Guernsey Press

Don’t worry, be happy

There’s a dark cloud over Guernsey, but worrying about it will only make it worse, says Horace Camp.


THE States of Guernsey, already our largest employer, is on track to be the largest sector in Guernsey by headcount, overtaking the Finance Industry.

The States’ growth has been phenomenal and has knocked the growth of the private sector into a cocked hat.

If only some of that growth magic dust could fall on the wealth-generating side of our economy then we would be as happy as pigs in the proverbial.

Unfortunately, the folk in finance with the big girls’ and boys’ pants on just haven’t got the get-up-and-go of the Public Sector when it comes to growth. And perhaps that’s why we see the big-panted Giants of Finance promoting austerity as the way out of the hole we have dug ourselves into.

Perhaps if we co-opted the dynamic, growth-orientated civil servants into finance, we would see that grow like topsy as well?

Possibly, though, the growth would be in headcount and costs rather than in revenue and profit?

Even if the civil servants use the trick of increasing fees to meet the growth in costs, they may find that doesn’t work as well when clients have no obligation to pay increased fees, unlike the States’ stalwart fall-back position which is to increase taxes which its clients are legally obliged to pay.

If we accept that the States will continue to grow at a stellar rate, how do we, who have to pay for it, grow our income to match and not continue as at present on the path to Queer Street? Not an easy conundrum to solve, eh? Our one natural resource is people.

We can increase that resource but we aren’t well placed to do that.

We are a high-cost island, with not enough housing and a general desire not to lower the quality of life by adding more people to what we perceive as a crowded place already.

If that is the case, then we have already accepted that the States will continue to grow headcount and that headcount can only reduce the number of people available for wealth creation. We also know that our population is getting older and our fertility rate is below replacement level, which means our working population, our natural resource, will shrink over time.

On the current trajectory, scientifically and meticulously plotted by me on the back of a virtual fag packet, I predict the entire workforce save one will be in the Public Sector spending money and expecting the one wealth creator to pay something north of half a billion a year in taxes.

If we can make it work then I say go for it.

Working for the States of Guernsey is very secure, has a good pension and an excellent redundancy payment. However I fear that although this is the current plan, it is unlikely to work.

So where do we go from here?

Answers on a postcard please.

Luckily for all but 38 of us, finding this answer is above our pay grade and we can only look on as taxes eat away at our disposable income, our children go to sub-optimal schools and the young among us will probably have to work until they are 90 and then have no State pension to look forward to.

It’s all doom and gloom, eh? And that concerns me.

Having experienced a wobble in my own mental health and now realising that it can’t be cured by the magic words ‘For god’s sake, man, pull yourself together’, I can see the dark cloud over Guernsey pushing others down that rabbit hole.

My advice to you is don’t worry about it. I know it’s easy to say ‘don’t worry’, especially when there are too many days in the month and your pay has run out just when little Tommy wants to go on a school trip to Venice. But worrying achieves nothing useful and in fact only makes things worse.

I am now going to describe something that may help you get through the mental, if not financial, hoop which on the face of it seems to be mindfulness, but as mindfulness is silly woke, hippie stuff, is definitely not mindfulness.

I was a worrier, especially about money, and delighted in being a hoarder.

If I had a gold pile like Scrooge McDuck’s I would swim in it daily and be as happy as Larry all day long. Then came the day when the gold ran out. And more than ran out – I was, in the language of my trade, short gold. I would look at my wife and my three little children and wonder how I would provide for them each day.

Yes, I know I’m patriarchal but I’m an old man and in those days it was expected that dads provided.

I worried a lot.

Especially when the last 5p down the back of the sofa had been extracted. The only light shining in the dark was checking a telephone box for forgotten coins and finding a shiny 10p coin. Of course 10p was a lot of money back then and would buy a can of beans with 3p in change.

Then one day my wife said, ‘Stop worrying, Horace’, and so I did. And suddenly I saw there was light everywhere.

Nothing religious, but it was a glorious summer’s day.

I hadn’t actually noticed before.

The birds were singing and, I kid you not, I spotted a red squirrel in the trees that ran alongside the small stream (stream not douit as I was in Wales) between the front fields.

It was a revelation, again not a ‘Le Tocq Revelation’, but an opening of my eyes. From that time on I tried very hard to appreciate all I had at that moment and not to worry about things I couldn’t change but to live in the moment. Bad things will still come along but why spoil the now until it arrives?

The unfortunate consequence was when I started to not worry, my wife started to worry.

As I write this, the sun is streaming in through the French windows, I have four dogs curled up around and on me and the cat is sitting on my head. And of course the birds are singing. I will leave you with the words of a song.

‘Here’s a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don’t worry be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry you make it double

Don’t worry be happy

Don’t worry be happy now’

PS. If you are worrying a lot, talk to someone about it. It helps.