Don’t get too comfortable – Lt-Governor

‘Whatever happens in the world, I am confident these islands will be resourceful and imaginative in the way they respond, but that’s not to say there aren’t some significant challenges heading our way.’

That was Sir Ian Corder’s sign-off from his term as the island’s Lt-Governor in an interview with this newspaper last week. For someone who has been in the island less than six years, it was quite a succinct assessment, showing a significant measure of understanding of what makes the island tick and the problems it may have now and coming down the track.

Guernsey’s track record of adapting when needs must is undeniable and impressive. As an island we were able to bounce back from calamity twice in the 20th century – first post-Occupation and then again when financial services almost seamlessly picked up at the potentially catastrophic demise of horticulture and tourism in the late 1970s/early 1980s. There are many more examples in history.

As an island we’ve since shown ingenuity and flexibility in isolated moments, but, perhaps with those senses blunted by not having had a significant economic issue between the turn of the 1980s and the Covid pandemic, there could be concerns that we, collectively, have lost that knack.

They say that if you want something done, ask a busy person – but if you want to pursue lasting economic change, the busy person is unlikely to help out.

For example, the island’s pursuit of green finance was initially sluggish because some firms were too busy with the day-to-day to look at the prospect of the next big thing. Was an opportunity missed? We may never know. Today, nobody would doubt the wisdom of having spotted the opportunity that green finance might present.

But in a fast-moving world, even that might not be enough for Guernsey as others imitate, emulate and overtake.

Sir Ian sees the island, and islanders, as currently ‘quite comfortable’. And so his call for regular ‘horizon scanning’ may fall on deaf ears while times remain good. To start seeking solutions when economic times are more challenging, as they will be soon, whether our problems are home-grown or imported, will surely be too late.

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