This year, a single story has dominated news cycles the world over. The global response to coronavirus and its far-reaching impacts have affected everything from East Asian carbon emissions, Russian oil production, the UK budget, European airlines and the US Presidential Election.
It has been the greatest threat to public health in a century. Challenging not only the physical wellbeing of societies but their economies too.
I have been incredibly proud, not only of the Government of Jersey’s response but also the way in which local businesses have risen to the challenge posed by COVID-19. For many, COVID-19 has required a complete overhaul to normal working practices in a remarkably short timescale. Companies in all sectors have had to adapt, innovate and fundamentally alter the way they deliver their services to customers.
Jersey’s Government has also had to work quickly to meet the threat of COVID-19. We have mobilised the largest financial support package in our Island’s history, developed a testing programme which ranks amongst the most effective in Europe and implemented a comprehensive track and trace programme to mitigate the spread of the virus within our community.
All this has not come without cost and until a vaccine is fully rolled out, we will need to remain vigilant and continue to do our part by following public health guidance. In the meantime, whilst preparing for the winter challenges to come, we are also looking ahead to our Island’s economic recovery.
Looking forward, as our Island and the world at large emerge from the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can anticipate a continued high level of global uncertainty. This uncertainty will be fuelled by an unstable geopolitical environment, fluctuating energy markets, an irregular demand in a number of sectors (particularly tourism and air travel) and a bumpy return to work for many in the developing world.
To give just one example, amongst India’s workforce of more than 470 million, just 19% were covered by social security prior to COVID-19, 100 million are migrant workers and two-thirds lack a formal employment contract. The return of workforces such as this will not be smooth and may prolong the economic uncertainties across the world’s emerging markets.
These are differing challenges, but they will no doubt be compounded by one another, presenting a number of follow-up hurdles to the global economic recovery. Joining these obstacles are the United Kingdom’s ongoing negotiations with the European Union as well as the potential risks posed by further waves of COVID-19.
In a world of uncertainty, stability is a valuable commodity and the continuing work of Jersey Finance to promote our Island as a leading financial services centre is more important than ever.
Jersey has an outward-facing economy, with a long tradition of trading in high-quality goods and services with customers from around the world. Our strong position as a leading international financial centre and one of the best-regulated jurisdictions globally has, historically, meant that Jersey serves as a conduit for global business flows and acts as a facilitator for outbound foreign direct investment (FDI).
Jersey will therefore be well placed to assist in the recovery of other nations as the world emerges from this pandemic, acting as a conduit for investment into where it is needed most. Already, before COVID-19, Jersey facilitated up to 1.5% of annual foreign direct investment into Africa and our Island maintains close intergovernmental and business ties to many regions of the world.
Our Island’s excellent digital infrastructure facilitates such global links. Already enjoying some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world, readers will appreciate that home working has been made easier and productivity maintained in large part thanks to our digital network.
Early in our pandemic response, the Government worked closely with Digital Jersey and telecoms companies to upgrade the fibre connectivity of all Islanders for free, ensuring that all fibre broadband users benefit from 1 Gbit/s symmetrical speeds, whilst tariffs paid by broadband subscribers have not changed.
A similar initiative provided free broadband connections to households with school children or those leaving care who did not already possess such a connection, enabling all young people to access educational materials. We have, throughout the UK’s negotiations with the European Union, taken a proactive approach to ensure that the interests of Islanders and local businesses are protected in any future arrangement. This process has utilised our longstanding channels of communication with our UK counterparts and we have worked closely with colleagues in both Guernsey and the Isle of Man, emphasising our similar priorities.