IOD Convention “Infrastructure”

The theme of this year’s convention was “Infrastructure” with the main question being “what is required as a sense of urgency?” The panel consisted of Dr. Andrew McLaughlin, David Falla, Fiona Le Poidevin, Deputy Lyndon Trott and Werner Von Guionneau with Alastair Stewart as moderator. There were a number of suggestions such as digital infrastructure, the harbour and air links. After hearing the different views spoken by the panel, I think that air links should be our main priority because we are at the stage where it is very difficult to get on and off the island - especially by air. This is a crucial issue, as it is simply too expensive for frequent travel to be economically viable. This along with Aurigny’s heavy cost to the States suggests that there must be a better way to deal with the problem. In my opinion we should be utilising the initiative of Waves, who recognise that most aircrafts are never full and so, by having on-demand taxi airlines, it will reduce costs for the consumer and company per flight. 

The topic of: “Unless the assembly can agree on a unified direction and trust each other, and trust each other’s departments to work together, I fear that it will be difficult to formulate and achieve a 20-year vision for Guernsey as our blueprint for the future” was also another big issue; it is believed that if Guernsey is to achieve and grow as a nation then the private and public sector must join together. At end the night a vote was held by the raising of hands which showed that, by the proportion of 3:1, opinion is that the States should raise taxes if it meant that the government would spend more.

From a government point of view, raising taxes is great because it would mean that the States could spend more money on resources that are most needed. However, in my opinion, and from an economic point of view, the rise in income tax will cause bigger problems because this would mean that people would have less disposable income and are therefore saving more money than they are spending. This would have the same impact on corporations if taxes were raised because it would mean that fewer firms would be keen to remain in Guernsey and less investment would be made because of this. This will have a negative effect on Guernsey’s GDP; that it will hurt the overall economy depending on what type of tax is raised. 

To enact at our 20-year vision we need to be listening to the words of the keynote speaker Richard Abadie, who had four pieces of advice when looking at Infrastructure. He focussed on:
      What is needed? Mr. Abadie said that there is no point in investing in something unless it is going to have a massive impact on Guernsey
      Who is going to pay for this? The taxpayer; therefore the taxpayers should get a large say as to what we should be spending our money on
      Don’t pay for something that you can’t afford. This seems quite an obvious piece of advice but Mr. Abadie argued that many countries in the past had spent money they don’t have and this caused problems for the economy of the country
      Plan for the long term. There is no short-term infrastructure - only long term; there is no point in looking at something if it will not benefit the island on a long-term basis

Mr. Abadie suggested that islands should be looking towards renewable energy so they can become independent from external suppliers. This is a timely suggestion since it was just a week ago that Guernsey Electricity announced that they would be installing solar panels on their factories to help with energy in Guernsey. I have thought for a long time that renewable energy is the way to go especially tidal power because Guernsey has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world; we should be seizing these untapped natural resources as an island to support ourselves rather than looking elsewhere. This also applies to wind power; our coasts have strong winds and, by using wind power as a source of energy, it means that Guernsey won’t be as reliant on outside sources.

As a student wanting to do an Economics degree at university, I thought that this was a very intriguing evening; to understand the point of view from a government side as well as the private sector. People in Guernsey are quick to criticise the States’ decision in all aspects but surprisingly not so quick to offer any solutions. A fellow student was asked for his top three priorities; he finished by saying that “I don’t care what you do, just do it faster” and this was received with rapturous applause. My whole evening was summed up in four words by Mr. Stewart: “Stop complaining, start helping”. The States will not know what we want unless we help them and communicate effectively and that goes for all generations.