THE relationship between business and the government in the island is special and these links have to be kept, according to Economic Development Minister John Shimmin.
He said: ‘Overall, there are challenges ahead but we are getting better at targeting certain audiences and given the surrounding economic climate, it is hard to believe how well we are doing as an island.’
He told a business breakfast audience: ‘However, the next step involves you.
‘We want to continue to build upon the strong relationships we have forged with local businesses to ensure that we cut down on bureaucracy whilst still addressing those issues that are important to the island as a whole.
‘I am constantly told by delegates from around the world that the business links and the relationship that business has with Government on the Isle of Man is special. Let’s keep it that way.’
Mr Shimmin was speaking at the Lloyds TSB Business Breakfast at The Claremont hotel, Douglas.
It marked this year’s fourth and final instalment of the increasingly popular quarterly series. Key representatives from Lloyds TSB as well as business leaders and delegates from across the island heard the minister discuss the way forward for economic development in the Isle of Man, the challenges facing the island and what the future may hold.
Island Director for Lloyds TSB, Peter Reid, introduced the Minister’s presentation with reference to the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King’s recent announcement that the UK economy may be ‘in for a period of persistently slow growth’.
Mr Reid emphasised that while this was certainly cause for concern in the UK, it is important to focus on where there may be upside or opportunities that we can create in the Isle of Man.
As well as a large influx of international business to the island as a result of decreased market confidence globally, Mr Reid also noted that, as one of the island’s largest employers, Lloyds TSB has also witnessed a significant increase in the number of highly skilled graduates applying for roles within the group domestically.
He added that this can only further the island’s growing reputation as a world leading international centre for business excellence.
Mr Shimmin opened his presentation by illustrating the diversity of the island’s current economic base followed by an outline of the challenges faced from the perspective of the Department of Economic Development, (DED). A government focus upon taxation and revenue, management of the economy, social policy, and environment and infrastructure followed an agenda for change which included stimulating economic growth, rebalancing government finances and protecting the vulnerable, all of which goals implicated the DED in its responsibility for driving economic growth.
The DED’s mission statement therefore focused predominantly upon the subjects of supporting local businesses to fly the flag overseas coupled with a sweeping away of the bureaucracy for small and medium sized businesses, forging new and sustainable international relationships and making access to government a priority.
Mr Shimmin said: ‘The main issue really is in making sure that yourselves, as business leaders, are able to make your voices heard by Government. We forget at our peril just how diverse and successful and accomplished we are in the island.’
An overview of the year to date offered some significant cause for optimism, particularly following the recent publication of a report from Ernst and Young which highlights the importance of the Isle of Man to the City of London and the UK. The report found that the island provides liquidity to the UK totaling $38.9 billion as of 2011, with a number of Isle of Man AIM listed companies also helping the UK to diversify its economy.
The report also highlighted the island as a dominant strategic partner in helping the UK foster growth, a view which is further compounded by a range of diplomatic initiatives conducted by DED in countries as diverse as Russia, Brazil, China and throughout the middle east which have produced some very positive results.
The launch of a new visual identity for the Department was also a major milestone in this year’s calendar, offering a new marketing approach, ‘Isle of Man. Where You Can’, to promote the Isle of Man as a place to do business and to attract further inward investment.
Mr Shimmin was quick to emphasise that one of the meanings of the new approach should, in real terms, mean ‘if you’ve got a problem, we’ll find a way around it.’ He went on to note that the Where You Can strategy had generated huge successes in developing business on the island.
Other recent successes touched upon were in Clean Tech, with a growing number of businesses established in the IoM such as Stroma NX, and local entrepreneurship, with over 30 new businesses set up via the Small Business Start Up Scheme since April 2012.
Mr Shimmin provided an overview of some of the more established yet exciting sectors within the island’s economy in conjunction with some of DED’s successes this year.
The manufacturing sector in particular has witnessed significant returns, with the UK’s leading trade body ADS, announcing an IoM regional office and a new apprenticeship scheme being developed in partnership with industry. Contributing nearly 10 per cent to the island’s GDP, eGaming continues its positive trajectory with the island now approaching 50 licence holders. Of special mention was the success of the island’s Aircraft Registry, which this year registered its 500th aircraft and was voted Best Aircraft Registry in the World by a global aviation lawyer survey.
Lloyds TSB’s Trevor Kirk took the opportunity to thank both the Minister and those in attendance for their enthusiastic response and the fantastic turn-out to the event. He then outlined some of the significant steps Lloyds TSB has taken in an effort to engage with the island’s business community, the Government and the wider public.