We should of course encourage diversification where possible, but we must realise that the finance sector will remain Guernsey’s economic mainstay for the foreseeable future. On it depends a vast swathe of ancillary enterprises from IT, legal and accountancy to construction, hospitality, retail and transport. Moreover, the finance sector itself often acts as the foundation for diversification – for example, by stimulating “fintech” software development, by fostering innovations in the creative industries, and by promoting new ventures in leisure, hospitality and catering.
For all these reasons, Guernsey’s financial services sector needs our wholehearted protection and support.
But happily, the foundations are sound, and we have much already to be proud of.
Guernsey is already adopting and even taking the lead on the proper standards for
- beneficial ownership information: making verified information available to those who need to know and a pledge to align with EU standards
- tax compliance: exchange of information, demonstrating economic substance. This is proof if ever it were needed that we are not a letterbox company jurisdiction and do not tolerate brass-plate operations.
We are well on the way to becoming a centre of expertise for environmental sustainability and green finance, endorsing the EU green taxonomy, pioneering the GFSC-regulated Green Fund and leading on green finance at the British-Irish Council.
Guernsey Finance already recognise the need to mobilise more investment into green funds and green insurance. We need to build on existing achievements and send the message far and wide: we are the domicile of choice for the green finance wave.
The Future Guernsey Plan aims to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals into economic activity, and it recognises the need to practise what we preach locally as well as pursue green finance internationally. This is essential if we are to avoid accusations of “greenwashing”.
There is no better opportunity to stimulate growth, aid recovery, and manage the environmental transition than by funding sustainable infrastructural improvements at home while building our green finance capacity abroad.
It is time to put the pro- and anti-selection debate behind us. We have made our choice and need to move on. I am open-minded as to the model for our new schools, but, whichever is chosen, we must now focus all our efforts on building a stable and lasting system. It must moreover be a system fit for the 21st century. We must ensure that the entire workforce is educated to their full potential, since this will prove vital to Guernsey’s future competitiveness as a knowledge-based economy.
The same consideration applies to vocational and professional education, which are just as central to the knowledge-based economy as primary and secondary schooling. We should explore the possibility of instituting employer/employee tax breaks for those willing to study in order to upgrade their professional skill-set.
Aurigny was acquired as a lifeline service, and so it has proved during COVID. Now it could also become an “economic enabler”, affording an opportunity to generate income and promote a national brand. The States’ subsidy requires protection but should cover the core lifeline service only, with Aurigny free to develop other areas at its own risk and discretion. Meanwhile, plans for extending the runway should be put on ice until the post-COVID aviation picture becomes clearer.
Inter-island links, particularly with Jersey, need to be improved – sea links as well as air links. Thought should be given to rationalised arrangements for sea travel: a service-level agreement could perhaps be negotiated in conjunction with Jersey’s government.
Internal to the island, environmentally friendly modes of transport should be encouraged wherever possible. Walking and cycling, with their attendant health benefits, need to be promoted, as also the wider use of public transport. Electrification of road transport should also be a long-term goal, perhaps assisted through soft loans and tax breaks for the purchase of electric vehicles, and the installation of more recharging points.
Digital communication facilities must improve to meet modern expectations. The Future Guernsey Plan encourages the roll-out of 5G to build a digital economy, but we could go further and look at fibreoptic cables for a seamless interchange of data.
We must all welcome the restoration of the fixed link to France. The interruption in 2018 showed us our vulnerabilities – not only in terms of the costs, which were passed on to the consumer, but also in terms of our carbon footprint. Now GE plan to install a direct link to the European Grid while encouraging local renewable generation. We can and should go further than this. Energy demands and household costs need to be reduced at source. The joined-up approach urged in the Future Guernsey Plan should include a realistic revision of planning and building laws and explore financial support (means-tested grants, soft loans and tax relief) for home improvements such as roof-mounted solar panels, internal and external insulation, and the electrification of domestic heating systems.
For many islanders even the first rung of the housing ladder is now out of reach. Greater efforts are needed to increase access to affordable, environmentally-sound housing. I offer three suggestions:
- unused land and redundant office space could be granted planning permission for conversion into residential space
- the States and commercial lenders could consider joint guarantees for lending, instituting a revamped “Homes for Workers” scheme
- planning permission for home extensions incorporating environmental upgrades could come with tax breaks, or similar incentives.
Health and Social Care
We face serious budget pressures from the rising costs of health and social care. Initiatives like the Partnership of Purpose and the Supported Living and Ageing Well Strategy – helping people to remain independent for longer in their own homes – will spread some of the load, but with an ageing population and more expensive medical care, costs will inevitably rise.
So I am acutely aware that our capacity to meet these demands ultimately depends on the ability of the economy to create good jobs, generate real income and sustain sufficient tax revenues. Our population deserves no less – a healthy population can only be built on a sound economy.
That’s why as a States Deputy I will work hard to strengthen the underpinnings of Guernsey’s economy. Not just for its own sake, but as the best and indeed the only tool for achieving my overriding goal – to promote a fair and secure society for all.