Sark Newspaper 08 March 2019

Another important factor is that we need a Cus- toms presence in order to stop uncontrolled Sark being used by criminals as a convenient stepping stone for the drugs and other illicit goods which from there make their way not only to Guernsey but to the Channel Islands and the UK beyond. Issuing a Sark pass- port to those who live here only - and not to the ghost residents who only pretend to for tax reasons - would be a useful tool for estab- lishing a level of control on the Island. Simulta- neously such an initiative would strengthen Sark’s status as an independent and self- governing jurisdiction immeasurably. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man issue their own pass- port, so why shouldn’t we? LAND REFORM IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL Equally as crucial as getting our economy going again is to implement land reform. Not the half- hearted, over-complicated and deeply flawed version which was imposed on us last year, but the land reform that we need. The vast majority of Sark’s housing stock consists of leaseholds, yet it remains prohibited under Sark law to raise a mortgage against leasehold properties. Conse- quently, Sark is the only place in the civilised world where young families are barred, by law, from aspiring to home ownership, condemned instead to a lifetime of renting. Unless, that is, they have the privilege of being cash buyers. Whether the proper- ty in question is a freehold or a lease- hold, people want to know they can buy a house with a mort- gage. Our autono- mous legislature could make this happen over- night, and so it should because land reform is fundamental to creating a more prosperous fu- ture for Sark. REPOPULATION A decade of economic decline has resulted in the dramatic depopulation of Sark, the number of residents has dropped from around 650 in 2008 to less than 390 today. The majority of those who left were younger residents of working age who, as a consequence of unemployment and hardship, had no choice but to leave this Island and build a life for themselves elsewhere. This means also that the average age of those remain- ing is terrifyingly high - the demographic time- bomb has well and truly exploded. It also means that life on Sark has become very expensive in- deed since the costs of providing goods, transport and utilities has to be shared between a much smaller number of people. Repopulation is imperative for the future viability of the Is- land. A shrinking economy coupled with a sadly di- minished population has, as stated earlier, also resulted in enormous tax hikes. The ever- increasing cost of running Sark has had to be shared amongst an ever-shrinking number of people. It is unsustainable. We need to attract the younger people back; as- pirational, energetic and resourceful people who can see a future for themselves and their families in Sark. It is up to us, and our government, to create an environment in which their entrepre- neurial spirit and the economic activity it brings are welcomed with open arms. It is their aspira- tions and their conviction that they can thrive and prosper here that will attract the younger people back. It is up to us to convince them. We can do that by opening the Island for economic growth, by implementing long overdue land re- form, by abolishing punitive taxes and by show- ing the world at large that, although this Island is anchored in the past and proud of its tradi- tions, we nevertheless look to the future and em- brace change when change is needed. A FUTURE FOR SARK Sark is beautiful, but we cannot live from that beauty alone. The days of the Island existing as an autonomous and self-governing Island will soon be over if it doesn’t pay its own way. No one owes us a living, least of all Guernsey, even though its taxpayers are already supporting us with hidden subsidies costing them some £2 mil- lion every year that goes by. To retain its prized independence, Sark must stand on its own feet. It is patently clear what it needs to do in order to find those feet and create a viable, happy and prosperous future for the Island and the people who live here. Let’s get on with it. 3