For Britain's Greece see - Wales?

Tomorrow, I'll be reporting from Brussels. No, I haven't been listening to David Cameron and Europe's political leaders talking about growth and jobs. I went to see patients in the city's transplant unit who are fascinated that we, in Wales, are talking about something else: introducing presumed consent around organ donation.

More on that tomorrow, as the public consultation on 'opting out' versus 'opting in' comes to an end.

For today, take a look at this, a New York Times article that does talk about growth, jobs and Wales in the same breath. You may not feel much of a a glow as you read its conclusions but it is worth a read all the same. Its title? "The Welsh Economy Slips, but London Cushions the Fall".

The map? That shows Cardiff and, in bold, Blaenau Ffestiniog. Sorry, people of Blaenau (or Blay-NIGH Fes-TIN-ee-og). I'm afraid the words "stark tableau" appear in the same sentence.

The premise? That Wales is to the UK what Greece is to the Eurozone:

"Most people do not think of Britain — home to many of Europe's most outspoken euro skeptics — as having a monetary union. But it does, and these money transfers are the essence of what makes Britain's common currency a success in knitting together a collection of regions and historically separate countries with different languages, cultures and economic profiles.

"Wales is even poorer than Greece, generating a gross domestic product equal to $23,100 per person, compared with Greece's G.D.P. of $26,900 per person.

"Despite the similar economic profiles, Britain is far more generous with Wales than the European Union is with Greece. Compared with the nearly $23 billion in funds London sends to Wales every year, which is used to bolster local tax revenue and pay for services like health care and education, Greece receives on average about 2.9 billion euros a year in structural funds, or $3.7 billion, devoted mostly at specific development projects".

The lesson? That the Eurozone should learn from the way the weakest link in the economic chain is regarded, or controlled in the UK:

"As a sovereign nation, Greece has had free rein to recklessly spend and borrow, the result of which is its near-bankrupt condition. Wales, by comparison, has limited tax and borrowing capabilities, and the money it gets each year to fulfill its spending needs comes automatically from the British treasury.

"And therein lies the lesson for the euro zone: until it can find a way to ensure that its poorer nations can manage their fiscal affairs, countries like Greece and Portugal that run constant budget deficits will become increasingly dependent on transfers from richer countries like Germany. For Britain, such a transfer is accepted as the cost of keeping the union together".

The piece acknowledges that there are those who are, these days, questioning the value of the union. Put Alex Salmond's name at the top of that list. Indeed for some in Blaenau Ffestiniog, it reports, dependence is galling. It finds that for most, however, it is comforting.

And there's a final conclusion:

"While more people are leaving Greece as the economy worsens, greater language and cultural barriers make it harder for Greeks to move easily to Germany or Italy than for a resident of Blaenau to settle in Birmingham or London, perhaps never to return".

Sobering stuff.

The best I can do is end where we began, with the words growth, jobs - and Wales. Let me add 'economic stimulus', 'access to capital funding' and 'stimulate the economy' and suggest that tomorrow, we'll hear from the Welsh government, once again, that they know growth and jobs are vital and that cushion or no cushion, their challenge is to create them.

UPDATE 01.02.11

I see Plaid have published a response to the NY Times article. Read Jill Evans MEP's take on it here.