One of the strangest aspects of the current corona crisis is the range in the way it affects people, from the severe and sometimes fatal, to the almost imperceptible. At some point in the coming months, science will fully explain that apparent mystery.
The effect on businesses has been similarly varied. Every single company has been affected - some have been able to simply switch working practices, and continue largely as normal. For them, the virus will be little more than an opportunity to accelerate change programs towards getting the systems and processes in place for having more staff working remotely more often, and cutting the premises bill. Their main issue has been understanding, and adapting to a change in customer behaviour caused by the pandemic of fear which has swept the globe.
Many of those companies are in the financial services sector, and given its importance to our economy, the fact that they should have the opportunity and resources to adapt swiftly is to be warmly welcomed, and will act as mitigating factor to the economic troubles which the island will surely face.
But having thousands more islanders working from home, perhaps for much of this year, while clearly good from a ‘traffic’ perspective, creates other problems, further on up the road. Consider the town cafés, coffee bars and shops - yes they can open, but after several months of ‘cash drought’ they have to meet the same overheads but with far fewer customers. Or they can stay closed - but every moment they do that, returning to life as it was in March seems further and further away. Momentum means much.
All of which means one of the key challenges for Government is to help create a trading environment which is sophisticated enough to reflect those diverse needs - never make the mistake of equating Jersey’s size with simplicity. Just because it is ’small’ does not mean it is straightforward. Our economy is a complex web of connections, interests and affiliations, and supporting it needs a nuanced approach.
From page six of this edition you can read some thoughts on the current situation from across that economy. The first half of 2020 wasn’t in anyone’s business plan. For many, survival will depend on whether they can recover the second half, with the effects of the virus on cash, customers and confidence still unfolding on the boardroom table.
There is no guaranteed formula for doing that, so many businesses are having to make critical decisions, with no template to work from - an example is the local pub trade, and on page 24, we profile the two main business in that sector, who are each taking a very different route. It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about doing what they believe will work best for them. As I say, it’s not a simple thing, Jersey’s economy.
I hope the stories you’ll find here help provide some guidance on a way forward.