Guernsey Press

Bailiwick’s fortunes are not written in the stars

THE ’20s, new opportunities, a chance for rejuvenation – there is something about the ticking over of a decade that feels like a fresh start.

(Picture by Shutterstock)

For Guernsey it will herald, come June, a States freshly-elected on an island-wide mandate.

That will be a welcome relief, this incarnation has become riven with personality clashes which have become more important to those involved than making good decisions from which the public benefits.

Last week I looked back on some predictions being made for what the first 10 years of this century were expected to bring. Some were pretty solid, some turned out to be nonsense, or to coin a term more suited to the decade we are entering, they were unicorns.

So what will the next decade bring and how will the island cope?

Let us begin with Brexit, because for all the promises of ‘oven ready’ deals and ‘let’s get Brexit done’ slogans, Brexit will not be done in any short order and will continue to dominate.

New trading relationships need to be established and Guernsey needs to be on the ball so it is not left as collateral damage in the deal making.

What we know about Boris Johnson is that he will throw anyone or anything under a bus – and doesn’t he love a bus – with little thought and has little respect for convention.

Constitutionally this will be a fascinating era, a test of old ties and whether they remain strong enough to bind, or are we starting to see the break-up of the United Kingdom, an independent Scotland, a united Ireland and a more united, potentially confederated, Channel Islands?

We are on that journey, it will probably take more than 10 years.This will be the decade of electrification and a shift from centralised power generation towards smaller scale, localised units.

Challenging times for power companies such as Guernsey Electricity as its financial model is undermined, yet its importance remains in keeping the lights on, supplementing power needs and being essential when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

The ’20s sees the launch of a string of electric vehicles that will be ideally suited to Guernsey’s roads and with it the inevitable market pressure to bring their prices down.

Car companies have seen the writing on the wall for diesel especially and have shifted their focus – where they look we will follow.

Advances in automation offer huge opportunities, particularly for the delivery network. This is my unicorn, pushing lorries and buses off our crowded and narrow roads in favour of trams linking major centres, self-driving taxis taking people door to door, and delivery vehicles programmed to operate quietly through the night.

This should be the decade where Guernsey installs a direct cable link to France and where we all watch with interest as tidal units begin generating power on the French side of the Alderney Race. But don’t hold your breath for the tidal power revolution just yet – the islands may be one of the leading four sites in the world, but the technology is not sufficiently advanced.

The ’20s will also herald serious action on the climate.

Speak to the younger generation, who will be shifting into positions of power, and it is often their number one concern – and rightly so. If the world does not face up to the challenge, it will be catastrophic.

Sea-level change will be one of the island’s biggest threats, but more variable and different weather patterns bring all sorts of impacts, from the crops that can be grown to how easily we get on and off the island.

We will see a shift driven by global moves, including away from single-use plastic, perhaps even changing habits on a much smaller scale. Opening up crackers with throwaway bits of tat should become a thing of the past, for example.

The climate crisis will also shape Guernsey’s finance industry, if it keeps its foothold in a post-Brexit world, as green investments become a vital tool in the bigger picture.

The clash of paying for public services, and the level of them, will be fundamental in the ’20s – we will see a taste of that in the first few months and then the problem handed over to the next administration to grapple with.

How we care for people will change as prevention and keeping people out of centralised intuitions becomes increasing important.

Whereas tackling smoking was top of the pops for public health, it will be obesity in the ’20s. Healthy eating and healthy movement all with the aid of apps, gadgets and comfortable fashion. Parkrun (a free weekly timed 5km run) is just the start, an indicator of what can be achieved.

Some truths will always remain – dinner tables will resound to the debate around schools, traffic, Aurigny, Condor’s choice of boats, over-development of the north, the calibre of our deputies and dog mess.

The way we live and communicate will continue to evolve.

For instance, shopping will shift more and more online as Town turns its focus to cafes, restaurants and entertainment.

There will be a greater understanding of the impact of social media, and how we use it, on our mental health and especially on that of young people.

There will be a greater understanding too of how government and business exploits our personal data and how acceptable that is, maybe even a backlash as we look to take control again.

Let’s raise a toast to 2020, we live in an extraordinary time, and also assume that the biggest impact on the decade is almost certainly going to be something we know nothing about yet.