Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Blindingly Obvious.

Today's BBC's Politics Show in Wales (and her online page) has gone to town on an issue that falls into the 'blindingly obvious' category. We all already knew that after 2013, Wales will almost certainly not qualify for the highest level of regional aid - because lots of other poorer Eastern European countries have joined the EU. Poor young and talented Ciaran Jenkins can never have asked a more naff question in his life. "Dear Mr Important Man, does one take away one leave less than one?" The EU bigwig he was interviewing must have experienced difficulty keeping a straight face. This wasn't any story at all.

We had Mr Derek Vaughan MEP wanting action to ensure that Wales does not receive less money after 2013. I wonder how he thinks that's going to be achieved. Hasn't anyone told him how the Structural Funds system works. Either Carwyn or Edwina are going to have to explain things to him when one of them takes over the reins from Rhodri in December. Also on was Mr John Bufton MEP, who has no time for the principles behind regional aid at all. He just wants Wales to have its money back, and this would apply even if we were the richest nation in the EU.

There are important aspects of this issue which could have been explored. How is the current programme being used to prepare for the post 2013 position. Any farmer who's managed a sizable business over the last few decades could tell you how access to financial support can warp business decisions - to satisfy the grant criteria rather than 'the market', or even what was appropriate for the land. The same will apply to Objective One funds, and 'transition' funds. A massive bureaucratic structure has been created to access 'EU money', sometimes for schemes of questionable priority. As manager of a farming business, I could not afford to ignore available grants, while all around me were taking them - but I was not any worse off when the system was changed to more closely reflect the market. Same will go for Structural Funds. Now that's an issue for Ciaran to get his teeth into.

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