The resilience of Guernsey’s economy is remarkable, and it explains why we have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic better than many other countries and regions. However, I believe that we have to diversify our economy, to prepare for the structural economic challenges of the future. Quite simply, artificial intelligence is both a threat and an opportunity for us – a threat because it will reduce the need for clerical staff, but an opportunity because it will give rise to new creative industries.
Digital skills and connectivity are the foundations on which the new economy will be built, and we must continue to invest in these areas. But we also need to reduce red tape and improve on regulation to allow new businesses to flourish. I believe that we need to relax the planning laws and our population management regime to help revitalise our economy.
Our infrastructure has been through the ultimate stress test, during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lessons learned will be reflected in a new Telecoms Strategy to be published by the Committee for Economic Development at the end of this year.
Since Jersey pulled out of the Channel Islands Competition Regulatory Authority arrangement, we need to launch our own competition regulator, and the CfED plans to design a completely new mandate appropriate to Guernsey’s needs, again by the end of this year.
With our consultants Frontier Economics, we will be reviewing the Cost Benefit Analysis of an extension to the airport runway this coming winter. We need to see if the conclusions in their original report are still valid, given the changes to the aviation industry brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The private sector has shown that it is willing to invest in Guernsey, eg in the Premier Inn and La Grande Mare developments. But the States will need to become an active investor in a number of projects, which have the potential to be catalysts for sustainable development. Examples which will need ‘pump priming’ include:-
This has the potential to become a new economic hub for the north of the island, and to provide low-cost housing and community facilities.
An International University
Could create a centre of excellence in renewable energy, digital content and sustainable development. Oxford University’s innovation consultancy Oxentia will be reporting back to the CfED on the viability of this project in September.
A Victor Hugo Centre
This would capitalise on the world-wide reputation of Victor Hugo and create an all-weather visitor attraction – ‘Les Misérables’ is the world’s most popular musical!
Mill St/Mansell St, the Truchot and the Albany are all areas listed for Regeneration in the Island Development Plan, but nothing will happen there unless the States kick-starts the process.
Harbour Action Area
The harbours at St Peter Port and St Sampsons have massive potential to enhance Guernsey’s ‘Blue Economy’, providing more and better facilities for private boats, visitors on cruise ships and our vital freight links.
A considerable amount of work has been carried out on each of these projects, but they are all big ideas that need very careful planning, including wide consultation with all stakeholders. We cannot expect overnight results, but we can make substantial progress in the coming term of government.