Bravery and optimism will pay dividends

CAN we afford not to borrow £500m.?

It is a question no islander imagined they would see in their lifetimes.

It is possibly the most important political question that this or any States Assembly has had to consider this side of the Second World War.

Bigger than Brexit, bigger than Zero 10, bigger than the 2008 financial crash.

A few months ago the island’s finances were looking good. After a few rocky years, the black hole was filled, the budget was in surplus, reserves were strong and our credit rating was strong.

There was an impatience, after years of frugality, for the States to get moving and spend some money on its tired infrastructure. Extend the hospital, develop the ports, sort out the schools.

Covid-19 has destroyed all that hubris in weeks.

The priority now is to get the island back on its feet as quickly and strongly as possible post-lockdown. Without that, the threat of a deep and lasting recession looms.

Policy & Resources is urging deputies to be vigorous and bold. Borrow hundreds of millions now or pay the price for generations to come.

The sums are simply beyond comprehension.

The £200m. rainy day fund is already as good as gone. Weeks of lockdown have brought many island firms, large and small, to their knees and without the crutch provided by the States hundreds or even thousands of staff would be out of work and claiming benefits.

In this fast-moving crisis, that decisive action is already part of the past. What is at stake this week is the future.

For optimists, the decision will be clear. Borrow the money and back the island to deliver a quick and strong recovery. Once up and running the debt can be managed.

There are good reasons to favour our chances. We have handled coronavirus well and our main industry, finance, should be well positioned to come out of lockdown and help international investors navigate the stormy waters of a post-crisis world.

In decades to come this will be seen as a pivotal moment for our community.

Fear and pessimism cannot be allowed to win the day. This is the time to be brave and bold.

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