Our national identity is influenced by the livelihoods people pursue, but also itself plays a part in our long-term economic success and prosperity. Global competition for a share of the world’s consumers, investors and talent is intensifying, with greater awareness about a place’s image increasingly shaping people’s decisions about where to live and the origins of the products and services they buy. This does not just include our well-known quality-of-life attractions such as connectivity, safety and natural beauty, but also the picture we project of our culture, history and values, and the commonality we feel as a society. The Board noted growing academic evidence that small jurisdictions with strong identities are more economically successful. It therefore examined some of our unique economic selling points, and sought out ideas that might promote growth and innovation in ways that are compatible with the long-term maintenance of a strong and distinctive national personality.
Jersey’s traditional industries of farming and fishing are not just important to the island as a source of income and jobs, but form a vital part of our heritage and of how Jersey is seen by the rest of the world. Jersey’s farmers have been conquering new international markets with our ‘Jersey Royal’ since the 1880s, and our milk and ice cream is now a luxury brand in both developed and developing countries. Meanwhile our fisherman have been exporting produce to the Continent since the 12th century (the French even borrowed their word for octopus from Jerriais), and dominated the Grand Banks cod trade for over 100 years. The Board therefore saw continuing support for agriculture and fishing as vital, and emphasised the value of promoting Jersey’s offering at the high-quality end of these markets. This is the place we already occupy in terms of dairy products, potatoes and fresh seafood, but opportunities also exist for products like cider, black butter, and medicinal crops.
Tourism is another sector in Jersey with a distinguished history, although the encouraging recent increases in visitor numbers has been brought to a halt by the pandemic. The Board examined a number of possible niche tourism opportunities for the Island, but its main message is that better celebrating Jersey’s unique culture and heritage – and its distinctiveness from the UK – will help attract visitors. The Board also hoped that transport links with France could be strengthened, and suggested that more attention be paid to promoting our Island identity at the Ports of Entry.
The Board also considered Jersey’s non-traditional industries, and highlighted the particular opportunity presented by Digital. For centuries Jersey has innovated and reinvented its economy, and in recent years the Island's human capital, superior connectivity (including being the first country in the world to roll out optic fibre connectivity to every home) and entrepreneur-friendly ecosystem has spawned a rapidly-growing digital sector. This now employs over 3,000 people and generates more than £180 million per year. Small and agile digital businesses address unique market niches, and there is also significant overlap with Jersey’s thriving creative industries. Opportunities exist to further Jersey’s value as a test bed for new products, and to replicate Digital Jersey’s highly-successful ‘Sandbox’ model in other industries. Additionally, as mentioned below, establishing a specialised University or university campus in Jersey could contribute to developing and retaining talent.
Any attempt to articulate Jersey’s identity must examine the impact of its half century at the forefront of the international financial services industry. This is a complex issue which generates strong and conflicting opinions, both internally and externally. On the one hand, offshore finance acts as a conduit of investment that lifts people out of poverty and creates jobs and infrastructure. Furthermore, Jersey is now one of the world’s best-regulated financial centres, working to recognised global standards, offering secure international access to financial markets and sharing confidential information responsibly with other jurisdictions. On the other hand, offshore finance is the target of sustained, orchestrated campaigning, with pejorative labels such as ‘tax haven’ colouring several related debates such as the impact of finance-sector salaries on prices and inequality within Jersey.
The Board found that there is pride that an Island of 100,000 people punches so far above its weight in the financial world, but also a degree of defensiveness about our main source of income, and exasperation that outsiders routinely assume that everyone from Jersey must also be personally wealthy. It also sensed in some quarters a feeling of ‘otherness’ to the finance industry, even though so many Jersey people are part of it. The Board felt more could be done to ensure that those who make Jersey their home while working in this sector feel engaged and included in Island life. These welcome migrants from the UK and further afield – and indeed all who move here for work assignments - can become some of the best ambassadors for the Island when their time comes to move on (see also International).
In terms of Jersey’s international reputation, the Board noted with interest how our finance industry is now making significant strides in the fast-growing area of sustainable and responsible investment, deploying capital to have a positive impact in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) terms as well as making a profit. Jersey Finance has recognised the importance of this direction of travel and is leading initiatives to make the Island an even more attractive jurisdiction to do this kind of business. The Board hopes that the government will support these efforts, as well as those to develop Jersey’s already substantial offering in the administration of philanthropy. Coupled with the growing reputation of Jersey’s international aid programme and opportunities in development finance, there is an exciting chance to reorient our business model towards ‘doing well by doing good’.