Businessman Nick Moakes, who relocated to Guernsey with his family, has been 'using data and feedback, from a wide variety of sources, to provide insights into Guernsey’s Economy' and he now shares with us his views on how the island may look post pandemic.
Before moving to Guernsey, Nick was based in London where he spent 25 years working for some of the world’s leading Financial Services companies. He has a long association with Guernsey and moved to the island, with his family, in 2018.
He says he is "passionate about the island’s future and has spent time studying Guernsey’s economy and demographics in detail".
His insights into Guernsey are now being published and he hopes that they will, "resonate with people and help them to see beyond the headlines":
"The Coronavirus pandemic has, sadly, shown us just how much the world is divided. There has been no global strategy to deal with the virus so instead of working together countries and even regions within countries have come up with their own ways to deal with the pandemic. These range from putting good medical advice into effect to denying that there is a problem in the misguided hope that it will go away. As a result, progress in defeating Covid-19 varies greatly and we can’t even be sure whether the numbers being reported are accurate as different countries report infections and deaths in different ways.
As the pandemic has spread around the world, we have seen governments trying to balance the need to protect public health with the need to protect their economies. Initially, governments were faced with two basic choices. 1) Take immediate action (e.g. lock down, testing, tracking, tracing) and accept that it will damage the economy. 2) Wait or limit action in the knowledge that more people might become infected. Now, governments are faced with a similar dilemma. 1) Come out of lockdown too early and be seen to be responsible if there is a 2nd wave of the pandemic. 2) Come out of lock down too late and be seen to have caused unnecessary damage to the economy.
Why is all of this important for Guernsey?
We can look at this through 2 lenses - Public Health and Economics.
Pictured: The civil contingencies authority, leading the response to the pandemic, includes representatives from public health, government and civil service.
From a public health perspective, Guernsey continues to demonstrate how good medical advice, supported by political leadership and the communities backing, can be potent weapons in the fight against the Covid-19 virus. The number of active cases is coming down and there have been no new cases reported for 17 consecutive days. This is extremely positive but we should not be complacent. Comparisons are difficult but some of the countries that won praise for their response to the pandemic, are still discovering new cases. So, from a Public Health perspective, I think that most people would agree that Guernsey’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been very good.
From an Economic perspective, whilst the islands economy has already suffered significant damage, the political / economic shockwaves of Covid-19 will continue to be felt long after the fight against the virus has been won. The longer the lockdown continues, the worse the economic consequences will be as companies run out of cash reserves and ultimately fail - leading to increased unemployment. In addition, the longer the lockdown continues the more money the States will need to pay out in financial support.
So, what next for Guernsey? Some countries are allowing shops and restaurants to reopen. This is promising but needs to done carefully to avoid a second wave of the virus. New cases of Covid-19 in some of these countries demonstrates just how difficult it is to get the Public Health / Economic balance right. Guernsey should continue to follow the excellent medical advice provided by Nicola Brink. Tracking, Tracing and Testing will continue to play an important role as will retaining the strict travel restrictions that the island has in place to prevent new cases being introduced from abroad. But the time has come to start relaxing the lock down so that businesses can reopen and people can return to work. This will be easier for some sectors than others, with our borders remaining effectively closed, but it will enable most businesses to trade albeit under strict distancing conditions.
Pictured: Some of Guernsey's shops are starting to reopen or planning to shortly. (file image)
Ironically, the Covid-19 crisis provides Guernsey with some unintended opportunities. Our airport and harbour are far quieter than normal so now would be an ideal time for the States to invest some of the money it is borrowing to kick start the economy by investing in the island’s future. Extending the airport runway and making much needed improvements to harbour facilities are just two examples which many people and businesses would support.
Another important factor in Guernsey’s future success is its location. For more than a thousand years, Guernsey’s strategic location has enabled it to diversify and grow into a successful economy. Today, the island has a hard-won reputation for being a stable, low tax economy but it’s geographic location could once again be a key reason why it will be attractive to many people and businesses in a post-Covid-19 world.
We have all read about people buying property in New Zealand for this very reason and there are probably other locations where the same phenomenon is playing out. However, Guernsey has some key advantages over many of these locations. Located 70 miles from the U.K. and only 27 miles from France, Guernsey is close to all of Europe’s capital cities and Financial centres. The island is also already home to a large and established financial / professional services industry and all of the support services / skills one would expect.
In normal times Guernsey is a truly wonderful place to live and work but the island has now proved that in difficult times it can quickly and effectively adapt and lock down its borders by restricting movement both on and off the island. This ability to self-impose complete lock-down will appeal to many people and businesses who want to live and work somewhere that is safe in uncertain times as well as good times. So, in a post-Coronavirus world, Guernsey could become just about the best place in the world to be located.
This is something that the States and agencies like Locate Guernsey and We Are Guernsey should be focusing on now because once this crisis is over the whole world will be reviewing its emergency and contingency plans."
Pictured top: Nick Moakes.