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Government needs to ‘go big, go bold and go early’

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GOVERNMENT must ‘go big, go bold and go early’ to support businesses in the wake of the ‘triple whammy’ of the collapse of Flybe, the Covid-19 outbreak and the downturn in global markets, the president of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce has said.

Chamber lunch. Picture: GARY GRIMSHAW. (27451624)

Speaking to a smaller audience than normal at this month’s Chamber lunch, as many business leaders stayed away amid fears of catching the coronavirus, Jennifer Carnegie urged ministers to consider fiscal-stimulus measures as a matter of priority.

‘Scaling back is better than playing catch-up’ she said, adding: ‘We have some business sectors which are extremely vulnerable to the downturns which are happening before our very eyes.’

She stressed that liquidity was vital, with measures needed to assist companies which saw their cashflow disrupted. She suggested that the government should, for example, be considering allowing businesses to defer GST payments.

And she called on Islanders to support local businesses by ‘giving Amazon a break’ and urged employers to ‘look after their staff’.

Jennifer Carnegie Picture: GARY GRIMSHAW. (27451620)

‘Ensure that they are following the health guidelines that have been given and follow your contingency plans,’ she said.

Mrs Carnegie, the director of finance firm Amicus, did, however, offer a note of reassurance, saying that there was no banking crisis, so institutions were well capitalised and in a strong position to offer assistance. During her introductory remarks at the event, Mrs Carnegie also called on the government to improve its communication in response to the global coronovirus pandemic.

‘There is a risk of panic, which is contagious and can also go viral,’ she said, adding that government communication with the community had to be ‘as transparent as possible’.

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‘We have some way to go in building the confidence in how we are going to be planning for this,’ she argued.

The event was sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland International, but its staff were not able to attend, as they have been told not to go to events where more than 25 people are gathered.

As a result, the keynote speaker, RBS Group Economist Dr Katerina Lisenkova, appeared via a video link from her office in Edinburgh. Dr Lisenkova spoke about the way that businesses were responding to the risks posed by both coronavirus and climate change. She said that it was crucial that more was done to prepare for climate change.

Mrs Carnegie said that the Island had to find inventive ways of addressing the challenges, and repeated Winston Churchill’s quote that one should ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.

She added that government had to ‘go big, go bold and go early’ in its search for solutions.

Andy Sibcy

By Andy Sibcy
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