Archive for 28 June 2003

Fiscal autonomy will deliver best value to Welsh tax-payers

Much focus on the powers of the National Assembly for Wales has been to discuss whether it should replicate the powers of the Scotland Parliament. Wales is a nation in its own right and should not be treated as Scotland’s younger cousin. Unlike Scotland, Wales has never had its own legal system and has more in common legally and economically with the English regions and culturally with other self-governing European regions.

The public debate has focused on whether Wales should have Primary Legislative Powers, with some exercising the view that without legislative autonomy then Wales cannot truly be self-governing. An Assembly with legislative autonomy would not provide the Welsh tax-payer with any greater value than is available at present.

In order to produce legislation to the œuality of a Westminster Bill, the Assembly would have to dedicate more time to debating such legislation, adversely affecting its currently responsibilities of delivering policy, which the First Minister has indicated is very time consuming in itself. In order to achieve a Bill at a reasonable standard that could stand up to scrutiny in a Court, the numbers of Assembly Members and specialised Civil Servants would have to increase and this is not a cost that should be considered acceptable for the sole purpose of giving Wales powers that are already available to it through the UK Parliament. Delivering value for money must be considered paramount in any decision to change the powers of the Assembly, as its existence can only be justified to the sceptical electorate in Wales if this is the case.

Despite having legislative autonomy, the Scotland Parliament is unable to effectively influence the macroeconomy, as it only has limited financial autonomy, such as income-based tax-varying powers and this is another reason why the Scotland model should not be held up as the ultimate goal for devolution in Wales.

Financial autonomy, which although more electoral attractive to parties seeking control of regional governments, does not give a government any significant influence over the economy, merely the ability to set its own budgets and overall direction. However, having financial controls are that part of the state organisation which determines to the largest extent the actual distribution of power between the separate state levels (Renzsch, 1991) meaning that the introduction of greater financial autonomy in Wales should be considered a significantly higher priority than legislative autonomy.

Fiscal autonomy gives a government greater controls in influencing the economy using demand- and supply-side methods. The Catalan Parliament has been able to effectively use its fiscal autonomy to influence both the macro- and micro-economies, which has led to significant social, economic and cultural benefits (Redondo-Bellén, 1998).

With the creation of regional Retail Price Indices (RPI) by the Treasury and monetary policy likely to handed over to the European Central Bank in the long-term, greater fiscal management at regional level is going to become more important. Membership of the Euro will deliver long-term economic benefits, particularly for exporters in Wales. However, the side-effects of a single interest rate needs to be managed at regional level as at any one time monetary union may benefit one of the British regions, whilst adversely affecting the prosperity of another.

Developing the role of the Assembly as a body of economic competence, as opposed to a legislative body as is the case with Scotland, would be to the greater advantage to the people of Wales who would benefit from a regional economic strategy that is tailored to the economic conditions and hopes of the nation.

The microeconomics of education and the role of government intervention

Investigates the market models available to central government and how intervention in these markets affects the level of choice parents have in deciding how their children are educated. Reviews the interventions by central government in the past few decades and the effect of devolved regional government on the school market. Finds that the greater amount of choice and competition that has formed part of the rhetoric of governments in the UK in the past few decades can only be achieved if all parents have perfect information. Concludes that if genuine choice is to be realised then central government will have to limit the number of non-homogeneous schools in the market and increase the amount of information available to parents through devolving responsibility for providing education to democratically accountable regional assemblies.

Download from: This Link.

Cite as: Bishop, J. (2003). The microeconomics of education and the effect of government intervention. Poliphony 151 (2003), 13-17.

Teachers Willing to Learn

The portrayal of teachers as being resistant to using new technology in the classroom was completely unjustified (Learning to embrace the future of education, June 12).

At the University of Glamorgan we have been working with local schools to explore the use of ICT to make learning more inclusive and accessible to all.

We have found the teachers to be enthusiastic to the potential of technology and more than willing to explore the ways in which it can help young people become engaged with their learning.

All teachers want the best for their pupils and realise the role ICT can play in that.

It is only by government, schools and technologists working together that ICT can be used to give young people the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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