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Statement by the President of the Committee for Economic Development

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Wednesday 04 November 2020

General Update

Sir,

I am grateful to the States Assembly for putting its confidence in the current members of the Committee for Economic Development to play its part in the Island's recovery.

However, as I said in the Assembly on 19 November, this will be a States-wide effort and later in my speech I will come to how we will need to work with all of the new Committees.

Under Deputies Ferbrache and Parkinson - during the last term - the Committee started the process of addressing the challenges for future prosperity, digital connectivity and infrastructure, our competitive offer as a place to do business, and how to promote that offer. We will be picking up from where they left off, but will act with a greater sense of urgency.

The current Committee brings a diverse set of skills and experience to the table and the Committee's responsibilities will be roughly carved up along the following lines:

Deputy Falla will be a capable Vice-President with a remit to ensure that government and business are aligned.

Deputy Moakes will provide leadership on the Committee's work with the finance sector, ensuring that we understand the opportunities for growth that need government action.

Deputy Kazantseva-Miller will lead on digital business, entrepreneurship and skills, working closely with the Digital Greenhouse and other partners to promote entrepreneurship and to transform our skills base on the island.

And Deputy Vermeulen will lead on tourism and industry, and will work with me, on the recovery of our visitor economy.

On that challenge, we are about to begin the process of overhauling how we market ourselves as a visitor destination; to set out a plan for investment in our tourism product and an accommodation strategy that ensures that we have appropriate bed stock and enable closed hotels to change their use to benefit the wider economy.

We need to think differently in how we market ourselves as a destination and whether this is the time to transform VisitGuernsey into a public private partnership, or some form of LBG.

To give an example of how we need to work with other Committees we would like a closer relationship with both Policy and Resources, Environment and Infrastructure and the Development & Planning Authority. We have some strong ideas on how a future tourism offering might better utilise heritage sites and coastal kiosk offerings; and without access to Property Services and the DPA, we cannot move forward.

In addition the Committee has listened to the visitor economy sector. We will, as part of the recovery strategy, be recommending to the States significant investment in Guernsey's tourism product, and in enhancing the island's visitor accommodation. We have got to maximise the reasons why people come here - Victor Hugo attractions, our World War Two heritage, and a wide range of accommodation - including camping and self-catering - will help to drive that.

And of course a short term plan to bring visitors back to the Island in any new season will mean that VisitGuernsey and Aurigny could and should work closer together. Our Committee will make every effort to build a stronger working relationship with STSB underDeputy Roffey's leadership. And recent conversations with Deputy Ferbrache and Deputy Roffey, will mean the three Committees will work closer together.

The development of partnerships will be one of the most visible aspects of the new Committee's work. There will be no more walls.

The Committee will work closely with the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure to develop a plan for the blue economy. In fact, I'm meeting Deputy de Sausmarez, informally, this week.

Our two Committees have many shared goals in developing a low carbon growth economy. I am aware that Deputy Kazantseva-Miller has a particular interest in sustainable business and Deputy de Sausmarez has a particular interest in environmental tourism. We will connect.

The Committee will also work closely with Deputy Prow and the Committee for Home Affairs to ensure that the approach to population management supports the economy.

The Committee will work closely with the DPA in this term too. I am sure that Deputy Oliver will help to lift the planning regime out of the suffocating red taped mire into which it started to sink towards the end of the last term. And I am relieved to see that we have an open-minded President and a new Committee that recognise that they are key to many aspects of the 'Revive and Thrive'

Let's work together to encourage changes of use and exceptions if they drive our economy, and let's use our highly skilled planners to support growth and regeneration.

In short, we will make every effort to remove barriers to business and invest in the infrastructure that supports it. This means a new telecoms strategy which officers are now accelerating.

The Committee will prioritise a reassessment of the island's air connectivity objectives, last agreed by the States in December 2018. The world has changed since then. Reviewing these now will feed into the air policy framework that is being finalised by P&R, and enable the Committee to understand if policies such as quasi-open skies help or hinder the delivery of our objectives.

Sir, the engine of our economy is the finance sector and it is world class - funds, fiduciary, insurance and banking sectors that have a track record of quality, stability and innovation.

In meeting with the representatives of the finance sector during the course of the election, they asked for a number of things. That we stay competitive, we invest in transport and digital connectivity, we reduce red tape, and we invest in promotion.

We need to support Guernsey Finance and its new leadership in marketing what Guernsey has to offer, and a proposal for increased funding will be with the Committee soon.

Of course, it is not just Guernsey Finance that needs fresh impetus to aid recovery.

The previous Committee requested an agency review, and officers will now accelerate that work. This will mean a closer working relationship between the Digital Greenhouse and Locate Guernsey.

That approach will run through this Committee's work - localisation, ensuring that when the taxpayer is funding a project big or small, as much of that funding goes to local employers and local workers. That is essential for recovery. We must do this.

Deputy de Sausmarez asked in the Presidential Q&As what we could do for the 'creative industry'. And my response is as it has been for years. There is little or no excuse for any government agency to put any creative work outside of Guernsey.

The aim is to bring as many of the creative contracts that could be undertaken by locally based agencies back to Guernsey where that is possible within the States of Guernsey's procurement policy. Government money, on island, benefitting Guernsey business.

My first instruction to officers was to seek a review of where we are with all Marketing and Tourism contracts. We remain positive about Guernsey's tourism future, it is essential to the Island and its transport links, but I have had long held concerns whether government should be providing the marketing services for the industry. And I remind members that the Chief Executive Officer of the States of Guernsey has often repeated 'there are things that government just shouldn't do.' My view is that providing marketing service for tourism is one of them. 

So we are up and running and trying to move at pace. Meetings are being set up with other Committees to ensure partnership. However - we wouldn't mind some input from our largest industry.

With that in mind we are working with GIBA to invite nominations for an experienced non-States Member to support this work. We will be looking to do this quickly.

Sir, to close - let me reiterate what I promised would be our approach when I took the Presidency:

1.      Focused

2.      Collaborative

3.      Positive

4.      Decisive

Sir, I hope Members have found this to be a helpful overview of the Committee's work.

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