Action Packed!

Managing risk is a perennial challenge around operating and developing as a business. When a pandemic throws in an enormous additional challenge, organisations have to adapt and evolve at pace. Chamber President Elaine Gray shares her thoughts.

Since our last edition of Contact Guernsey has been in and out of lockdown with surprising speed, whilst parts of neighbouring Europe have entered their third lockdown. How countries have dealt with Covid is a reflection of emerging scientific learning – which has advanced at astonishing speeds – but it has also, to a greater or lesser extent, reflected the attitude of each country to risk and reward. In the UK, for example, we have seen a shift from an initial reluctance to lock down to a far greater willingness now to manage the risk, including measures like banning foreign travel and controlling inbound travel arrangements. 

Thankfully we can now see the prospect of a return to ‘normal’ life on the horizon thanks to the stellar work of scientists around the world. Worldwide, this is the first economic downturn in modern times of this magnitude thanks to a non-economic cause. The ‘black swan’ of Covid has disrupted most of our norms of behaviour, regulation and practice. Apart from the terrible human cost, the initial economic impact is now hitting production and supply as well as incomes. Whilst most recent reports from the States suggest that the impact of Covid economically has been much less than initially feared, the pandemic has transported Guernsey into a different global world, with tightened financial markets, altered consumption and behaviours. 

IT and IT enabled activities have become critical to survival and,
if Guernsey is to flourish in this new world order, a strong IT infrastructure is essential. No sooner than the word ‘connectivity’ is mentioned, however, and a weary sense of déjà vu descends. For so many years ‘connectivity’ has been a constant refrain from business and a regular promise from government. In a small jurisdiction like Guernsey where the returns are limited, it is not realistic to expect the private sector telcos to fund a fibre to home initiative solo. 

Government needs to invest and in so doing provide the confidence needed in the Guernsey infrastructure, whether you are an online trader, a non-exec director working from home permanently or a business which wants to offer flexible working permanently. We need it for those of us here but also those we hope to attract to live and work here. If ever there was an issue whose time has come, surely it is connectivity. We read that this is a priority action under the Government Work Plan and we are promised action by the new States, so let’s see some. 

On that front, we welcome the impetus behind the Government Work Plan. As with any enterprise, it’s essential that the States reviews the landscape so that priority actions can be identified, as well as those which are no longer worthy of support. Clearing the decks of dead wood, in the form of resolutions passed by previous States but which are no longer apt, is no more than good housekeeping. 

The prioritisation piece is not new, however, and is undoubtedly the most challenging aspect of the process. We have seen such initiatives before – cast your mind back to June 2016 when the then States undertook two workshops intended to set the long-term vision of the States and the priority objectives for the political term. It was hard to argue with the propositions in ‘Future Guernsey’, but here we are, four years on, with another prioritisation project. If this States really wants to be different, it must maintain a relentless focus on the collective priorities and establish a proper sense of discipline. There must be no quarter given to propositions that fall outside the Work Plan priorities or which are not truly emergency or essential. 

Our role? We will lobby government on what you tell us are your priorities and work with government to ensure that key priorities are delivered. Increasingly, a key part of that role is to gather data from you which we can use to inform government of key areas of need. A good example of this is the Bailiwick’s limited access to electronic payment platforms and Vice President Diane de Garis’ article later in Contact magazine gives you an update on that initiative. 

We will soon be reaching out to you for your views on the Work Plan prioritisation and would be really grateful for your ongoing input. And of course you don’t need to wait for a survey to get in touch – we’d love to hear from you any time. 

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