John Clacy, chairman of the Guernsey Institute of Directors, called for focused public investment to drive the economy forward as part a plan signed off by deputies by March 2021.
Addressing the IoD’s mid-term review, he said changes were also needed to ensure investments could be made more quickly and backed the creation of non-political bodies such as development corporations to get on with schemes once approved.
Handing more power to the States’ Trading Supervisory Board, which has responsibility for public owned companies, and allowing it to look at ‘part-privatisation of the more advanced entities’ was another consideration.
A review into the machinery of government should also be a priority for new Assembly.
‘The Covid response, in my view, a strong light on some fantastic things that Guernsey does very well, but has also raised some weaknesses in our approach,’ Mr Clacy told business leaders and candidates in the upcoming general election at the event held at Beau Sejour yesterday.
‘As the island faces up to its first island-wide vote, and the changes that will bring to the government I genuinely believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change. And I mean, genuinely change to thrive and revive.’
In a video address, due to off-island commitments, Mr Clacy stressed the need for the next States to focus on a number of key economic ‘game-changers’ alongside the entire community accepting that some investments would not work out.
‘Firstly, I’d like to talk about infrastructure spend. By almost any measures the States has overseen a decade-long chronic infrastructure underspend. As the new House assembles and looks at its priorities, I implore the House to be bold. Narrow down these priorities – and actually invest, invest and invest.
‘This of course shouldn’t be blind investment, and should also drive economic growth. But we should, and this is the island as a whole, accept that some of these investments will fail.
‘We should have the courage to accept that.’
He added: ‘According to our latest survey, our members are very keen that the States look at digital and physical connectivity, and see that as a priority. There is also the case for enhancement infrastructure along the eastern seaboard and other areas.’
Investment in economic development projects such as a university, medtech, tourism were other areas highlighted by Mr Clacy.
‘We also need not forget the finance industry. This is our golden goose and we need to back it to the hilt as it innovates through some of the most challenging environment we’ve ever seen,’ he said.
‘The government needs to help by investing in promotional bodies. Again, this is an area that we’ve seen at least a decade of underinvestment when we compare that to our rival jurisdictions.
‘So can we please, please, please decide on these priorities and actually make these investments happens. Can we get spades in the ground?’
Such changes would rebuild trust in the States and allow it to get things done, said Mr Clacy.
When it came to paying for investment, he added: ‘We can’t just keep on increasing the burden on the squeezed middle with the vast majority of taxes being linked to employment.
‘This needs, innovative, creative and, more importantly, linked up thinking around population management and fiscal policy with increased structure and engagement with the private and third sector, and a willingness to look at all aspects of revenue raising.’
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