Bailiwick needs to think growth

HOW do we grow the economy?

A number of areas are becoming clearer for the States to consider. Think fast, stable and secure broadband. The importance of good internet access was underlined during lockdown, when we lived and worked from home. Not just watching Netflix, but doing business online with real world economic benefits.

Increased working from home and e-commerce are also likely here to stay post-pandemic. But if we want to get on with developing a super-fast fibre network how is it paid for? A refreshed telecoms strategy is an opportunity to explore options for a fully-industry funded programme and a public-private partnership for example. It could set out time-scales as to how long each would take, providing tangible markers in subsequent discussions.

Transport links remain another critical issue. How do we best use taxpayer-owned airline Aurigny for instance? Most of us don’t think about our roads making a profit, but accept they are critical infrastructure. Should we think of Aurigny in the same way? Whatever your point of view, it would be helpful for the Assembly to settle the question of what Aurigny is for – to make money or act as an economic enabler?

Are there options to rethink how the airport operates in terms of fees for airlines? Currently, there is a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ cost of one state-owned bit (Aurigny) paying the other state-owned bit (the airport). Changing this could make savings and encourage other carriers to come to Guernsey in the future.

What about tax breaks to support new local companies? The States wouldn’t necessarily lose any tax take because the businesses didn’t exist before. It might even raise some additional revenue, as well as create new employment, and be a competitive advantage against other jurisdictions.

Another theme is ensuring the island is digitally fit from cradle to grave. Our world is ever more built around technology. Ensuring we are all comfortable with using existing and future technology is vital. That means digital literacy for our children, and up-skilling and lifelong learning. There are many local experts in this field ready to get cracking.

The other challenge is that we can’t hang around for ever before making informed decisions.

Action not words springs to mind.

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