Express asked representatives from Jersey's Chamber of Commerce have shared what they would each like to see on offer from the government together the economy going again.
Not many people would have seen the economic stimulus measures undertaken in Jersey after the global financial problems of 2008 as just a dry-run.
But it is likely the government is going to have go even further in 2020, as it tries to help an economy smashed by the island’s response to corona virus, back onto its feet.
Schemes such as co-funding the payroll have undoubtedly kept businesses trading, and people in work; but stimulating them to properly recover is different, more complex, and probably much more expensive.
With Jersey’s plans for that still being formed, Express asked representatives from the Chamber of Commerce what they would like to see on offer from the government...
1) Remove GST de minimis
The retail sector is trying to recover from the impact of covid-19, which destroyed footfall and removed customers from the town centre. There is no fast turnaround for increased footfall in the medium term, as offices are still supporting working from home. Recently, Jersey Post confirmed our worst fears that the April Amazon parcel volume is more that November and December 2019 combined. This, combined with government delays in reducing or removing the de minimis from incoming goods is not supporting the local retail sector. By removing the de minimis level, it will raise additional taxes for the Jersey government to invest back into the retail sector
2) Retail strategy
The lack of a retail strategy for Jersey is now more apparent than ever. As the island, and industry, strive to recover from the recent pandemic, there is a requirement for direction, investment, data and ‘big vision’ thinking. We have been facing the threat of online shopping for many years and this is only going to grow in the future. The retail industry needs to embrace digital technology, while still offering a ‘bricks and mortar’ offering. ‘Retail theatre’ will make shopping an attractive proposition for consumers. However, without a visionary retail strategy this industry will not flourish to its potential.
3) Food security
With impending Brexit, closed borders and potential tariffs, part of the island’s recovery plan needs to include food security. Consumers have experienced shortages during the pandemic, however supply has been managed extremely well, with shortages only impacted by manufacturers. However, what will Brexit bring in terms of potential disrupted supply, higher costs and limited ranges? A food security plan is vital at this time to support local manufacturers, agriculture and aquaculture, to make Jersey as self-sufficient as possible. Imports are important to all consumers, so what are the plans at date?
Can I also add that government legislation implementation at this time will not help retailers or suppliers while their focus is on rebuilding their businesses i.e. family friendly, plastic bag ban…what else is on the cards from government?
1) Quality of life for all (digital inclusion)
Use of technology underpins much of Jersey’s success, and economy, however not all people are digitally-enabled. With an explosion of online services and investment in digital, not everyone will have access to this brave new world on equal terms. A responsibility with which businesses, government and all islanders must have regard is economic inclusion, especially in ensuring we do not deepen the digital divide.
2) Coherent public and private investment in technology
Moving from digitally-literate, to a world leader, is achievable when analysing each industry end-to-end, then establishing a joint public/private investment board for appropriate economic stimulus.
Modelling island-wide digital strategies should identify and provide opportunity to deliver new, innovative, technology-based services. However, the current costs to the taxpayer should not be a decision the government can make alone.
3) Business and technology accelerators
Jersey has not yet been able to implement successful technology incubators and accelerators. In order to have a groundswell of employment, and income, from a digital sector we must break down fundamentally what is marketing, what is local digital services, and what is innovation and creation of product for export. It is high-time local wealth and talent collaborated with the leading firms to establish which global technology accelerator should locate a branch in Jersey, or how best to create one.
1) Embrace the new work-life balance
We need to embrace the merging of work and life, as the new-found flexible working environment becomes standard practice. Traditionally, many senior-level employees accepted they were available 24-7; and it was also common for most of the workforce to have the ability, should they wish, to switch off from work while outside of the office, and outside of the traditional working hours. Now, a significant portion of the finance sector is adapting to managing multiple commitments and priorities such as school drop-offs, feeding and entertaining the family, and meeting work deadlines, with the use of quick and easy access to work via the use of technology.
The flexibility of supporting non-work-related activities during traditional working hours needs to be balanced by the flexibility to support work-related activities during non-traditional working hours. We are adapting to the use of technology for working from home, instead of the office. We will further adapt to the use of the same technology to work from anywhere, instead of just from home. This will inevitably blur the distinction between work and life. We all need to find ways to be able to break away from any one particular commitment, but, if managed correctly, this mutual flexibility can significantly enhance our lives as well as our industry.
2) Maximise productivity
The traditional focus of meeting a deadline by completing a set of tasks, using a fixed order of iterative processes, will need altering. We now need to accommodate a reduction in physical interactions such as authorisations, validations and support. There will be less scheduled physical events such as committee meetings or panel reviews. We also have less restrictive working hours.
Digital priorities should drive the process, as we adapt to the significant reduction of physical interaction and the new flexible working environment. Processes and procedures should be altered to prioritise a digital workflow, and the removal of the dependency on the traditional working methods. Priority should be given to providing the next person or team with whatever they need to move the tasks forward in real-time. For example, the old weekly approval meeting can be replaced by electronic approvals, which no longer need to be scheduled.
3) Cost savings while protecting the workforce
During uncertain times, workforce reductions are often considered, due to the immediate and long-term cost reduction impact. The side effects of this are often overlooked. They can include staff morale issues, additional pressure being placed on the remaining staff, loss of relevant knowledge and experience and cost of future recruitment. Our current uncertain times have forced the ultimate test of work-from-home, which has largely proven to be successful. We have new-found certainty around 1) the use of remote access technology, 2) office space requirements and 3) productivity gains through flexible working and enhanced processes.
The use of remote access technology can have long-term cost saving in the form of switching from physical to virtual equipment. Office space requirements have diminished and, while personal space requirements have increased, a significant percentage of staff will not require permanent office space. Office cost savings will likely result.
As the workforce learns to adapt and as processes are further enhanced to take advantage of instant digital connectivity and flexible access for staff, the value created by each staff member can increase. Any tactical staff reduction initiatives will limit these opportunities and could unnecessarily increase future costs.
1) Green deal – a strategy aimed at delivering on the twin benefits of stimulating economy, and creating jobs, whilst accelerating the green transition in a cost-efficient way.
2) Promote local – build on the current proclivity on the part of the government, the media and indeed the public to support and promote local business as we recover from the shock of covid-19.
3) Sustainability in recovery - any plan should not be about knee-jerk, short-term fixes but should form part of a well-thought-out, holistic, strategy to ‘rebuild better,’ in a manner that is truly sustainable.
1) Tourism – how do we recover? As an industry going through effectively three winters of trade, we must ensure the industry does not lose its assets, and is supported by government. The recognition of the value of tourism and hospitality to other sectors must be seen. Jersey has a high reputation in the standard of its hospitality industry. Greater support in longer-term funding, as an industry that was one of the first to close and just beginning to open, and not overburdening a sector made fragile by covid-19 by added costs, taxes and legislation, must be a route to recovery in 2021.
2) Travel – how do we regain confidence in on, and off, island travel? It is this return to confidence that is essential not only as a deliverer of those tourists, but also in maintaining the highly valued connections we have for every member of the island and business users.
3) Brexit – let us not lose sight of Brexit due to covid-19. We must regain our focus to ensure that our products are able to get on, and off, Island, by valuing the strength of our transport system and be prepared for the impacts of possible tariffs on our future cost of living.
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