Wednesday, 17 December 2014

AUSTERITY OR AUSTERITY LITE?

It’s not much of a choice, especially when you consider that by polling day only 40% of the Con Dems cuts will have taken place. Before the Autumn Statement, Plaid warned that the Government’s spending plans for the next parliament would take us back to the 1930s if the proposed reductions in public spending were pushed through.
The Labour party understandably attacked the Tories for their plans to reduce spending on public services to levels not seen since the 1930s, at 35% as a share of GDP. Yet, what should alarm people is that the Labour parties’ economic plans are essentially the same. Labour’s plans would see spending on public services at roughly the same, 37% of GDP – reducing it to a level that we have not seen since the 1930s, a time before the creation of the NHS and when people left school at the age of 14.
If nothing else, this reveals that there is little or no difference between any of the larger Westminster parties, with Labour lumped to the Tories’ ideological plan to shrink the size of the state and intentionally hack at our public services. At the next Westminster general election, the real choice being offered the people of Wales is between the Westminster parties who all offer more austerity and more hardship, or Plaid Cymru - who, in the forthcoming hung parliament where every vote counts, will demand an end to austerity and fight for the need to invest.
Plaid Cymru has set out its plans to increase investment infrastructure by 1% of UK GDP annually. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the Confederation of British Industry have noted that for every £1 invested it produces £2.50 - £3.00 in the real economy. This would be an investment of around £16 billion at a UK level, bringing £800 million to Wales to invest in schools, hospitals, and other works to improve the economy.
This investment would help us to tackle the deficit over a much longer period. Investment is the perfect antidote to the cosy Westminster Parties’ consensus, which seeks to inflict ever greater levels of austerity on our people. Austerity will ensure that places like Wales suffer as they seek to balance the books on the backs of the poor.

Friday, 12 December 2014

MABEY BRIDGE


The announcement that Mabey Bridge has begun a consultation on the planned closure of its business in Station Road, Chepstow, where 150 people work, is shocking, especially as the news has broken just before Christmas. The Welsh Government needs to urgently step up and see what assistance can be given to the firm, especially as a buyer is being sought for its renewables section in Mathern, Chepstow, which employs 180 people. The company's infrastructure section makes highway bridges, railway bridges, footbridges and sign gantries while its renewables division builds wind turbine towers and carries out work in offshore renewable energy, the production of which would help with infrastructure investment and developing the renewable energy sector in Wales.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

WHAT’S THE PRICE A FREE PRESS?

Whether you live in the old West, the old East for the Middle and Far East, the problem of press freedom and the need of an independent free press is universal. The continued consolidation of media outlets, for whatever reason – economic or political – means that there are fewer and fewer independent media outlets. Most people still take their news from the larger, often state or media mogul run, news outlets rather than ‘independent news sources.’ Providing you are aware of the element of ‘spin’ this should not be problem. Yet recent evidence in relation to the scale and weight of spin and the narrowness of news outlets reportage has been provided by the questionable coverage of the Scottish referendum and subsequent political developments. If your message is not popular with the media moguls or the state run (or controlled) media outlets then despite the presence of the internet and social media getting your message out or providing independent scrutiny of governmental decisions is increasingly difficult. What’s going on in Tomsk, in Siberia is typical of what is going on around the world.


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Independent Siberian TV Channel Faces Shutdown

By Robert Coalson
December 09, 2014
A protester expresses his support for Tomsk TV-2 
When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve this year, audiences in the Siberian city of Tomsk will likely lose a familiar, independent source of information.
Tomsk TV-2, which is widely seen as one of the most respected and professional regional television stations in Russia for the last 23 years, has been informed by the city's state-monopoly television broadcast center that it will cease transmitting the channel's signal as of January 1.
Although the reasons behind the threatened shutoff remain murky, it comes against a background of state pressure against activists, nongovernmental organizations, and nonstate media in Russia by both national and local authorities.
The announcement by the Tomsk Regional Broadcasting Center violates the terms of the contract with TV-2 itself, as well as Russian antimonopoly legislation, says the station's lawyer, Anastasia Olgovskaya.
The station has said it will appeal the decision. But Melani Bachina, a Tomsk TV-2 presenter and producer who is also a freelance correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service, says she suspects this may come to nothing.
"No one is trying to be in contact with us," she says. "No one is making any effort to talk to us about anything. No one has given us any argumentation for why this is happening." The lack of any effort to resolve the issue makes her feel the decision to close down TV-2 "has already been made."
Nowhere To Appeal
TV-2 representatives do not know what the reason for the transmission center's decision is, but they are convinced the impetus for the impending closure came from someone else.
"It is perfectly clear that the transmitters are only the middlemen in this, that someone else stands behind this decision," Bachina says. "But who is it? Of course, we have suppositions, but since we have no facts or evidence, there is nothing that we can do and we cannot appeal to those people or to that person."
TV-2 editor Viktor Muchnik agrees. "Our story, like so many stories in our country, is unfortunate in that the person acting against us is anonymous," he says. "We are always dealing with some sort of intermediary who says: 'I don't know anything. They tell me from above what to do and I do it.' We can only guess who is pulling the strings. But I know that the mere existence of this channel over the years has been a problem for many people."
Earlier this year, the transmitter stopped broadcasting TV-2's signal for about six weeks, claiming that some TV-2 equipment had damaged equipment belonging to the transmission tower. That blackout prompted the Russian Justice Ministry's national media register to warn TV-2 that it would lose its license if it did not resume broadcasting. Although the dispute was resolved, activists saw it as a warning to the channel.
Bachina says she has no idea what will become of the station's 300 employees, adding that there is little chance TV-2 could switch to cable or Internet broadcasting.
"The majority of our audience is elderly. They are people who have been watching TV-2 for years," she says. "These are people who, in one way or another, become the subjects of our reports. These are people who do not even have cable TV -- they receive us through terrestrial broadcasting. So, what is the point in talking about switching to the Internet? These people will be deprived of this source of information."
Last Independent Voices
The impending shutdown of Tomsk TV-2 comes against the background of a similar assault by the authorities on the popular independent television channel Dozhd TV. That channel was removed from cable and satellite networks in February and has been forced to ask viewers for payments.
Dozhd has been evicted from its Moscow offices twice in recent months and, according to the BBC on December 8, is currently broadcasting from an employee's residence.
The liberal national radio station Ekho Moskvy was involved in a dispute last month between its journalists and its owner, Gazprom-Media, in which the latter briefly threatened to fire the station's chief editor and revamp its news and talk format.
TV-2 editor Muchnik says independent regional channels are far more vulnerable to the whims of local officials.
"Of course, this is a very bad precedent," Muchnik says. "It is particularly bad because the economic situation in the country is getting worse, tensions are increasing, especially in the regions. Of course, any local official is going to be at odds with any local media that doesn't relate the news according to his script. And this conflict is going to be twice as bad or three times as bad under these growing tensions."
"If this can happen to us, then it can happen anywhere -- in Kuban, in Krasnoyarsk, in Yekaterinburg -- anywhere," he adds.
Written by Robert Coalson on the basis of reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service and Current TV

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A HOME WIN!

Wales is home to a strong entrepreneurial spirit and it is no wonder that over 230,000 small businesses now operate with 94.6% of them employing 1-10 people. These businesses lie at the heart of our communities and our smaller and larger towns and city centre’s.

Some 99% of Welsh businesses are SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), which are the backbone of the Welsh economy. Which is why Plaid is committed to easing the financial burden on them by implementing a rates relief system that would assist 83,000 SMEs and take 70,000 out of business rates altogether.

The small towns of Monmouth constituency contain a rich web of small to medium sized businesses which contribute to a rich and diverse local economy selling their goods and services to the local and not so local people and also trading with each other retaining generated income within our communities and sustaining and generating jobs.

Our country has a wealth of aspiration and talent, which has led to the creation of some fantastic businesses and enterprises across all of Wales. All too often our small businesses miss out on public contracts, which are awarded instead to companies from outside Wales.

This is why Plaid Cymru wants to see more contracts go to local Welsh firms which will generate jobs and make sure that wealth generated in Wales stays in Wales. If we could add 25% to our current procurement level of 52% then we would be able to create nearly 50,000 jobs - that is our goal.

At next May’s Westminster General election the people of Wales will face a choice between Westminster parties who have clearly shown themselves to be on the side of the City elite, and Plaid Cymru whose vision is to deliver a stable and prosperous Welsh economy for the benefit of everyone in Wales.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

WALES AND TRANS-ATLANTIC TRADE

On the 3rd December Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood led a debate in the National Assembly on the importance of increasing trade between Wales and the USA. Plaid believes that public services, including the National Health Service, should be exempt from the effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).


TTIP – RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

France has announced that it will not sign up to the TTIP in 2015, and will not agree to the inclusion of the highly controversial ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement). This is highly significant and follows Germany’s earlier indication that it could not agree to the inclusion of ISDS. Other European governments, including the UK, are pushing ahead.

ISDS is a secretive arbitration process whereby multinational corporations can sue democratically elected governments if they feel that the national law in a country not only reduces their actual profits but also prevents them from making potentially greater profits. This is something that Plaid strongly opposes, as it could lead to privatisation of our public services by the back door. 

The European Commission suspended the TTIP talks on the Investor State Dispute Settlement in January to carry out a public consultation. The influential Corporate Europe Observatory gives another example of what this means in practise. It revealed that oil and gas company Lone Pine is suing Canada for CAN$250 million after the province of Quebec imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction (fracking) because of environmental concerns. 

The ISDS consultation recorded 150,000 responses, with the majority calling for it to be taken out of the agreement. 

There has also been analysis of the promise of millions of new jobs. The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) was asked by the UK government to analyse the impact on the economy. Their figure of £10 billion in gains by 2027 depended on scrapping three quarters of non-tariff barriers in the chemicals, automotive and business/ICT sector. This is not even being discussed in TTIP and is simply not credible.

The CEPR, in another report for the Commission, could not predict any general impact on employment from TTIP, but it did see a risk of EU and US jobs actually being lost! 

The European Parliament will adopt a report with recommendations to the Commission on TTIP. It will be wide-ranging and discussed by many committees, including the Culture and Transport committees on which Plaid’s Jill Evans MEP sits. The Conservative group, the ECR, opposed having this report. The timetable is expected to be short, with the vote possibly as early as March 2015. 

Some of the committees will hold public hearings to examine the detail of different aspects of TTIP.
Plaid Cymru adopted a strongly worded resolution opposing TTIP back in our October conference. Members of the RCN and Unison gave strong backing to our position. Plaid will continue to campaign against TTIP.