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Huge tasks loom and business is ready to help.

Byline: DAVID ROSSER

Congratulations! Well done on an excellent election result.

You have successfully steered the Labour Party to an improved position, and have, through a mixture of circumstances, left two of the opposition parties more focused on their own leadership dilemmas than on analysing Labour's plans.

You have cemented your personal authority, appointed a Cabinet of your choosing, and now lead a Welsh Government with more legislative competence than ever before.

You just missed out on an absolute majority, but getting half the seats gives you undoubted moral authority and yet allows you to pursue your approach of consensual politics.

So what are you faced with over the next five years? Your two big challenges are guiding the Welsh public services into a more effective delivery mode against reducing budgets, and achieving what the first three Assembly terms have failed to do which is demonstrating that the Welsh economy can be turned around.

Both are big tasks, and you have probably concluded that more of the same isn't going to be enough.

The business community can play a role in helping you to re-shape public services if that is of interest.

Yes, companies will be treating this as a business oppor-tunity, but if their involvement can meet the two tests of better services and good value for money then surely that is good for citizens and taxpayers alike? If you don't find some way of harnessing private investment then it is going to be a long haul.

And actually, your second task of improving the economy needs some key public services to be delivered better.

You ran out of patience with education performance recently and have put one of your more effective ministers back in charge.

That improvement will have a long lead time, but at least we are getting on with it.

And you have also put a senior cabinet minister in charge of the business portfolio. I have just returned from my first meeting with Edwina Hart in her new capacity.

She has told me she wants an open and direct dialogue with the business community which acknowledges what the Welsh Government can do, but also when the levers lie elsewhere. Businesses will welcome this.

Too often in the past expectation management has been poor.

Welsh Assembly officials have been reluctant to say no to companies, often for laudable reasons, but businesses would rather know where they stand. She has challenged us to identify a small number of key priorities for delivery and then work with her on them.

But many of the issues that business in Wales wants tackled lie elsewhere in government.

And as the First Minister we will look to you to deliver the whole-government approach which you have told me you support.

You and I have spoken for many years of the need to rigorously evaluate the compliance costs of new legislation and regulation. With the Assembly's new powers this will be critical.

We have agreed on the full definition of sustainability: economic, environmental and social, and the need for government policy to fully reflect this. And I know you have heard the constant frustration of all parts of the business community with our planning system.

You have kept personal responsibility for energy policy on Wales.

That is good news as, for many of our large industrial companies on which much well-paid employment and extensive supply chains depend, the ability to take more control of their own energy destiny is critical to their future existence in Wales.

At some stage during the first half of this next government you will be faced with the issue of what to do with EU funding.

It is looking increasingly likely that Wales will qualify for a third round, not having made sufficient economic progress against other countries.

You will say this is an opunder portunity, but you will know it is at least partly a result of not having made best use of the programmes so far.

At that stage you may want to talk to the business community about how it would use the funds to really grow sustainable employment and wealth. But you will need to streamline your processes to get companies interested.

But that is for then, this is now.

You have an eager new team of ministers, a new mandate to govern, and a business community that wishes you well and is ready to lend a hand. Let's speak soon.

CAPTION(S):

[bar] First Minister Carwyn Jones with his new cabinet members when he addressed civil servants PICTURE: Wales News Service [c]
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 18, 2011
Words:760
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