from seeking work by our current benefits system that pulls the rug from under you as soon as you start getting on your feet. In the Welsh context… Read more »

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

Switzerland and Singapore have also got their own stock exchange and financial systems where they can home grown finance without having to mortgage to outside interests

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

Absolutely; there’s so much good stuff that could be done to boost the Welsh economy, but which won’t ever happen without independence. Everything comes back to that.

T
Guest
T

Basic income yes, but how feasible is this in the present political setup? It’s less likely than Independence. How would it work without independence? Would we have to tackle the elephant in the room, internal migration from rest of UK? Or would we allow anyone that fancies benefits by the sea to finally ruin the last reminants of a sepetate cultural identity? I am not against incomers, but currently there is no balance, no controls and no scrutiny on the pressures this presents to society and our public services and economy in Wales. It’s a Toxic issue as anyone questions… Read more »

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

Generally I prefer the term “Citizens’ Income” rather than Universal basic Income, and therefore it goes without saying that it necessitates a concept of Citizenship and that means Independence. Among the arguments that could be made in favour of independence, it’s a pretty good one. The criterion for citizenship would have to be worked out, but it would obviously involve being born in the country and/or having had family in the country for some (extended) time and/or having a record of having contributed economically to the country. You bet it would exclude the ‘benefits by the sea’ brigade, and if… Read more »

Tudor Williams Rees
Guest
Tudor Williams Rees

We have massive problems in Wales, and the recent decision to savagely cut infrastructure funding west of Cardiff and north of Pontypridd is very damaging. Unfortunately the majority of our politicians belong to London based parties and to progress their careers, the have to tow the party line. Although I favour a Federal setup for the UK, I will only support a political party based in Wales.

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

I do believe the approaching social upheavals, the riots, and the European and American wars of our very young century, I do believe they can be prevented. We need ideas such as this.

What Mr. Hooper is proposing is mostly good. It would also break the unions’ grip upon Wales by giving individuals power, which is good.

But if we are going to prevent this dark future, our constant interaction with technology in place of other human beings also needs to be addressed, and the deep resentment, apathy, frustration and anger it is brewing in our society.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Breaking the unions’ power would be one of the worst things possible, as they are one of the few ways remaining that give individuals not only a voice, but power. Individuals on their own don’t have any power, it is only collectively that an individual has any real power or influence. Granted, there is also a democratic defecit in many unions, especially those with large, established bureaucracies, but those unions are becoming less and less relevant in the changing world we see. Many who work under the most recent working regimes, (zero hour, part time contracts, or those condemned to… Read more »

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

Most interesting. Is this medieval to Victiorian life in Wales. The time when, in Wales were known by only the first name, and progressed to surname that reflected your occupation. Butcher, Baker, Plumber, Tailor. And many derivatives. Myself I would prefer the ap, or ab as recognising lineage. My goodness how things have changed. A forgotten fact is that work as we know it today is only 300 years old, or a little more. If you include the smelting and extractive work. Wales was rural, forest and farms. I understand that previously we had Mediterranean weather that fostered the great… Read more »

Max Wallis
Guest

Mark Hooper ducks out of the need for rational and responsible Welsh Government budgeting – a government that currently proposes to spend practically the whole project funding In S-E Wales on a £1.5billion duplicate M4 road. And proposes to abolish airport passenger tax in a competitive race to the bottom, whatever the cuts implied for other services. Citizens income is another issue and no answer to the popularist and unjustified spending under Carwyn.

jim humphreys
Guest
jim humphreys

Only Independence within our borders, and NO foreign entanglements whatsoever, will enable us to make our own choices for good or ill.

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

I do feel the expenditure on a false premise of improving the problems of road congestion on the Newport M4, area by a son of M4 and hugely expensive, is as outrageous as the antics of King Canute. Please stop this madness of destruction, first on the treasured environment of the most unique kind in Wales, and the stupidly as the London centric class to see it grip the Cardiff centric class. No independent report will raise the issues of spreading key resources to the forgotten areas outside the M4 corridor, and their infrastructure requirements, the critical need to invest… Read more »

Nigel Bull
Guest

Having worked for three companies that made big investments based on the perceived(based on reality or not) communication issues along the area of the M4 in question, it is clear to me that the road is needed. Access to Southern Wales all but shuts down twice a day, with far worse unfortunately after accidents. Access along this road is so important for more than 75% of the population, if also for a far smaller geographical area. This point should not be confused with other investment seemingly so dominated by areas south of the M4 and especially so in Cardiff. That… Read more »

Dafydd Thomas
Guest
Dafydd Thomas

Nigel, Much industry such as dairies etc have been moved away from Wales to the Bristol area and further afield, then delivered back to Wales by road. we need to have more control here to build up our industry and infrastructure. The Secretary of State for Wales is blind to this. He opposed the airport duty tax being devolved to Wales because the Tory MPs around Bristol would think it would be a disadvantage to the airports in England. It would be appropriate in this instance to refer to the Secretary of State for Wales as the Secretary of State… Read more »