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This is an unofficial and unverified transcript

This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Q&A Economic Recovery Programme held on Monday 22 March 2021. In particular, for any legal guidance, you should seek advice from official sources.

You should not rely heavily upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any local Manx words (especially in Gaelic) are more likely to be inaccurate. Also, the automated speech recognition service often converts proper nouns incorrectly (especially the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”).

Before relying or quoting anything contained here, you should verify it against the underlying audio recorded here. Time Stamps and automatically-generated speaker names should help in the verification.

I obviously do not own the copyright in the underlying words (eg, whatever has been said by the speakers) and I am providing these transcripts because they are of self-evident public interest. I think that I do own the copyright in the adaption/conversion into written text. I’m happy to license these transcripts publicly under a free and very open Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

James Davis 8:33
Hello and Welcome to Studio One here in Douglas for this lunchtime briefing a chance to hear the latest developments really in the Isle of Man government’s 100 million pounds economic recovery programme and most importantly of all, for you to put your questions to to senior government ministers about the initiative. Just to recap of course this was launched last summer to bolster business, promote innovation, create training and employment opportunities and invest in the domestic economy as part of the allemands financial fight back from the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, we are here today with the Economic Development Minister Lawrence Skelly I say the Economic Development Minister because that is old habits die hard. Of course, he is the enterprise minister Lauren Skelly. And the Treasury minister Alfred cannon and a big welcome to both of you. Thank you, first of all, for your time. Here we are, of course on the on the cusp of spring 2021. And what impact has this had the last 12 months as part of the wider economic recovery? How have you local professionals Island residents felt the benefit I want to say thank you to all of you who accepted the invitation today, as well as those of you who have submitted questions via slide Oh, do keep them coming by all means they’re coming in thick and fast now, hashtag economic recovery. Well, here we are. Let us start off because since this fund was established, much work has been underway across us The program’s six workstreams. So before the questions, I would like to get an overview of where we are up to to do that our island, our economy, our people our future, I would like to welcome Mr. Callen to give us a brief

Alf Cannan 10:14
update, if you would. Well, thank you very much, James. And good afternoon to everybody who’s watching. I’m sure that you’re all agree this is not the situation we wanted to be in and the news on Friday that this lockdown circuit break was now extended till at least the sixth of April, obviously will have been not the news that some of you will have wanted, and indeed disconcerting in many respects. So what I wanted to do today was update you, of course, about the future but I know that many of you will be equally as concerned about the, the here and now and the support that is being provided and how that’s going to work for the for the immediate weeks in front of us. So I have got a short presentation to to run through with you you’ll forgive me for remaining seated, but in order to comply with COVID rules that is necessary for me to do so. So without further ado, I’m going to take you straight into the presentation. And then Lawrence and I of course will answer your questions immediately after that. So I just wanted to remind everybody, really or let everybody know about the three core objectives that are really driving both the economic recovery programme and indeed our actions at the moment. We’re really about ensuring that we stabilise the economy. We protect people and jobs. And we also take this opportunity to invest in our future. I think the first two really will be a primary concern to many of you at the moment, given that we’re in the Second Circuit break within three months. But of course, it is equally important that we do think about our future and take this opportunity to direct investment into areas where we think there will be future opportunities for the island.

Alf Cannan 12:04
I just wanted to start by giving you an insight into the scale of this at the moment in terms of what we are spending the salary support the mirror and the Coronavirus business support scheme are the main platform schemes. These are our sort of flagship schemes, if you like and salary support at the moment 63 million pounds. We estimate from the numbers that have registered via our their employers that we’re supporting approximately 11,000 people and their jobs through this scheme scheme at the at the moment. The mirror, as currently to the end of this month is expected to have paid out 11 million pounds supporting two and a half 1000 people who are not getting support through salary support. And to date the Coronavirus business support scheme has paid out 22 point 5 million pounds to some two and a half 1000 businesses. But underneath that there are other schemes that are underpinning the support packages that are currently on offer. Now the strategic capacity scheme, which is the scheme that is supporting our hotels and tourist accommodation providers has paid out 8.6 million pounds, and a further 600,000 pounds as to date gone through. In addition to that for specialist tourism businesses. The figure that you see in front of you for 7.3 million pounds. business premises is a new scheme which I’m going to announce to you today. And I’ll come on to that in a minute. We’ve put 1 million pounds into our fisheries to help support them in difficult days not just brought about by the circuit breakers but also by the impact of Brexit. And again on the penultimate line there we have other grants and funds available and and loan schemes that we are supporting through the banks. And finally, at the bottom of the slide there you will see that we did start off the pandemic by bringing in a fairly short lived National Insurance holiday. We also ran a VAT VAT substantial VAT deferral scheme last year. And obviously many of you in hospitality industry will be well recognised that the VAT rate at 5% will continue now, until September, a substantial support 114 point 6 million pounds of direct support has now gone into our businesses on on the island. And I just wanted to reflect on how that has panned out in terms of some of the indicators. You will see from this slide if you use unemployment as as an indicator of business productivity or C how, in March last year, we immediately drove up to a peak in this pandemic so far of about 1350 people and Bear in mind pre pandemic, we were operating our unemployment, declaring figures just just under 500, about 450 people, which were the lowest figures for some 20 years, but you can see how it’s Pete. And we have had a steady decline, probably reflective of business opening. But that period, I think, between July and December, I did see some studying off of unemployment. But clearly, we can see that it started to get to rise again. Now, since the end of December, of course, we almost went straight into the first lockdown period in January. And we can see see a similar impact again, on on on the vacancies. And without drilling down too much into the detail, you can see the impact through it’s almost the wave effect that’s happened with the pandemic in March last year, an immediate crash in the number of vacancies that are declared. But again, between that period July, to the end of December, we did actually climb back to to, to a fairly healthy level in terms of the numbers of vacancies that were being processed through to us. And you can see actually, we had a fairly sustained period of, of healthiness between July to the end of December. But you know, the current situation, the current lockdown is bringing us new challenges. I think we recognised in in January, that the support schemes that we were offering by themselves were probably now inadequate in terms of the amounts that were being paid up. So we have increased the mirror by 30 pounds a week. For individuals who are not receiving any salary support or without work. The salary support scheme has also been increased also by 30 pounds a week to 310 pounds a week. And we’ve paid out immediately with the business support scheme 1500 pounds to eligible businesses. And that’s roughly working at an equivalent 500 pounds per week. But there’s been a compound impact I think now. And we’re really starting to feel that in terms of business cash flow.

Alf Cannan 17:12
So so obviously the latest announcement on Friday has meant that we’ve now had to definitely extend our schemes. So the mirror for those who are not working has been extended till it until at least the 12th of April, the salary support scheme, which I know many of you will be accessing is open for April 2021. The same sectors as as is current as a currently being paid out. And it’s also likely that that will also be extended now into into May. Even if we do get businesses back in in April and the cbss I can tell you the current Coronavirus business support scheme if you have you received that, at the beginning of this circuit breaker you will automatically receive a one further 1000 pounds, which we will commence paying out this week. And now on to the important part. You know, we recognise that there is now cashflow issues in certain areas. I think a recent survey that we had through from the Chamber of Commerce, which took a snapshot of at businesses showed that it 63% had eight weeks cash or less and drill that down a bit further 40% had less than four weeks cash. So we are now going to bring forward an additional support grant, which will be based on your 12 months rate your annual rates bill. And we’re going to use the rates bill as a proxy for the cash support cash grant that you will receive. And, and and effectively the reasons for that is those that were taken that sort of rates bill proxy as an indicator of the size of the business and the scale of overheads. We’re going to get that published as quickly as possible. And we hope to get that money out within the next couple of couple of weeks. And we’ll obviously publish full details about how people need to apply to that. And just as a further enhancement, there will be a one off payment for 250 pounds for those hospitality businesses who were impacted following the government’s advice on the 27th and 28th of February, which is a small advance basically to recognise that there were overhead costs incurred. But I think what once you take this whole package together now I think you’re going to find it’s much more substantial support, particularly with the rights bill, which will be paid out as I said, as soon as we’ve got some scheme details fully published, and we’ve got the administration resolved on that. But within the next couple of weeks we’ll have that sorted and get the money paid. And finally I just want to emphasise that although we don’t have VAT deferral scheme at the moment, tax and customs will listen to businesses on a case by case basis, and will work with you to try and resolve any difficulties you have at the moment and find out an appropriate basis to help you moving forward in terms of paying any liabilities that your businesses have. And so just to try and consolidate that, to give you a bit of a flavour, again, of what what this means in terms of the cost to the public purse for March now, with all these schemes brought together, we estimate that will cost 21 million pounds of direct support into the, into the economy. And this, this, this, this chart here just gives you an indicator of how the support is employed, and particularly moved to the businesses, retail with premises, others with premises or hospitality with premises. And you will see now that I think business community is being well supported in terms of the access to the schemes. And of course, so we’re trying to make sure that we had got all our bases covered in terms of people’s individual circumstances. So I do understand that this is now a difficult period, there is a lot of uncertainty, absolutely get that we absolutely get that we need to do more. Now. Hence the move to bring in this rates, Bill Payment, which I hope will be a relief to many we’ve done some figures initially, we think the average rate bill particularly in the sort of retail, non essential retail and hospitality sector is about three and a half 1000 pounds. So that’s that’s an another three and a half 1000 pounds, depending on your business scale, obviously that will be coming your way in the very near future. And we are looking to scale up obviously highlighted the mirror and the salary support in terms of the increases that have been brought down or brought in those particular areas.

Alf Cannan 22:10
So moving on then to the economic recovery and the initiatives that we have going at the moment for the future. This slide just reconfirms the key headlines of that in terms of the themes that we’ve brought forward, and also how we see this planning out in terms of the phases that this is likely to take and adopt. But the key themes really are around are people objective there to create up to 1000 education and work placement opportunities. We’re doing that through initiatives, such as the restart scheme for long term unemployed, we’ve put 152 students through internship programmes. Last year, we’ve created additional University places and funding for UCM to enhance their courses and attract more people onto upskilling training courses that are available through UCM. The I they are Island theme it has an objective to invest in, invest in or speed up initiatives that will help the island and support construction activity. The town and village regeneration scheme has spent 116,000 so far, but there’s a million pounds available in that scheme to regenerate our towns. We’ve got a million pounds accessibility grant of 500,000 pounds has been put aside for digital marketing funding to allow businesses the opportunity to support businesses with the opportunity to increase their online presence or domestic economy. We have an events fund half a million pounds. That events fund has supported 14 projects so so far since this establishment last year and we estimate is put 54,000 people through activity based projects, business training workshops are in place we’ve got the love Isle of Man initiative coming through from DFE. And moving on to our future we’re looking to create 1000 new jobs in the next five years in new business sectors. We are accelerating the locate Island man activity accepting of course in the middle of a pandemic getting people to the to the Isle of Man is going to be difficult but we are in particular trying to make sure that we are reaching our potential from health and education perspective at the moment are actively seeking high high quality skills for those those sectors. The Manx Development Corporation obviously, you will have heard about I hope in the last week or so, that initiative will help stimulate new activity on our Brownfield and urban sites. and various other initiatives are now in the in the pipeline. And moving on to our economic strategy. We do recognise now as the Time to really take a close look at our future economic strategy determine really where our core investments need to be determine where, what sectors and which areas within those sectors have potential and opportunity for the future, I can say that we’ve gone through a competitive tender process to find our partner business, I expect that we will announce our strategic partner in the very, very near future and give you much greater insight as to how that will actually work in the next few months. And then sort of moving on towards the end of this short presentation. This slide gives a an idea of what I’ve really just just covered, we’ve invested 221,000 supporting 152 students over internships in the last one since since since we started, the programme makes restart has spent 52,000 pounds to date. And I think some 40 plus individuals are now in work, we have put 17 created additional 17 University places UCM has a 300,000 pound investment putting students into a new initiative called the Learning Company. We’ve looked to fund additional resources for the planning department to get planning, approvals through in a more efficient and quick quicker manner to support construction activity. We’ve accelerated some capital project activity, the Business Improvement scheme, which I talked about as a million pounds, and so on. As you can see throughout the the other initiatives, again, as I’ve discussed, have all received various elements of funding, including of course accelerating our high speed broadband plan by a further 12 months to which we’ve put 1.4 million pounds.

Alf Cannan 26:55
So I just want to thank you I’m sorry, if you feel I’ve rushed a bit towards the end. Now I’m conscious of death by PowerPoint and the fact that you will have a number of questions pertinent questions, I expect, but really, today, as well as summarising the future really was about telling you that we do recognise now that there are some critical issues developing and that we are enhancing, therefore, the immediate support packages. And I hope that many of you are going to find that a welcome announcement for today. So thank you very much change.

James Davis 27:29
Thank you very much, Treasury minister, Alfred cannon for that informative update. And some, as you will have known some new announcements and developments within that. And it’s a good opportunity to remind you, you can see on the screen there to submit your questions on slide o.com and use the event code, hashtag economic recovery, because I would imagine from that presentation, there’s going to be quite a few pointers to what to discuss over the next half an hour or so. Let me turn to the enterprise. Mr. Lawrence Kelly First, if I may, and it would help if I got the department’s name right this time, of course. I think you’ve said from the outset, have you not that, that you want to bring the industry with you you want to? That’s very important. Do you think you’ve embraced them so far along this journey?

Laurence Skelly 28:16
Well, I think you have to go back and consider what we when we restructured a department from economic development to department for enterprise, we created the executive agency model. And that was really about setting up really industry representation and true public private partnerships. And the agencies have and continue to play a very important role in terms of their role in for policy input, in this particular case, but also would recognise the Chamber of Commerce Institute of directors and there are other organisations that we’ve always had very good relationships with. And we continue to have were meeting for example, the chamber on a weekly basis to try and understand and they did very helpful snapshot. They’re just recently trying to understand the the mood, our business and industry. And what we have recognised i think is Australian ministers highlighted is that there are different impacts for different sectors on the island. We have two agencies, the digital and the finance, which are really the backbone of our economy, that adapted very, very quickly continue to perform, continue to pay taxes and allow us to do what we’re doing here in terms of the economic recovery, when we as a government dedicated 100 million pounds to economic recovery, to stimulate and keep the economy in terms of going forward that those industries were at the forefront of paying the taxes for that and continue to do so. So yes, input has been really important, very vital, and continues to do so.

James Davis 29:53
What have you made of the the feedback. The general feedback from the islands business community was it Has it taught you to do believe as a, as a department, you have done enough so far or have you got to adapt to the support you’ve, you’ve already provided continually adapting and

Laurence Skelly 30:10
economic recovery group that was set up very early doors, has also meets on a very regular basis. And we met just last Friday with regards to the announcements that you’ve got here today to finalise that. So So yes, we are trying to react, as well as being proactive as well at the same time. So yes, we are listening to businesses. And hopefully the announcements today will help alleviate some of those concerns that certain sectors, particularly around the domestic economy, have really struggled and continue to struggle.

James Davis 30:44
Do you think that goes enough for the perhaps that the sort of small medium sized enterprises,

Laurence Skelly 30:49
it’s the challenge the the inevitable challenge, really James that, you know, does one size fit all? And the answer to that question is no. And that’s why we have a whole raft of different schemes available. One of them, for example, that we just decided just last week on Friday, with regards to the the economic recovery group is finalising the business adaptation grand scheme. And now we’re broadening that to all sectors. Because one thing the Isle of Man, industry and the Isle of Man in general, has always demonstrated is its ability and resilience. But also it’s for, for innovation, strong innovation spirit on this island. So adaptation gives that opportunity to all sectors and as a grant available there. Now,

James Davis 31:36
how far can that spirit take you without the financial support?

Laurence Skelly 31:39
Well, and that’s what the grant is there is the financial support, we know that there is always interest in innovations that are happening in all sectors on this island. And subsequently, that that’s just one of several schemes that are available.

James Davis 31:53
And do you I’m asking you to have a crystal ball here. But do you have because obviously, this is a period in our lives, which has brought unprecedented challenges and, and required an unprecedented response, how we tackle and ultimately recover from this pandemic. So it’s going to shape our future. you’ve alluded to that there. So so if we fast forward, do you have a picture in your head of what the long term future can look like for the Isle of Man?

Laurence Skelly 32:19
Not at this time, because I don’t think anyone can have a long term vision. And that is the other point of the economic recovery group. They’ve also our shortly about to announce the launch of the economic strategy for the future. So when we look at that the sector’s we look at the taxation strategy, the fiscal position of the island, etc, that is a review that’s going to actually just about to be commissioned. And that’s part of the future that we do need to look at. Right now. We’re dealing with the right here and now where we need to stabilise the economy, protect jobs, and really just trying to keep the economy functioning at this particular stage. So but that will come in time with the economic strategy review.

James Davis 33:01
Thank you turn to alpha cannon, the Treasury minister. Obviously, the the the questions are coming in thick and fast. So we’ll turn to those in a moment. But But in terms of what what your colleagues just alluded to, here, protecting jobs, stabilising the diverse economy, investing in our future, how do you begin to find the right balance of the needs to do that for our for our health service, our society, our economy, etc, etc. I mean, it’s a thankless task.

Alf Cannan 33:27
Well, I think that that’s why, as Lawrence has just alluded to, we will have this economic strategy underway, we will that will enable a full contribution to be drawn from many different partners and businesses and individuals across society are on the island to try and get the very best information possible for that. We can also work together as we have done throughout this pandemic, and trying to do throughout this pandemic, particularly when we put together the economic recovery group in terms of the key themes that we brought forward. We did that in partnership very much with a number of businesses and a number of individuals on on the island. And we can clearly also see from the programme for government that there are going to be critical areas now of investment, not least in in the green and digital sectors and also, from our own plans as a government. Now the upskilling, if you like or the change to the way healthcare, for example, is operating on the islands, there’s lots of opportunities coming. I mean, I don’t want to sort of get into the intern to a position of saying that, you know, we haven’t got some great opportunities in in front of us, we tried to consolidate those in terms of our planning and where we need to direct investment both for the immediacy now in terms of the challenge of ensuring we’re not going to have long term scarring in the economy in terms of the immediate immediate need to make sure that there are is a flow of business within the domestic economy, in terms of trying to keep businesses stable now to get them across the line if you like to a point where The vaccine roll out, together with the lowering of the temperature in terms of the numbers of cases, for example, on the island, you know, enables these businesses to get back and to get operates, we’ve got to deal with all those challenges. But I think also take on board, what was really being fed back to us in terms of the opportunities that are also going to be needed for for the future and the critical investment areas that we need them. We don’t have all the answers yet, we still need to work very closely with with businesses, we need to work very closely with our partners, but Chamber of Commerce and individual sector feedback that will come to ensure that we’re getting the right balance,

James Davis 35:37
or whatever the sort of post COVID-19 recovery government wishes to build. Everyone will have a different view on it, and the questions that are coming in rather fast now as well. So let’s take this first one from Chris, and if I may, who says one of the key themes of recovery is that it should be green and digital. But so far, it doesn’t seem either these two things are very visible in the existing recovery schemes. National Broadband aside, I think that’s, that’s one you’ll probably want to take minister.

Laurence Skelly 36:07
Yeah. Well, then, first and foremost, I would say that the National Broadband Plan is really important, very vital, because if we want the economy to function, you need that into interconnectivity. And we did make that commitment prior to two COVID. And what we have done there is committed 10 million pounds to that initially, but now we’ve had a seen an opportunity here to accelerate that programme spent another 1.4 million, so that that’s a key part of IT infrastructure. And I think Kristen does read it raise a really good point. And that green and digital is about building on the strengths of the Isle of Man, as well as being a safe haven that we’ve already highlighted. So that will come out much more stronger. I suggest, in the in the economic strategy review, in terms of some of the digital activities that we do have going on. We do have eSports, for example, we have blockchain activity already happening. And of course, another area, which no Christian is very familiar with, is the internet of things that we do see big opportunities in all those areas, and aligning that I think with with green policies, as we’re just coming to the final stages of the climate change bill, which is putting in statute, our commitment as an administration and a government for the future is about aligning the economy. And we as a department of do look at all looking at areas about how do we adapt some of our schemes to say, What is your carbon emissions footprint that you would want to portray as part of the criteria in evaluating businesses for grants and schemes? So there will be more opportunities going forward? At the moment, it may not seem highly visible, but we do know there is activity. And we know, there could be a lot more coming down the line.

James Davis 37:54
Have we diversified quickly enough, do you think?

Laurence Skelly 37:57
Well, diversification is, is probably the biggest one of the biggest trends of our economy has been for the last decade plus in essence, and has stood us in really good stead when we’ve gone through massive shocks. You know, you go back, and let’s not forget, you know, we went through obviously the oh eight crisis, we went through the VAT issue now, of course, the COVID issue. So ultimately, the either ban is deals, has dealt with a lot shopped on our diversification continues to grow, you know, and one of those areas that’s come out of this economic recovery is also the acceleration of the medicinal cannabis opportunity. So we’ve dedicated over half a million pounds to that particular cause, and our opportunity to try and bring that, that opportunity to our shores.

James Davis 38:41
Let’s go to Jeff, because hospitality is obviously a key area here. He’s asking, could you explain why the hotel sector is getting the support needed required for its survival, but he says the rest of hospitality has to go to great depths to to fight for much needed extra assistance that this is this difficult time? Would you? Would you concur with that? Yeah,

Laurence Skelly 39:01
I know, I absolutely understand the sentiment behind that. And the challenge. I think particularly the hospitality sector has endured. But I think it’s worth recognising again, go back to last year where we were, and I think of the hotel sector that really struggle 70% of our hotel bed spaces on the promenade. So the disruption that they have there. You remember flybys remember when they went under, and then we had COVID, they have struggled ever since that particular time. And we determined a scheme is called strategic capacity scheme, because we wanted to preserve that particular sector, which is an important economic sector for the island for the future when we come out of it. And we’re still living through that at the moment. So so they do have a strategic capacity scheme that allows them support but it’s based on their business being down. They’ve had a couple of silver linings with regards to staycations and also air bridges, but that’s only affected a small percent. Have that particular overall economy and that business 300,000 visitors normally visit our shores here. And what we want to do is sorry, is to build upon that when we can come out of it. So the hospitality sector, though, I would say, has enjoyed, I think, almost seven months of performing almost without any any restriction at all. So we have tried to structure support. And again, what you’ve heard today is we’ve tried to listen to, to that hospitality sector. And those two schemes that have come out of today, particularly the rates is massive, it’s significant, on average is three and a half 1000 pounds, in terms of a rate grant there, on top of the 1000 pounds, the corona bruises support scheme that is being launched today. And the 250 pounds for those who did actually close their businesses on that on that weekend night.

James Davis 40:52
Let me move to the Treasury minister now because there’s a double header here really from the local companies Facebook group. The question is, is minister, if a business pays its rates additional, in addition to the rent directly to the landlord, and their landlord pays the rates? Can that retail or hospitality business apply for the domestic business payment for the rates paid to the landlord?

Alf Cannan 41:16
Yes, I mean, they’ll have to work with their landlord just just to evidence that their payment, but I will, we’ll get all the details of this published imminently. James as soon as soon as we can. So some of these questions will be answered, we’re very conscious that some businesses will pay a rent that will include the rates, so we will just need to work with them and their landlords to get that proportion allocated, and then they will be able to claim

James Davis 41:44
and in terms of if you have two or three premises for a business, the question asked, Can you apply for a business support grant for all those premises you pay rates for? I’m sure this has been touched upon before?

Alf Cannan 41:56
Well, again, again, James, I mean, in theory, that should be the case. But again, we’ll publish all the details, I’m always a bit loath to go straight into these multiple payment questions before we’re absolutely clear and crystal clear in terms of the details of the scheme. But the the theory behind it is that they’re at their trading, trading premises business premises that are operating in the defined sectors, then there will should be no reason why they can’t claim for each particular premises

James Davis 42:26
and more details to follow later this afternoon. And the days ahead resume of that,

Alf Cannan 42:29
absolutely, we’ll get these details out as quickly as we can. And as I said, I mean, realising the importance of getting cash to businesses, which has always been our primary driver. And I’m very much intend that this will be paying out in the next couple of weeks, probably by the certainly by the end of not this week. But by the end of next week, I hope we’ll be in a position to start paying out

James Davis 42:51
the domestic economy, Michael says is shouldering the cost of the crisis. Is that fair?

Alf Cannan 42:57
Yeah, I think it is, I think it is fair to say, I mean, there’s absolutely no, you can’t escape the reality of the situation that when you shut down and the way that we that we have shut down, you know, a lot of these businesses, which which rely on footfall are just simply not, you know, not not going to function. I mean, that’s why we’ve reacted in the way we did. And, interestingly enough, it’s, it’s almost a year to the day since I first went out there on the 23rd of March to tell everybody about the schemes that we were going to deliver the salary support the mirror, the business support scheme, and the raft of other measures. And right, when I when we were going through that the frantic four days of planning, you know, right at the heart of our thought process was domestic economy and cash flow. And that’s why we, you know, for example, today, I’m telling you that that this week, we will pay without application another 1000 pounds out to those businesses on the beyond the business support scheme, we’ve already applied, you know, for the for the earlier, tranche, this this month, so we’re very conscious of the fact now that, you know, the situation has been compounded, particularly in the domestic economy, and that’s why we’re going to now move with the, with the rates and, and I’m hoping that that will be a quite significant boost to it to a lot of businesses and, and I’d like everybody else. So talk about this uncertainty, and this is one of the big problems, I think, from discussions I’ve had with individuals and with corporate groups, and the uncertainty is the killer here for many and we’re also having to deal with some uncertainty ourselves and we can see as much, you know, into the future to a large degree as as everybody else and and we’re having to manage, through that situation, stabilise the economy’s reset, protect jobs, we’re doing what we need to do on that basis. And of course, and I look look to find those areas for critical investment to show that we gotta get a pathway out of this, that that is sustainable as well

James Davis 44:52
in terms of a pathway and a timescale leads us nicely onto Don’s question, actually, I’ll put this to you Mr Skelly. If May, if this can be answered how certainly is the Council of Ministers on a scale of one to 10, the restrictions will start to lift on April the second, the economy will indeed fully reopen from April the 12th. And indeed, is there a live strategy for mitigation now as opposed to elimination? I would imagine the answer to those and but but for delta Don’s purposes, if you would,

Laurence Skelly 45:22
you know, very, very good question. Really, what we decided to do there is to put dates out there so as to, shall we say, manage what we would think is expectation. And clearly that that’s based on a number of different factors. One of the key elements of the exit framework is to ensure that we maintain the vaccine programme, and every week that goes by a good number of 1000s of our vulnerable people currently, priority one people are being vaccinated, so we are moving into a safer area. And so there is less risk to those people, because let’s go back to the beginning of why what we did in terms of the lockdown last year, protection of life, and that’s what it was all about, and where we are still in that particular space. But Don makes a really good point there with regards to the two different dates, the sixth of April was based on the construction and the outdoor workers being able to go back, and it’s always been stated by our medical professionals that there is less risk with outdoors. So can we get to that particular point at that time? Yes, we fully intend to, but it is dependent on obviously a number of different factors. The 12th was where we would like obviously, the rest of the economy to be able to open and but we’ll be dependent on those on those on that criteria. The issue with regards to going from elimination to mitigation is a really poignant question, because, again, back to the exit framework, talks about preparation, transition, and release. And are we in the transition phase? And the question there is, is very, very open, I would suggest. And as for I would suggest, we’re very close to that particular point of mitigation.

James Davis 47:03
Michael, if I may switch back and there was a question come up from a well known proprietor Mitch as well, in a moment I want to get to but but Michael is basically wanting some assurance, aren’t we all at this stage that the domestic economy, he says needs forward? Notice that salary support will be maintained till September? I mean, how, how much into the short term future? Can you give assurances? Well, I

Alf Cannan 47:25
think I’ve indicated today that it’s likely to extend now until May, the end of May. Certainly, we’ve taken that approach. Before that we will need some form of Launchpad to help businesses get back up to up to their trading levels. Certainly, it’s unreasonable just to expect to, to open up on a certain date and expect businesses to resume trading at existing levels. So that will be maintained as far into the future as we see it to be reasonable. I think that I think paying out salary support and which we’ve which we’ve done so on a basis that a company’s turnover has been reduced right out until the end of August at this stage is probably a request that we’re not going to to to undertake. I think the additional support we’ve brought forward today in terms of the rates will make a substantial difference to up to businesses. But certainly, you know, I think as Lawrence indicated before, this is not a situation for any of us where where we’re when we’re not monitoring it almost on a weekly basis. And, you know, throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen certain events happen almost stood out from expecting a certain direction within a couple of days to see something else has has occurred. So I do recognise that business needs some certainty. And we’ve set out on the platform for the scheme’s at the moment, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation very carefully.

James Davis 48:53
When the in your presentation just now when that the one of the announcements was the the 250 pounds support for that Saturday night in question. And it was February the 27th. Is that a one size fits all? Because obviously, there’ll be some organisations who had planned events and we’re hosting activity that night that that was a very welcome boost. There’ll be others whose outlay ran into 1000s of pounds.

Alf Cannan 49:20
Yeah, it’s been a very difficult one for us to try and get to grips with this one. James, as you know, in terms of defining who hasn’t, who hasn’t lost money and how you should pay out and does it on a per cover basis? And what about wet establishment sick don’t have food and all the rest of it? Look, I think what we’ve what we’ve determined is that that will just be an additional top up now based on what people can can claim now for this month, so they’ll get the salary support. They get the 1000 pounds Coronavirus business skied, they’ll get the payment for their rates bill and on top of that, they will get a small amount for for the any inconvenience that they’ve suffered on that on particular weekend, it’s been very difficult for us to come up with a perfect scheme. But I think when you take that overall package now there’s 1000s of pounds, potentially of support coming straight into these businesses now, which we hope will go some way to compensating for that, for that unfortunate period of time.

James Davis 50:19
I don’t know if you’re half glass full or half glass empty minister. But the question that’s this just appeared on my screen was that rather than focus on on this being open for the last seven months, we’ve been close to five out of 12? I mean, what’s your reaction to that? And do you believe people expect too much of government? Or is government there to deliver for all

Laurence Skelly 50:44
legitimate question? Take Take the point, I think the real question prior to that was about comparison with regards to the hotel industry. And the borders issue, in essence, so. So yes, no, I fully accept the challenge. Absolutely. That is there. But But also, I would say that I know, there’s been quite a lot of businesses that have have adapted do have in terms of their takeaway foods, and so forth, that have been very, very successful. And, you know, if that can continue, you’ve got sort of a captive market in many ways, here. But what we’ve tried to do, as Treasury ministers already highlighted, again, we’ve tried to listen here, and today, the the 7.3 million pounds being dedicated towards the domestic economy without just being focused just on restaurants, you know, we’ve got to think about the retail industry as well, the non essential retail industry that’s really been impacted very, very heavily to so. So that’s what we’ve tried to do is to is, again, listen to, to industry, through the agencies through the chamber, and, and allow us to react to that. But subsequently, we are also looking at further ahead as to the, for example, the domestic events fund that we launched last year, quite late, had limited success, but now we put it all the way through to September. So there’s opportunities. And I know, there are many plans in place for a whole host of different events. If we go back and remember the Supermax bank holiday, you know, what a great opportunity that was good weather, people out enjoying ourselves in the restaurants, shops, etc. And we’d like more of that to happen, right the way through the summer, because we will live through a summer of a lot, lot more unknowns. And we shouldn’t forget at the moment where we are with regards to this potential third wave that’s been talked about in Europe and globally now with regards to the variants that seem to be popping up all the time. So it is a time of continued uncertainty.

James Davis 52:44
Some businesses, of course, have no capital available to create new revenue streams. So So what do you say to those organisations and those businesses who are in that sort of betwixt in between, if you like?

Laurence Skelly 52:57
Yeah, and again, it goes back to the range of measures, you know, because I recognise that, you know, if your salary support mirror business support, that those are three main schemes here, we’ve got adaptation grants, we’ve also got two other schemes that are available through the banks that we as governments have actually guaranteed, and one of them is a working capital loan scheme. So there is an opportunity there to actually avail yourselves of a particular working capital loan scheme that is backed and guaranteed by government. How long?

James Davis 53:31
Another question just come in, how long is this economic recovery group going to be in, in situ as it were,

Alf Cannan 53:38
as long as it takes? James, I mean, that Oh, certainly to to the end of this, this government, we will be, we will be operating. And as I said, we are meeting regularly, we are getting regular updates, we’ve got dashboards put together, to alert us to any changing circumstances and clearly a critical part of that is also listening to eye to business and industry. So we need to have that engagement and that that’s absolutely critical. But we are, you know, we will be will be running until we need or feel that there is some normality, returning to, to the to the situation. But honestly, I mean, one of the perhaps one of one of the the the opportunities that’s arisen as a result of the pandemic has been closer cooperation between certain parts of government, I think, particularly in this case between department for enterprise and an AI Treasury and we’ve had a much quicker access to funds much quicker ability to make to make decisions about that sort of level of spending and support this needed and, and I hope for the for the future that can be shaped and and taken forward in it in an appropriate way for the benefit of of the community.

James Davis 54:52
Let me turn to Peter because he’s got a good point he so he says with the two week isolation, away from home, obviously in place, how do you see the strategy going forward for businesses like his own, which mostly deals with clients in the UK is obviously it’s not viable to travel at the moment?

Alf Cannan 55:11
I mean, absolutely. So, of course it is. And, you know, I think, though interesting, I saw a couple of questions on there about about the wet trade and, you know, being being closed and things and look, you know, that there are businesses who are going to be impacted in in in different ways. I mean, it’s, it’s almost impossible for us to cater for every eventuality. And now, I think Lawrence and I and many others are very, very aware of the fact that some businesses need to start travelling, need to start moving, and I for to create their economic activity and to build on that and develop customers on the client basis. And that’s all going to be very much dependent on vaccines, it’s going to be dependent on borders, and that we have to remember in this pandemic is health absolutely as protection of life is is an overriding concern. But then we know the associated impacts in terms of social impacts, and particularly an economic impacts. And we want to see these borders are open and relaxed, as soon as possible. But we’ve got to get that done and tat tangent with the, with the vaccine rollout, which must happen as quickly as possible.

James Davis 56:21
Just to recap, the questions that are coming in answers to those are going to be available on the website is I think you’ve just seen as well, so we’re so we’re please do to revert back there shortly for for the answers. Michael, I can. Thank you, Michael, for your question to either of you. Really? What do you think the long term effects are going to be? We’ve almost touched on that, I

Alf Cannan 56:44
think, well, we I mean, you know, we and the budget, you know, we did make an attempt. And it was an attempt at trying to forecast how quickly we could try and resume and get to some level of normality. And we thought we might get to sort of pre back back to pre pandemic levels in 2020 to 2023. So there’s definitely in terms of, you know, in terms of government, governments, governments income levels. So there is going to be an impact. I mean, we I think, based on that this is probably going to go on for anything 18 months to an hour to two years if in the best case scenario, but that clearly. Was it Michael, who asked that question? Well, we’ll also recognise that that was we push forward with optimism on my ad with vaccine rollouts with potential light at the end of the tunnel with opportunities, I hope, you know, for some border relaxation and some relaxation around the requirements for people to isolate when when they come to the, to the island that that’s also changed with with uncertainty uncertainty about new variants of COVID. And, you know, the effectiveness obviously, of vaccines, which seems to be the evidence is very positive at the moment, but they’re taking that into consideration. We look on the optimistic side 18 months to two years, but also at the other point that I should should raise and aware I do think we ought to be optimistic, is that I think there will be opportunities for for for the island in the future. And that’s really where we’ve got to know to try and capitalise that’s why we’re going to do the economic strategy. And I hope that’s going to lead to a very, very clear direction, both for business and industry, but also for government in terms of moving forward.

James Davis 58:24
Let me ask you, then what what do you believe gives the Isle of Man a competitive advantage if if this government’s challenges to provide a platform for economic recovery and of course, transitional support as the economy moves towards the new normal, whatever that is, what gives the Isle of Man a competitive advantage?

Alf Cannan 58:43
I think our competitive advantage will definitely be recognised in terms of the safety of the island, I think we’ve got an ability to react quickly, I think we’ve got a good understanding of how we need to act to protect our people. And I think we do have a reasonable understanding from from speaking to business event and an industry of where we need to invest for for the future, that it’s a competitive world world we’re living in, we’re living in there’s going to be different actions now across our neighbours, particularly in the in the West in terms of recovering some of this huge substantial debt that has been incurred now and from from supporting their, their economies, I think the island will potentially offer very good good good advantages. There’s areas that we’re already looking to develop from from business sector, activity, new new builds that we think we can bring through both in the digital economy but also as as an island that’s offering broadly broad based quality products in terms of pensions and other schemes that that we can develop. So there will be opportunities James and we need to maximise those capitalise those recognise those and that’s what we’re going to draw out in the next The next six months or so,

James Davis 1:00:02
I want to and it’s disappeared from my screen. But I’m hoping it will come back in a moment because we’ve had a few questions in for Matt, I mentioned a proprietor at the start of, of this call Mitch, who runs a restaurant and he he’s basically concerned Lauren Skelly that the support that is there for the hospitality sector, ie hotels, tourism, etc. is simply not there for the the the restaurants and he believes that they’re losing money hand over fist, I can’t see his question in front of me as we speak. But what what do you say to people like him who, in his words are really struggling? Well,

Laurence Skelly 1:00:40
I would suggest that you try and contact us really, and give us some more detail and background. Because we are here to listen, we are here to react. And what we do have, of course, is the the business agency which represents that section of the domestic economy. And what we try and do is try and get gather as much evidence and information as possible. I saw a message come up there, I think same fella, Sony emailed me Kazan. mlcs, I didn’t see that email. But we have such a volume that do come through our inbox. It’s easy that it got missed. But so I would strongly recommend that they make contact and share their individual experience, because we need to understand what we tried to do just reiterated again is today, you know, there’s a measures here that are over 20 million pounds with a measure which is predominantly targeted towards the domestic economy, which does include the hospitality sector. So we and that is a direct result of us trying to react and listen to industry

James Davis 1:01:44
300,000 pounds more than 300,000 pounds. He says he’s lost over five months with with little help. But that’s his sort of main main gripe, I mean, that’s a lot of money.

Laurence Skelly 1:01:56
That is a lot of money. And I don’t know where where those costs are. And, you know, it sounds like he’s in the category of VAT qualification. So it will probably, hopefully benefit from from that as well, that that reduction. But I again, it without going into specific details of individual businesses, it would be very, very difficult. But I would strongly recommend the individual reaches out to us and we can have a discussion and understand a little bit more as to what that impact is.

James Davis 1:02:27
Let’s turn to Karen. She wants to know what we’re going to just take a few more for we may I think we’ve got to most of them are Karen says unemployment at 822. What other initiatives are going to be introduced to get this number down? And what results are coming from the restart scheme and the locate talent portal to help skill shortage because Karen basically says redundancies and businesses are closing and the highest stage effective is 20 to 29, of course locate very much part of your of your department. Indeed, yes, yes. I

Laurence Skelly 1:02:57
mean, that’s, you know, our people were extreme of the economic recovery group. And there’s been significant inroads made, they’re working very much with the University of man, I think we created something like 1600 different training and educational opportunities through that alone, as well as the Learning Company in that particular space. So the max restart scheme, which which is another scheme is just getting up and running the 20 to 29 year olds, there, we have had the the internship programme, which we’ve just recently expanded a lot further, we’re looking at a mag graduate scheme, both in the public sector and trying to roll it out into the private sector more widely. So. So there are a lot of other schemes there that are not featured in the presentation here today, which I think quite frankly, would be worthy of a presentation of its own in its own right, our people because we know we got incredible resource. We know people are going to need retraining, upscaling and change, you know, continue continually changing their career opportunities. So we got a big workstream just in that particular space.

James Davis 1:04:08
Is there sufficient evidence to suggest that enough employees have been offered extra opportunities for rescaling trading, developing core opportunities, employment and investment programmes? I mean, you’ve alluded to some there but but are there enough in place to reach out to enough people in need and to improve their digital capabilities, retraining, etc?

Laurence Skelly 1:04:30
Well, it’s a whole host of those things. So the take the red restart scheme, which is really for somebody who’s been out of employment, I believe, I think it is for three, three months, government is actually going to pay that salary, a living wage salary of 70% for an entire year. So that is an opportunity. And again, I go back to the interns we’ve had quite a lot of returning Maxis or staying here, Max these who have not gone back to university or stadium and being picked up in these internships and we know they’ve been turning they’ve been turned into a Continuous employment. So there are opportunities there that that have been available.

James Davis 1:05:05
Let me get good question from Peter here. Has the minister consider the impact of rising house prices that have excelled at prices that have accelerated during COVID? On the affordability of local first time buyers? Should we consider a channel Island policy? Peter is suggesting type policy of two categories of housing.

Alf Cannan 1:05:22
Yeah, I mean, you know, the the reaction of the housing market to this crisis has probably caught us some somewhat unawares, if you like, we’re going to have to do something now, fairly quickly to try and stabilise the situation, particularly for first time. Buyers, it seems to me the housing market is moving at a real pace. You know, I’ve had numbers of emails now from correspondence constituents, concerned about the fact of their opportunities to get onto the housing ladder. So, you know, what I would say, James, is that this is now under very active consideration within government, we need to do something, and I hope within the next couple of months, we will have some idea of what exactly we need to do, as a government to help, you know, support that and if necessary, we do need to act, if possible before before the before the end of this administration and the commencement of an of the next administration, because the situation is quite urgent, I think in this in this respect.

James Davis 1:06:26
JOHN, I just wanted to come to you to you minister, Skelly? JOHN, again, this isn’t I’m going to slightly rephrase this, if I may, because this isn’t something that’s just new to the Isle of Man, and isn’t certainly not isolated to The Alamo, but he’s talking about dualis Town Centre, how so many shops are shutting up and down the main street? And what can government do to regenerate a once busy Town Centre, in part due to COVID? Thanks for your question, john. Of course, COVID is only part of it, isn’t it?

Laurence Skelly 1:06:51
Yes, it is. Of course, we’ve had some of those big high profile UK outlets close. But what I do know is and we’ve had quite a lot of feedback, actually, I think from independent retailers that have performed very well, they’ve adapted and the great Manx public have actually supported them. And we’ve had quite a lot of it’s all anecdotal, I will say, quite a lot of positives and successful stories in that respect. But I think you also need to take into consideration prior to COVID, there has been a move to more mobile working, and it gets back to the whole digital agenda, in many ways. And we will see more of that even post there COVID lot of companies are allowing the opportunity for people to mobile work. But what does that do? It might perhaps not help Douglas, but it could help a lot of the other towns and villages around the island, whereas they might use their shops, their coffee shops, their restaurants, etc, more so. So it’s sort of swings and roundabouts in respect to that.

James Davis 1:07:56
Michael is saying the supports really appreciated but the quantum doesn’t cover the gap. Neither he says, is the is the support spread equally. equitably? I should say we understand government hasn’t a bottomless pot of cash. Again, there’s only so much that can be done, I suppose. But what would you say? I mean, as it looks now, as it stands now, you’re all striving and aiming to achieve long term economic resilience? Do you think that is what is being delivered?

Alf Cannan 1:08:26
Yeah, I mean, just just to try and answer that question. I mean, look, I don’t deny that some of this support will will work better for some businesses, and then it will be for others. But you know, we were faced with a pretty stark choice, James, we either make schemes complicated and complex and based on, you know, businesses producing spreadsheets and details and information on turnover, etc. Or, you know, we take very much sort of honesty at face value, if you like, their positions, predominantly of these businesses, and we get cash to them as quickly as we as as we can, you know, to help to help support them. And that’s what we’ve chosen to do. And I think Michaels point is broadly, you know, correct, arguably, possibly a little bit, but broadly, correct, different business circumstances. But we, you know, our choice our decision has been and you know, we listened to business a lot when people needed cash, and that’s why we’ve designed the schemes that were that we have, there have been quite a blunt instrument absolutely accept that. I think for the first time now the rates payment is much more as a much better proxy for the scale and size of the business. And I’m really do hope that that payment, which as I said, we’ll get out as quickly as possible will now be you know, a substantial help to addressing some of the you know, the overhead costs that are challenging business overhead cost, the cash flow that challenging business at this particular time.

James Davis 1:09:57
Let us ask our final questions. A final question from from Steven, whose wife works in manufacturing. She’s been sent home on reduced pay, but her employer has told them, they’re not entitled to claim for the salary support scheme, because they are manufacturing, there are bound to be some who fall in between the cracks.

Alf Cannan 1:10:20
So we are working with the manufacturing industry. We are working with those businesses on on an individual basis. They’ve got some substantial challenges there. So we are having to work with them on a on a on a separate basis. I don’t want to go into I’m obviously and individual set sets of circumstances. So perhaps if Steven wants to wants to wants to let me know a bit more specifics about that probably be in a better position to to answer.

James Davis 1:10:50
Yeah. Well, thank you very much. The questions have been coming in thick and fast. And I appreciate that. And we are going to work to get the answers published on the government website as well. So thank you for that. We are out of time. I’m sure we could have talked for another half an hour about a lot of these points. This has been a lunchtime business briefing, Treasury minister Alfred Cameron, and Minister for enterprise Lawrence Skelly. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you, one and all for your questions. And for your your contributions, which which on the whole seem to suggest that as a nation, we’ve been pretty responsive, but obviously there are there are bound to be certain individual cases where we’re have to be looked at I know both ministers here today have said their departments will welcome your inquiries. We’re navigating unprecedented disruption we appreciate your time and perhaps we can come back and and talk more about this in a couple of months time. I know indeed. You’ve been holding presentations as well at the Manx museum over the last few months when when regulations allow. Thank you both of you again, last but not least, thank you for watching, and until next time, goodbye.

Unknown Speaker 1:11:57
Thank you.

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.