It’s all down to jobs for the Bailiwick
Wednesday 2nd October 2013, 4:00PM BST.
FOR some time now, Sark’s unofficial opposition, the much criticised newsletter, has been saying that the island’s economy is in a dire situation and that something – a Customs post to open the island to other direct ferries – is needed to rectify the situation.
Tomorrow, Chief Pleas meets to consider what here would be an emergency Budget, to hike its taxes and duty rates by 15% because of a shortfall in revenues caused by a decline in tourism.
The other worrying figure in the report to Sark’s parliament is that 50 taxpayers are expected to leave the island in 2014.
That suggests Sark’s economic difficulties are similar to Alderney’s, where the number of young people has halved in 12 years and the largest age group (21%) is 60-69 while there has also been a big drop in the number of people employed.
Alderney is trying to work through its difficulties and has highlighted transport – rather like Sark – as a big issue for its future success and also has a development programme in hand.
Sark has been advised that sustainable development is, ultimately, to its continuation as an independent and autonomous community.
As, indeed, it is for Alderney.
How much, if at all, that has been taken on board is debatable from the Chief Pleas agenda. While, for instance, it raises the Crowe report on improving governance, it makes no proposals for implementation and the Kniveton report on
economic development is similarly dormant.
These are, of course, matters for Sark but the equivalent set of figures for Guernsey would have triggered intense concern and, one hopes, action.
The interest in the smaller elements of the Bailiwick – which extends to Herm – is that no community survives without a working economy and jobs for its young people.
Alderney is currently trying to address that. While Sark is not, its salaries and legal costs alone are around 45% of its £1.3m. income this year and it expects a 23% increase to £135,000 in its welfare payments next year.
Like it or not, Sark is acquiring a paid bureaucracy and a fiscal dependency that only a fully functioning economy can sustain.