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Economy Minister launches new programme to help boost Welsh exports

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Welsh companies in five key sectors will be brought together to help each other export more of their products across the globe, as part of a new programme being launched by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething.

The Export Cluster Programme is one of a series of new support initiatives being introduced by the Welsh Government as part of the Export Action Plan for Wales, which aims to create a strong, vibrant and sustainable exporting sector to help strengthen the economy, safeguard existing and create new jobs and opportunities for people in Wales.

Its aim is to drive the growth of Welsh exports in the longer term, increasing the contribution exports make to the Welsh economy, including by broadening Wales’ exporter base.

In 2019, firms in Wales exported £17.8 billion worth of goods to markets across the world – with the EU being Wales’ most significant trading partner. There were 106,015 businesses operating in Wales in 2019 but HMRC figures show that only around 5,243 of them exported goods that year.

This new programme is designed to bring companies together to develop their capacity and capabilities for exporting. It will help develop strong networks of support, working on a “one-to-many” basis to support their export development, helping to ensure companies learn from each other and share knowledge and experience.

The programme will work with companies in key sectors, including technology, high value manufacturing, consumer products, clean energy and life sciences. The new export clusters will be based on the successful Food and Drink Wales export cluster model. 

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The launch of the new programme is especially important in the current economic climate, as Welsh businesses continue to recover and rebuild from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as coming to terms with the new trading relationship with the EU. 

The programme is a core part of the Welsh Government’s Export Action Plan, which set Ministers’ commitments to prioritising export development and supporting Welsh businesses on their export journey, from inspiring businesses to begin to export, building their export capability; helping businesses find overseas customers; and accessing overseas markets.

Delivering the Export Action Plan is a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, as well as a central theme of the Welsh Government’s International Strategy, which reinforced Ministers’ ambitions to raise Wales’ international profile; grow the Welsh economy, including increasing exports; and establishing Wales as a globally responsible nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, launched the new programme during a visit to Cardiff-based Catsci, which develops environmentally sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. The company has received Welsh Government support to export, which has helped it to visit key markets, attend trade shows and identify and meet with potential business partners.

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Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “The Welsh Government is committed to working with companies across Wales to help them create new jobs in the industries of the future.

“Exports of goods and services already contribute a significant amount to our economy. It is vital that we are able to maintain, and grow, this contribution in order to meet the challenges we face both now and in the future. That’s why we’re determined to improve Wales’ export performance even further, despite the challenges in the global trading environment in recent times.

“The new Export Cluster Programme I am launching today is a crucial part of our Export Action Plan, which I believe is the most ambitious and comprehensive programme of export support ever put in place in Wales.

“It will support and reach out to more companies to develop their capacity and capabilities for exporting, helping them to develop new exporting opportunities in new international markets. This will help create economic growth, helping to create new and better jobs in our communities.

“This is all part of our mission to create a prosperous, fair, green economy in Wales.”

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Dr Jenny Wallis, Business Development Manager at CatSci, said: “We have seen great success in exporting and this has been central to our business growth. With the new facilities we are looking to continue innovating, build on our recent success and further grow our international trade.

“Welsh Government support has helped us with our export activities, including market exploration and trade exhibitions as well as general advice from knowledgeable and experienced people. Any Welsh business looking to export or to export more, I would encourage them to speak to the Welsh Government’s export team.”

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Transport

£48m ‘gap funding’ support package for Welsh bus industry

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The bus industry in Wales is set to receive a support package worth £48m to help them recover from the impact of the pandemic and deal with emerging financial challenges, the Welsh Government has announced today.

The Bus Emergency package will provide ‘gap funding’ until the end of this financial year for bus operators to maintain the necessary bus services and routes in their area, in return for greater public control over Welsh bus services.

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This funding is one of a number of short-term measures that have been taken by the Welsh Government to support bus operators at a time when they needed it the most. With the longer-term future of the bus industry in mind a review of the existing Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG) scheme will also be taken to consider how it can be used to move the industry away from a reliance on emergency funding schemes and bridge the gap to franchising.

Announcing the latest emergency funding package, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “The bus industry is emerging from some of its toughest times, and we need to continue to provide support to help the industry recover and secure a healthy future.

“During the pandemic passenger numbers fell by around 90% and have still only returned to between 50% and 70% of pre-Covid levels, leaving operators struggling with reduced revenue and contending with the latest challenges of rising fuel and operating costs.

“The funding I’ve announced today will provide a short-term solution to help the industry to begin to recover from the challenges it has and continues to face whilst we develop a longer-term solution to tackle the gradual decline in passengers over the years.

“In March I set out our plans to bring forward legislation to change the way bus services are delivered across Wales. Throughout this process we will be working closely with local government, the bus industry and passengers, to design a system that is ‘easy to use, easy to access and well connected’ providing people a ‘real sustainable transport alternative’ to the private car.

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“We will provide an update on how these plans are progressing later this year.”

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Money

Over 500 teenagers in Wales to get £1600 a month in basic income trial

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The Welsh Government has launched its basic income trial scheme that sees it giving more than 500 people leaving care in Wales £1600 each month for two years – with no strings attached.

Equating to £19,200 a year before tax, it’s believed the cash offered is the highest amount provided on a basic income pilot anywhere in the world.

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The £20m scheme is controversial, and previous universal basic income trials in Kenya, Finland and California failed.

Welsh Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt says this particular scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

The minister added that those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

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“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

The Welsh Conservatives however have criticised the scheme as “giving out free money” and say it won’t help tackle the problems some vulnerable young people face.

Joel James, the Welsh Conservative shadow minister for social partnership said: “Whilst I wholeheartedly support helping the poorest and most vulnerable in our country, the Labour Government is not even close to living in reality with this trial.

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“Countless trials from across the globe have found basic income does not have the expected outcomes as it fails to incentivise work and proves time after time to be a waste of public money.

“If rolled-out across the board with every adult in Wales receiving £1,600 a month it would cost nearly £50 billion a year, and at the same time reward the wealthiest in society rather than helping those who need it most.

“Our NHS is at breaking point and our economy is in a fragile state, but instead of tackling those issues head-on, Labour are more interested in Basic Income – which will cost the country an absolute fortune.”

Welsh Government Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

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“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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Food & Drink

Proposal to ban tea and coffee for under 16s in Wales branded ‘illiberal’

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photo of person s hand pouring liquid to cup

Proposals to consider banning the sale of tea and coffee to under-16s in Wales have been labelled ‘outrageously illiberal’ by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Labour Government reportedly confirmed that it is considering the move as part of plans to make young people healthier and stop rising obesity rates.

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The move comes as the Welsh Government raise concerns of the rising consumption of high-caffeine energy drinks among young people is also causing concern about the effects on their education.

Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “It is beggars’ belief that this is even under consideration.

“We are all aware obesity is a serious problem in Wales and it is important that we take action to reduce the levels across Wales.

“However, it doesn’t take an expert consultation to realise that tea and coffee are not responsible for high obesity levels.

“It would be outrageously illiberal to ban the sale of coffee and tea to under 16-year-olds, something which they regularly drink themselves at home.”

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(Lead image: Elina Fairytale / Pexels.com)

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