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Will the Welsh Development Agency be making a comeback? Western Mail.

* HE abolition of the Welsh Development Agency was the centrepiece of former First Minister Rhodri Morgan's "bonfire of the quangos" and remains one of the most controversial decisions of the devolution age.

Today's report by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee states that "the WDA remains one of the most recognisable of all Welsh brands".

It calls for the establishment of a dedicated trade promotion agency and urges the Welsh Government to "urgently consider" how the WDA brand can to improve Wales' global identity.

The return of the WDA would be an extraordinary reversal of policy and would inevitably be described as a U-turn.

In June Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said on the subject: "All I can say is that the WDA would not have survived the Freedom of Information Act 2000."

The ongoing argument about whether the then-Welsh Assembly Government was right to incorporate the WDA should not distract from efforts to secure greater inward investment in the future.

According to the cross-party group of MPs, "investment opportunities have been missed" because of the lack of a dedicated trade promotion agency.

The Welsh Government is determined to promote trade and investment and is expanding operations in London to pursue this goal. It is crucial that the country has the sharpest competitive edge and people across Wales will want to contribute to this work.

The report also claims that "transport infrastructure has been underfunded by the UK Government and the Welsh Government for a number of years".

In this era of austerity capital funding has been greatly constrained but the electrification of the route from Paddington to Swansea would be warmly welcomed, as would a similar upgrade of the Valleys lines.

The investigation into inward investment in Wales was overshadowed by the row over the decision by Edwina Hart, the Welsh Government Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, not to attend.

The UK Government - and MPs elected by Welsh constituents - clearly have an interest in improving the prosperity of Wales, and it is also right that economic development is considered one of the most important portfolios in the Welsh Government.

Just as creativity and drive must be demonstrated in efforts to help Wales escape the effects of the recession, so maturity, respect and goodwill is required of all MPs and AMs who want to see this common goal become a reality. Wales is no longer a location for cheap labour but if this beautiful country is home to the brightest, best-educated, most confident people of our age investors will beat a path to our towns and cities.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 21, 2012
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