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Colin Powell's top predictions...

Colin Powell's top predictions...

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Colin Powell's top predictions...


Jersey was a very different place when the late Colin Powell became the government's first ever economic adviser in 1969 - and yet, his crystal ball-like insights still ring true for today. Express explores his top predictions.

It wasn’t just that the government had a different name back then - it was run by committees, on several of which individual members sat to play their part. Not just a question of branding, the States of Jersey was actually the government of Jersey.

For some periods of the year, the island seemed a quiet place. The population was just 73,000 though it rose to 120,000 at the height of the visitor season and that gave a clue to state of the economy – more than 50% of the island’s income came from its main earner, Tourism.  Finance was fourth at just 9%.

Although Europe was also big news in those days, the context was quite different. General de Gaulle relinquished the French presidency in 1969, so the door to Europe was then open to the UK, even though the crucial referendum would not take place until 1975. However, when Colin Powell arrived in Jersey relations with Europe were high on the political agenda.

Colin Powell book

Pictured: Colin Powell's 'Economic Survey of Jersey' was published in 1971.

So it was an appropriate time for the States to commission a report into the island’s economy and its future prospects from its new adviser. When, two years later in 1971, a 300 page-plus hardback book appeared, its title gave little clue to its scope.  

In the hands of many an economist, an 'Economic Survey of Jersey' would prove a tough read but, as the island would discover over an almost 50-year period, Colin Powell was no ordinary economist. It was not simply that his mind was razor-sharp, nor that he could write in a way that was immediately comprehensible and jargon-free but also that economic success was, for him, not simply a matter of annual income and expenditure. 

He assumed that the overall objective was “to maintain and raise the standard of living of the residents of the island while preserving the amenity of the island.” His special insight was not the obvious one – that maintaining the natural beauty of Jersey could be at odds with development – but rather that “these two aspects, while often in conflict with each other, may also be complementary.”

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Pictured: The late Colin Powell took up his appointment as first economic adviser to the States of Jersey in 1969.

For Jersey to continue to prosper, the things that made it attractive – whether for residents, tourists, ‘wealthy’ immigrants (as they were called with deferential inverted commas) or the finance industry – must not be sacrificed for short-term gain.  Jersey must continue to be a special place.

While forecasting the pressure on tourism and the likely expansion of the finance industry, even Colin Powell could not have predicted just how radically the economy would change during his extended period working for the island.

Yet to read the Economic Survey of 1971 almost half a century later, you can’t help but be struck by how much foresight it shows. You imagine the young economic adviser seated not in front of a typewriter and endless tables of statistics but rather, his head covered, gazing into a crystal ball.

On the environment...

“Land is an irreplaceable asset, and the amenity aspect of land forms an integral part of the island’s economic life…a basic restraint on economic development is the amount of land the community is prepared to see taken up by buildings.”

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Pictured: "Immigration pressures can only be reduced by lowering the economic temperature.”

On immigration...

“The reason for the high rate of immigration is the rate of economic growth. Immigration pressures can only be reduced by lowering the economic temperature.”

On European harmonisation...

“Jersey has existed and prospered as an independent unit on the basis of the differences with surrounding territories while, in contrast, the broad aim of the Treaty of Rome is political harmonisation.  In these circumstances it may be questioned whether…Jersey and the EEC are compatible.”

On transport costs...

“The difficulty in selling Jersey, as with other products, is ensuring that the product is not priced too high…The quality and special flavour of a Jersey holiday can only compensate to a degree for the higher cost of transport.”

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Pictured: In 1971, Mr Powell was urging the island to invest in its future, including Fort Regent.

On Fort Regent...

“If Fort Regent is to be successful it must provide the right facilities…The island must invest in its future…there should be a greater deal of commercial involvement and more effective management is required.”  [The States decided to go ahead and convert the Fort into a leisure centre, opening the swimming pool on the Glacis field in 1971]

Facilities government should provide...

“Money should go towards the provision of facilities which cannot easily be provided by individuals but which are essential for the future health of the [tourism] industry.”

The wider value of tourism...

“There are also indirect benefits that accrue from tourism which affect the quality of life and make the island more attractive…The income generated by the expenditure of tourists provides the economic base for cinemas, restaurants etc.”

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Pictured: Mr Powell forecast the pressure on tourism in the 1970s.

The changing nature of tourism...

“To minimise the costs and maximise the benefits [of tourism], policy should be directed at extending the season and raising the expenditure level per visitor.”

“Tourism has been the cornerstone of the economy since the war. The big questions is whether it can continue to be so in the future…it is apparent the next ten years are likely to be more competitive than the past ten years…”

Appealing to continental visitors...

“Greater efforts [to attract European visitors] could prove rewarding particularly if the emphasis were on holidays in the shoulder months. For this to be successful Jersey must emphasise its differences.” 

The importance of agriculture...

“Many facets of agricultural life cannot be truly considered in economic terms.  Farming is a way of life as well as a source of income…Agriculture…has a value in respect of the attraction to the island to both tourists and ‘wealthy’ immigrants.” 

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Pictured: Since the 1971 report, the number of herds has reduced from 446 to 24 as consolidation has taken place.

The changing face of the dairy industry...

“If the dairy industry is to meet the needs of supplying the island’s total milk needs…there must be both a concentration on the larger herds and on the raising of the net return per cow by a reduction in unit costs.”  [Since the 1971 report, the number of herds has reduced from 446 to 24 as consolidation has taken place.]

The growth of finance...

“As an international finance centre, [Jersey] is a competitive field, and the money flows upon which it is based are particularly susceptible to changes in attitudes…The island as a whole, as well as the financial community, stands to gain from the continued development of Jersey as a responsible, thriving, and profitable finance centre, providing the benefits to the individual banks and financial institutions are properly reflected in the benefits derived by the rest of the island.  

"States policy in this sector should be directed towards achieving that balance.”

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Pictured: "If a bus service is to remain viable in the island it would seem that it must have a high frequency and be convenient."

‘Wealthy’ immigrants...

“What is required is a more positive policy developed from the theme that ‘wealthy’ immigrants are of benefit to the island provided their number can be regulated.  It is difficult to believe that the place of the ‘wealthy’ immigrant…cannot be preserved by a policy embodying both a controlled allocation of existing houses and the provision of a limited number of additional dwelling units.”

Encouraging buses...

“If a bus service is to remain viable in the island it would seem that it must have a high frequency and be convenient, and the true car parking costs would need to be imposed on the car park user.”

Individual freedom and responsibility...

“In the circumstances of the modern world, where people are prepared to pay a high price for amenity which can be so cheaply destroyed by those seeking to take advantage of the situation, it is essential that the long view should be taken even where this courts the unpopularity associated with any attempt to infringe upon the freedom of the individual.”

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Pictured: Over 40 years on and we're still talking about the hospital expansion.

Water...

“[Water] consumption may have reached a level which justifies the construction of another reservoir…Whether [it] would prove acceptable to the island is another matter.  It would probably take up extensive areas of agricultural land…”. [The Queen’s Valley reservoir opened in 1991 following a narrow decision to proceed in the States].

The hospital...

“Hospital facilities will need to be expanded in the face of a growing population.  Changes in medical techniques may reduce the time spent in hospital by each in-patient, and reduce the need for additional beds…but [an increase in population] would require an expansion of general hospital facilities…Scope exists for extending the hospital south of Newgate Street, or building higher, or providing convalescent facilities elsewhere, all of which would ease the pressure satisfactorily.

"In the light of this, continuous efforts might be made, through the provision of adequate home nursing and home help facilities, to reduce the time spent in hospital.”  [The Parade Gardens extension to the General Hospital was completed in 1987.]

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