As we enter a new year, it is a good time to reflect on the progress that has been achieved over the past 12 months and to look ahead with confidence to 2018 and beyond.
2018 is the Year of Our Island – a national celebration of the qualities that make the Isle of Man such a special place to live and work.
Our reputation as an outstanding island for people and nature has been recognised through the award of UNESCO world biosphere status. We are the first entire nation to gain this prestigious accolade.
The Year of Our Island will showcase our fantastic natural environment, our unique arts, culture and heritage and our unrivalled community spirit.
A series of events and activities will encourage people to explore more, do more, share more and get involved more.
We want to create a feelgood factor that enhances our sense of national pride and highlights our quality of life to a worldwide audience.
We have a great story to tell and I will once again be spearheading efforts to promote the Island’s best interests on the international stage.
I recognise that many local people may feel detached from the work that we do in Brussels and in Westminster and with organisations such as the OECD, ECOFIN and MONEYVAL.
However, the decisions on Brexit, tax transparency and financial regulation have a fundamental impact on our lives in the Isle of Man.
It is crucial that we position the Island to take advantage of the opportunities that will result from changes to the world’s political and economic landscape.
We must show that we are an Island of substance – a responsible, well-regulated and forward-thinking member of the global community.
This is crucial if we are to continue to flourish, to attract new investment, to fund our public services and to create the well-paid jobs that put money in the pockets of our hard-working people.
2018 will be a year of delivery, as we honour the commitments set out in the Programme for Government.
By working together we will build on the achievements of the past 12 months and further improve people’s lives.
The 2017 Budget supported working families and announced the largest single increase in the personal income tax allowance.
This positive package of measures made 44,000 people better off and lifted 3,300 individuals out of the tax net.
While this is undoubtedly excellent news, we recognise that many people are still struggling with the cost of living.
Our response has been to write off a significant portion of the Manx Utilities debt, allowing charges to be frozen for the year ahead. This will give certainty to those who are concerned about rising prices.
We will continue to support people to improve their personal circumstances.
Tynwald has agreed the concept of a voluntary Manx Living Wage, while recent figures have shown that incomes are increasing for the first time in many years.
We have also relaxed our work permit restrictions to address the Island’s skills shortage and to help our thriving businesses to recruit key workers.
There are 500 more people in employment than at this time last year and many sectors of our economy are bullish about the future.
This year will see the start of construction on major new hotel developments, which is a tremendous show of confidence in the Isle of Man and its economy.
Of course, I am well aware of the challenges we must face in the time ahead.
Radical action will be required to ensure a sustainable future for our vital public services, in particular our health and social care provision.
Change will be painful, but we must grasp the nettle and make the difficult decisions in order to provide a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
As a proud Manxman it is an honour to serve you as the Chief Minister of our great nation.
Together let us celebrate the Year of Our Island and enjoy the beauty and vibrancy of this special place.
May I also take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2018.
Howard Quayle MHK, Chief Minister