President's Speech March 2017 Lunch

Thursday 9 March 11:24

It’s certainly a busy time for Chamber. I had hoped by now I would be fading away gracefully, ready to hand over the reins to my vice-president in May, but we are certainly storming to my personal finish line.

It’s certainly a busy time for Chamber. I had hoped by now I would be fading away gracefully, ready to hand over the reins to my vice-president in May, but we are certainly storming to my personal finish line.

Chamber is currently collating a reply to four government consultations and it is great to see the level of government interaction with islanders and the business community. Of course, consultation is one side, listening and implementing is another!

So as businesses go about the business of doing business, our States are forging ahead with yet another States proposition and amendment for reform underway, which could yet see last months’ agreement thrown out. After all, agreement is only 'in principle'.

As President of Chamber I see a lot of good work coming out of the States Chamber, but I still see far more procrastination than I would like. The protracted saga of States Reform gives fodder to naysayers and depression to optimists. It really is time that an agreement is reached and acted upon. Apart from the accurate perception (in this case) that the States Chamber can’t reach a consensus, it makes a mockery of the system and is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

Moving on!

Yesterday we took part in a conference call regarding the Skills Strategy review and it’s reassuring to see that Education is looking at, and assessing the skills shortage in Jersey. It is Chambers position that this needs to be a joined-up review, which must include an overall population strategy and forward projections regarding the development of the island economy. Tackling skills shortage in Jersey needs to be a 10-20 year plan, not a five-year project.

So what else has Chamber been doing?

You may recall I have brought up the subject of liquid waste a few times on this podium.

We are pleased that the Minister for Infrastructure has now confirmed that Chamber will have a seat at the table of the stakeholder group, which will provide government with thoughts and feedback on their proposed liquid and solid wastes charges. It only took six weeks for the Minister to respond.  It is difficult for our members who are used to gathering facts, costing a project, producing a budget and making a decision, to see the length of time that even a written response, can take.

Note to self: we are still awaiting a response from the Treasury Minister regarding a GST de minimus level review, which was promised to Chamber in 2015. Whilst surprise has been expressed by the Minister that we haven't received a reply, it is fortunate that Retail is a resilient industry, despite the increased costs and competition they are facing.

Speaking of Retail – yet another victory for Chamber and Economic Development have made a firm commitment that they will support the retail sector, having allocated a dedicated member of their team with the responsibility of pulling together the Retail Development Policy. A policy that should help prosper, grow and protect the islands very important retail sector. This commitment from Economic Development is as a direct result of Chambers continued lobbying.

Now, today’s lunch theme is Diversity in the Workplace and while I don’t want to step on the toes of our guest speaker, I couldn’t let International Women’s Day pass without a brief mention of Women in Business.

It is a pity that there aren’t more acknowledgements, which celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. 

Jersey has lagged behind the UK in providing a diverse workforce and it is ironic that with one of the highest incidences of working women in the world, there is still far too few women at the top level of local companies. It is difficult to understand why a company with a diverse customer base cannot understand that having a more diverse group of Directors would be a better representation of their clients. 

It really shouldn’t be a case of having a token female but embracing the emotional diversity and increased problem-solving skills that a truly diverse company would enjoy.

I’m very much looking forward to hearing from our guest speaker, Sam Cooper-Gray, regarding diversity and I’ll finish with a thought for lunch 'surely no jurisdiction can truly grow, if half its population is left behind.'

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