President's October Chamber Lunch Speech

Thursday 13 October 15:18

I’m delighted to be standing before another full house for the October Chamber lunch and we trust you will find the next couple of hours informative and interesting.

I’m delighted to be standing before another full house for the October Chamber lunch and we trust you will find the next couple of hours informative and interesting.

Autumn has now settled in nicely, reports of “clowning around” in St Brelade leads us to the fact that this is the witching month, and we gain an hour of time before the month has expired!

If you are a States member sitting in the audience there was no chance I was going to mention clowns and politicians in the same sentence so you can relax. I will, however, start with the MTFP Marathon States debate two weeks ago, which whilst no longer a headline act, will cause debate at Chamber for some time to come.

But what I’d love to do first is have a bit of interaction. So a show of hands if you please.

If you read the MTFP from cover to cover raise your hand? Don’t be shy.

(Audience interaction)

Well I can tell you the version adopted by the States was 174 pages without annexes, addendums and alterations.

Chamber, as I’m sure you know through all our press coverage, lobbied government hard about the now agreed Waste Charge. Whilst the need for a solid waste charge to reduce waste and encourage recycling was acknowledged, it was the liquid waste proposal that rang alarm bells as it would add an immediate indirect tax for some of our members of up to eighty thousand pounds per annum! Unfortunately, it’s a battle we lost, but not entirely. With assurances from the Minister for Infrastructure, Chamber will have a seat at the table for how these charges are to be structured and introduced. It’s a promise I hope the Minister lives up to and one which Chamber will be holding him to.

So the MTFP Additions were lodged in June and debated in September, meaning any politician outside the Council of Ministers, such as backbenchers, scrutiny and representative organisations such as Chamber, had the summer months to read and digest the hefty document. Then, if necessary, they had twelve weeks to seek expert advice to decipher its contents. The report, of course, like all States reports was user-friendly! Of course, if you needed to speak to someone in a relevant department for clarity, this wasn’t an issue as we all know the summer season is the perfect time to easily get hold of people!

It is perhaps pertinent that we remind ourselves at this point that combined passenger arrivals at the airport and harbour in the first eight months of this year are 3.8% down on 2015.  The largest decline in sea passenger arrivals is on inter-island services which are 33.4% down, but inter-island air is also 11.9% down over the course of the January to August period. As much as I would love, really love to stand here and tell you otherwise, this is not a visitor recovery and we have a long way to go. Placing hefty charges on the biggest water users, Tourism, may well be a tipping point for some. If you take into account that at this moment in time, Jersey is an unattractive seasonal place to work and earn sterling, almost every item that the industry imports into the island from bacon to balloons, cheese to cutlery, has risen significantly, you can see the fragility of the tourism industry, which will affect retail and services.

But whether you agreed with the Waste or Health proposals, spending cuts or potential capital projects there was one overriding theme which resonated with Chamber, the business community and islanders in general and that is, how the States of Jersey want to define ’tax’.  

The phrases ‘user-pays’, or ‘charge’ was repeated more than fifty times throughout the MTFP document and no matter how government want to dress them up, they are new tax proposals, which further undermines Jersey’s 20 means 20 tax promise and makes it increasingly difficult for the government to maintain the suggestion that Jersey is a low tax jurisdiction.

For the record, Chamber would encourage taxation that is low, simple and stable, supported by a government which is forward-thinking, collaborative and innovative.

There is a lot of content coming from our States offices, but there still appears to be a communication issue and a disconnect between our States members and the people of Jersey. We won’t deny that the information is often available if you know where to look, but is it in the right place and easily accessible? Chamber met with John Richardson (the States of Jersey Chief Executive) this week and had a highly informative meeting. I left impressed by the work being undertaken, the data supporting the decisions being made, and the passion of the staff tasked with delivery. Be bold and proud, and communicate the good and the bad. We all want the same and everyone in this room want an economically secure and future thinking strong government with clear goals.

I’ll finish on a positive note, I am pleased to see the announcement of the £1.75million Growth Fund, for Brexit, Digital and Data Protection initiatives. It would be interesting to see if the increased costs of imported goods had been correlated and mapped into internal data.

Every week your Chamber spends hundreds of hours working on your behalf. Communicate your concerns to us so we can relay as much as possible during our monthly and quarterly ministerial meetings. Chamber attends the fiscal policy panel meeting and feeds input about various industries. Tell us what you think and how you’re doing so we can pass the feel and mood on. This is you Chamber, your business, your island.

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