Arguably, the overriding goal of humanity should be to maximise the well-being, and minimise the suffering, of all conscious creatures— principally, the well-being of humans.
It follows, therefore, that the primary goal of the Welsh Government should be to maximise the well-being of the people who live in Cymru.
To its credit, the Welsh Government appears to have recognised the importance of maximising well-being. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 sets out seven “well-being goals”:
A prosperous Wales
A resilient Wales
A healthier Wales
A more equal Wales
A Wales of more cohesive communities
A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
A globally responsible Wales
These goals sound noble enough, and it seems highly likely that making progress toward them will result in an increase in well-being.
The Welsh Government certainly seems to talk a good game with respect to increasing well-being. But how do these pronouncements map onto reality?
The Welsh Government isn’t exactly known for its ambition. The past two decades of Welsh Labour governance are perhaps best described as 'managed decline'. However, the following statement from the Act is ludicrously unambitious even by its standards:
“This is about ensuring that future generations have at least the same quality of life as we do now” (emphasis mine).
I’m sure that the quarter of Welsh people, and third of Welsh children, living in poverty will be comforted to hear this.
Is it wishful thinking to believe that things might actually improve in this country?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has revealed that the proportion of people living in poverty in Cymru has hardly changed over the past decade.
Pensioner poverty rose five percent between 2009 and 2018. Forty percent of lone-parent families live in poverty. And poverty is higher, overall, among black and minority ethnic people— particularly black and Asian groups.
Pupils eligible for free school meals, and children in care, have poorer educational outcomes on average— and the gap widens as pupils get older.
One in three people across the country are living in unaffordable or unsafe housing and more than half a million people—one in six— cannot keep their homes warm in the winter.
The gap in life expectancy between the most deprived and least deprived areas of the country has also increased and alcohol-related deaths have risen to their highest level in twenty years. So much for a "prosperous", "healthier", and "more equal" country!
The Welsh language is dying as a language of geographical communities. Successive Welsh Labour governments have done nothing to arrest this decline. The second homes crisis, which fuels this decline, means that locals can no longer compete in the property market across large parts of the country. Once vibrant communities have been transformed into gated communities that lie empty for most of the year— resulting in cultural desertification and language shift. This is hardly the Cymru of “more cohesive communities” and a “vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language”.
The Welsh Government is correct to identify the goal of maximising well-being. However, merely recognising this goal is not enough— there needs to be actual progress made toward it too! Based on Welsh Labour's track record, I won’t be holding my breath.