‘Where is the States’ next Colin Powell?’
ANOTHER ‘big brain’ like the late Colin Powell is needed to advise Jersey’s government on adapting to the challenges its economy may face this decade, business leaders have been told.
Speaking at a panel discussion at yesterday’s Chamber of Commerce lunch, themed ‘Jersey in 10 years’ time’, business fixer Kevin Keen said that during his lifetime the shape and size of the Island’s economy had continually changed.
And Mr Keen said that the Island needed someone of the stature of the former States economic adviser, who passed away earlier this year, to guide it as it adapted to change over the next decade.
Mr Powell was widely viewed as the architect of Jersey’s finance industry.
‘I think sometimes we have lost our boldness – when the finance industry came along it wasn’t by accident,’ said Mr Keen.
‘When I was a child tourism was 50% of the economy, now it’s 8%. I can remember not very long ago financial services was 50% of the economy, now its 40%.
‘So the one prediction you can make about ten years’ time is that things will be different. We have to be in a position where we can move quickly and take some risks.’
He added that he believed the Island’s politicians needed to listen less to negative voices and take bold action when necessary.
Mr Keen, who is non-executive chairman of Visit Jersey, said that he also got frustrated with current thinking about the economy, such as too much focus on the Gross Value Added [value of goods and services produced] per worker.
‘There are so many things that are very important that might not be of particularly high economic value – the care sector, for example,’ he said. ‘In the sector I am involved in – tourism – we get that as well. We just don’t think enough about the interconnectivity of the economy.
‘I think we have got to be a bit more thoughtful. Where is the current Colin Powell? The big brain who is saying, “This is what we need to be doing next” and advising government to support it.’
Also during the discussion, Digital Jersey chief executive Tony Moretta said that he was concerned that Jersey needed to learn how to adapt its economy better or it faced becoming the ‘Kodak’ of jurisdictions.
‘We are the envy of a lot of people around the world and we have to remember that. So, our trick has to be to preserve that,’ he said. ‘We have to watch what is happening around the world and adapt. We always talk about being nimble and agile but we are not, are we? Let’s face it.
‘We have to learn to get that back a bit in the coming years.’
Issues raised during the discussion included increased automation of jobs, population management and moves to reduce carbon emissions.