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Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK, keynote speech to the Alliance of Isle of Man Compliance Professionals, Friday 2 February 2018.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Good morning.

It's good to be back here at the Villa Marina.
This is my second state of the nation address to the Alliance of Isle of Man Compliance Professionals.

My first speech to you was not long after the general election.

At the time there was much talk of optimism and confidence. A feeling that we were bringing new thinking and able to challenge the status quo.

One year on from my last appearance here and I am still optimistic.

The Programme for Government has become well established and is the driving force behind this administration.

We set out our stall and we are delivering.

I can't share too much about the budget, but I can say that it is a budget of confidence.

Confidence in the Isle of Man,

Confidence in growth, and,

Confidence that we are tackling the sustainability of Government's finances.

In Tynwald in November I referred to Harold MacMillan's famous quote, where, when asked by a journalist what it was that Prime Ministers most feared, he simply said:

Events, dear boy, events.

On the surface, last year could be seen to be a year full of such events – particularly in respect of external issues – which are often outside our control but need strong management - as the repercussions internationally can have more impact than our domestic issues.

The focus on greater transparency in offshore tax havens was driven by the Paradise Papers, the Panorama programme and championed by certain political factions in the UK and further afield.

Linked to this agenda, we faced the very real danger of the Island being blacklisted as a non-cooperative jurisdiction for tax purposes by the EU - arising from concerns on substance.

We made a high-level commitment to address these concerns – mindful of the potential repercussions, if blacklisted, on our economy and reputation.

We cannot fail to deliver on this commitment, as blacklisting remains a very real threat.

And Brexit continued and continues to dominate our thinking.

As we know the UK's decision to leave the EU will have a significant impact on the Island.

Discussions continue with various UK Government departments across a number of policy areas, including, trade, customs, immigration, agriculture, fisheries, finance and the list could go on.

The outcome of these policy decisions will require a raft of legislative changes.

We must also be ready if the UK and EU do not reach a free trade agreement. If that happens, the UK will use the existing World Trade Organisation rules to negotiate with countries outside the EU.

And we will need to ensure we are compliant with the WTO obligations if we want to be a part of any agreement the UK makes.

The scale of work in relation to Brexit cannot be underestimated. But our engagement with the UK Government continues to be productive and we are doing everything possible to ensure that the Island's interest are known and understood.

I said last year that my engagement work for the Isle of Man Government will be a priority.

That is still the case.

In the last two months, we have hosted several high profile visits.

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council accepted our invitation to learn more about the Island. This body may play a key role in supporting our future international trading relationships after Brexit.

The then Justice Secretary David Lidington visited in December.

Not long after that, following a reshuffle, he accepted a prominent and influential position as Cabinet Minister in the UK.

In addition, David Gauke, with whom we have a good working relationship, is now Secretary of State for Justice with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies.

These are all people with whom we have built good relationships and who understand our position and the challenges that we face.

Relationship building is a long term process, often with little in the way of big announcements or definable achievements.

But they are crucial to our future.

So we are working hard internationally and on the domestic front developments are proceeding at pace.

We are confident that we are creating an environment which allows business to thrive and flourish, providing a sustainable future where our children will be proud to live and work.

Don't just take my word for it – although as a politician you can trust me! There is clear evidence of private sector confidence in the Island.

Hard evidence underpinned by action.

Groundworks are now well underway for the Premier Inn, a multi-million pound investment in central Douglas.

We have signed heads of terms on the Lord Street site and will be announcing more detail on this shortly.

There are other investment plans around the Island too; some in the planning stage, for example new boutique hotels in the south and others already happening - like the extension of Ramsey Park Hotel in the north and the major redevelopment of Mount Murray.

Alongside private investment, Government is committed to developing our strategic infrastructure.

We have announced a multi-million pound regeneration scheme for the promenade.

And let me be clear.

This is a long overdue scheme which we will ensure is delivered on time and on budget.

I don't want to get into arguments over parking spaces or pedestrian crossings.

I want to make sure it happens.

In my speech to Tynwald in October I said we had to make bold decisions which may sometimes be unpopular in the short term, but which are in our best interests for the long term.

I stand by that statement.

There are other reasons to be confident too.

The number of people in employment has increased again.

Tax revenues are up.

And we have a steady stream of new business in the pipeline.

These are all indicators that our aim of an Island of Enterprise and Opportunity is being realised.

But we can't afford to be complacent.

I said last year that my motto is qui non proficit deficit – he who does not advance goes backwards. This is still relevant.

When we look to the future, there are opportunities, but we must be ready to take advantage of them.

Government can help by making sure the environment is right to allow business to make the most of these opportunities.

When I became Chief Minister, my priority was to change the way we supported business.

You told us that the work permit system was cumbersome and not fit for purpose.

We have reformed the system to make it less of a barrier to employers and employees. We have further changes planned in this area too. We will also be bringing forward plans for reform of the planning system shortly.

Our Enterprise Development Scheme has already attracted huge interest and is bringing over real businesses of substance.

And I am pleased to see the reform that is happening within the Department for Enterprise.

The new agencies of Finance, Business, Visit and Digital will give more focus in the key areas of our economy and will, I hope, encourage a more agile approach to the way we support you.

But I will continue to hold the Department to account to ensure these are not just changes of letterhead, but fundamental reform in the way we do business.

The new Department will be well placed to support the Island in taking advantage of emerging opportunities on the horizon.

These opportunities include data.

Data is the new oil. The five most valuable companies in the world are digital [Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook].

This unstoppable growth is only likely to continue. We have moved quickly in the past to take advantage in new growth areas and we can do it again.

We have world class data centres, excellent connectivity and the ability to quickly change legislation to take advantage of new opportunities.

Although cyber security is a huge risk to all of us, it's also an opportunity.

We already have a cluster of excellence here in our thriving tech sector.

I believe we can harness that knowledge and expertise to become a centre of excellence in cyber security.

And, of course, the media industries.

This is a growth area which has early signs of real potential for us.

We have great links to the creative hubs in the north west of the UK and excellent communications links. We're starting to build a small but influential cluster of media companies here which continues to thrive and grow.

Our favourable tax and intellectual property regimes make us a real contender in this area.

Finally, the golden thread that runs through all of these areas is our unique environment.

We have a quality of life here that is second to none.

We are already working hard to promote and sell our Island, but it can only work through a partnership with the private sector.

I am asking you to think about how you are able to help us promote the Island as the fantastic place to live and work we all know it is.

There is more I could say, but we all have work to do.

So, to conclude.

Our strength is in our difference.

We can be nimble where others cannot. We have a unique constitutional position which offers advantages over other jurisdictions and a Government that is listening and responding to the needs of business.

Those of you who watched the Panorama programme may have seen an allegation that there is no opposition to Government here.

Well they have obviously never sat through question time in Tynwald or faced a parliamentary scrutiny committee.

They clearly confused a lack of an opposition party with effective scrutiny.

In fact, I believe we have never had greater scrutiny of the work of Government.

Our Programme for Government means we are held to account on delivery of what we set out to do.

And I am confident that our plans for the future will bear up to that scrutiny.

We must be determined, and we must continue to work together to address the challenges ahead.

And where change is needed we must be bold.

As Hannibal said when his generals told him it was impossible to cross the Alps:

Aut inveniam viam aut faciam – I shall either find a way or I shall make one.

Thank you

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