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Leading Article: A blueprint for mediocrity?

FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan must be regretting making his first report on the successes of the Welsh Assembly Government a year ago.

For, frankly, in his second annual report yesterday, he had very little positive to boast about from an Assembly that costs many millions to run.

His main point seems to have been the abolition of prescription charges for the under-25s and a minimal lack of increases for other people.

He cannot brag about a great shift in the Welsh economy - indeed, the only growth employment area seems to have been in the number of well-paid jobs advertised for the Assembly Government itself.

Little has been achieved in securing the future of the Welsh farmer, still the main year-round industry in much of a country that is still rural. This rural economy is still suffering a disastrous blight, in the wake of BSE and foot-and-mouth. The South-east, as ever, continues to dominate Wales.

In health, waiting lists are just as long, if not longer; and, while education results may have improved, it is hard to be certain that this can be attributed to the Assembly's policies, other than, say, increased effort by the schools, teachers and students.

Mr Morgan admitted that public perception of the Assembly's value had still to be achieved, perhaps because of shortcomings by the Assembly itself, or because the spin machine is not as effective as it should be.

It is easy to be cynical, but basically a second-rate Assembly without powers to raise its own taxes or to pass meaningful legislation is neither fish nor fowl. Perhaps it is the way devolution of power to Wales was devised that is the real millstone hanging around its neck.

DEEP in rural Wales, the Porthmadog area seems an unlikely place to trigger off an overheating of the Welsh housing market.

Has the region, with its equable climate, become more popular as a retirement venue for incomers and locals alike? Or are stringent planning restrictions in the surrounding areas of Gwynedd and the National Park causing a shortage of housing, in turn pushing up prices?

Booming values are good news for those already on the property ladder and any reduction in the differential between Welsh and English prices will reduce the demand from outsiders, but increased prices will not help those still looking to afford their first home. For them, there is only one answer: Better local jobs commanding better salaries.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2002
Previous Article:Letter: LOOKING BACK.
Next Article:Madness of King George, and other blunders.

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