Outlook: The high price of inward investment

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The Independent Online
Meanwhile, a bit of evidence at last that it is not all doom and gloom in the Far East. Acer's decision to press ahead with its computer plant in South Wales demonstrates that the Taiwanese economy, at least, is not suffering from quite the same Asian flu that has infected the rest of the region.

Unfortunately, the battle to bring Acer to these shores has brought on a nasty outbreak of that well-documented British disease otherwise known as inward investmentitis. In its most virulent form, competing regions of the country outbid one another for foreign manufacturing projects so extravagantly that it leaves the taxpayer nursing a very painful hole in his wallet.

The illness is said to be endemic in the valleys, nor does it appear to discriminate between political parties. William Hague contracted a Korean dose of it when he was running the show and persuaded Lucky Goldstar to set up in the principality.

Now Ron Davies, Labour's Welsh Secretary, seems to have contracted a strain from Taipei, if his envious competitors in the North-east are to be believed.

We have not been told how much the Welsh Development Agency is paying to get Acer and its jobs into Cardiff but we do know that it is building the factory and the access roads for them and providing some training money.

Outbreaks of this sort were supposed to have been a thing of the past now that the Prime Minister has given Margaret Beckett the overall responsibility for vetting and co-ordinating bids for inward investment projects.

However, having got the antidote, she seems to have gone all squeamish about inserting the needle. Come on nurse. Temperatures are getting dangerously high here.