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Good news is no reason to take it easy

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

LOW unemployment, rising wages, a stable economy that has grown for six years on the trot, a healthy main industry, limited debt, minimal crime, good living standards.

It’s an impressive list. One which most governments in the world would love to emulate.

For all the island’s concerns about education, overcrowded roads, sea defences and air links it is important at times to step back, breathe deeply and count our blessings.

That done, it’s back to work. For this is no time for complacency.

As investors are always warned, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

And, as Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier cautions, we are a small, open economy and therefore more vulnerable than large economies.

One area of particular concern is the workforce.

An impressive eight out of 10 islanders of working age are already in jobs and earning.

Few countries in the world can boast of such a low unemployment rate and appetite for the workplace.

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It means, however, that there is little room for growth. With the number of births in sharp decline and easily exceeded by deaths it means the extra workers needed to keep the economy moving forward must come from immigration.

The rise in the pension age will help with that balance but it can only go so far.

It is a well-worn argument but one that still seems to be widely misunderstood.

The demographic timebomb and talk of ‘an ageing population’ is not a slight on the current crop of pensioners, as some imagine.

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They are not the problem. It is the coming hordes of post-55 baby boomers who are going to retire and pass the burden of generating taxes to a dwindling number of younger islanders.

Without effective action, those millennials and members of generations X, Y and Z face an expensive future.

So there are no guarantees that the buoyant list of macroeconomic indicators released this week will continue. As Deputy St Pier says, they followed years of effort and discipline and stability.

To maintain them, the island will need more of the same plus a good deal of innovation and resolve.

Shaun Green

By Shaun Green
Editor

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