Monday, 1 October 2012

A failing government void of values and economic credibility

The inescapable story of today has been the news that Jersey remains in recession with negative economic growth of 1%. That's a 14% contraction in 3 years.

Whilst in the UK there is huge controversy when economic growth is at -0.5% and the fact that the UK has gone in, then out, then back into recession again, in Jersey there seems to be mainstream complacency from the public about the fact that our economic decline has been consistent without even a brief period of recovery like the UK.

In the UK there are threats of a general strike and a strong political opposition that attempts to argue against the failing governments economic plans. Yet in Jersey, the only ones seemingly ready to stand up and do something about it are the trade unions, who are dismissed by the media and right wing commentators and only make up a small part of the population anyway.

All the more important, this news comes at a time when we find out that in Guernsey their economy actually grew by 1%. We have two islands right next door to each other. Jersey is in recession, Guernsey is not. Jersey has high unemployment, Guernsey does not. Jersey has had to increase GST, Guernsey didn't even have to introduce one. This shows that it isn't just about a world wide downturn, but that government policy is capable on influencing it.

We really need to ask ourselves where Jersey is going wrong and what needs to change to fix things as soon as possible.

Irresponsible promises

We had the astounding spin from Senator Ozouf that a 1% contraction in the economy was somehow "an encouraging sign", but when you dig deeper to see what the governments actual policies are in this tough economic time, it is anything but encouraging.

When the economy is in crisis you'd expect to see mainstream arguments (as they have in the UK) between what the appropriate way to fix it with public spending and tax initiatives is. In Jersey we don't really have this debate on any meaningful level. We just hear a few bits and bobs from a government that doesn't overtly seem to have any guiding principles or values leading to why it is doing what it is doing, and then the arguments about how each particular policy is in line with their vision.

The Treasury Minister has made the rather irresponsible promise that there will be no further tax rises for 3 years. They say a week is a long time in politics, so 3 years is a very long time indeed and, especially when the economy is in the shape it is, it is irresponsible to say that the government will absolutely not consider tax rises for such a period of time.

When you make promises like that, you are destined to break them, which leads to unhealthy cynicism in politics. Remember Senator Ozoufs promise that he would actively resist any attempt to raise GST and then he was the one who actively proposed it?

What he should be saying is that if the economy worsens, the government will have to re-examine it's strategy. Having no "Plan B", as it were, could be catastrophic. Okay, that means a degree of long term uncertainty for both business and the public, but the alternative is far worse.

But the government can make some promises.

The government can't and shouldn't be making a blanket promise of no tax rises. But what they can promise is that whatever their fiscal policy is, it will be compatible with certain values and principles. Namely that it will be those most well off amongst us that should bare the brunt of the tax rises and that cuts to public spending will be targeted at things that will not make life harder for vulnerable people that rely on those public services. By implication, that means things like no increase in GST, maybe having a Capital Gains Tax introduced instead etc.

That is a promise that they can make, but they aren't. Time and time again, Jersey ends up with a government that (aside from the accurate generalisations that they are conservative and work as a block) is undefinable in the sense of pinning a specific clear line of policy (a "manifesto"), a clear set of values and working method. Our political system doesn't let these values become the centre of what we are trying to decide at election time. Instead it's just a personality contest.

The 5 point plan

In my 5 point plan (outlined in a previous blog post), I said that Jersey needs to focus its cuts in spending on waste and unproductive government activities. I can immediately identify two topical things that are a waste. Firstly, we have talk at the moment that the States may buy up the old Pontins site at Plemont for £8m (which by the way, the owner says is not enough), and then sell it on the Jersey National Trust for £2m so they can return it to nature. Personally, the idea of returning something to nature seems absurd to me. That site has had buildings on it for well over 150 years. Any nature that one day occupies it will be "artificial nature". Instead we have developers wanting to build housing on it and they don't even have to destroy any more nature to do so. Yet the government is intent on wasting £6m for no apparent benefit.

Secondly there has also been talk about the Williamson report looking into a terms of reference for a committee of inquiry into the child abuse scandal in Jersey. This, despite the fact that the government had already spent £60k on the Verita report into a terms of reference for an inquiry. Having two reports was a total waste of money, especially when the first one had nothing wrong with it. They just need to get on with it and have a full and comprehensive committee of inquiry to get justice for the victims and lay a foundation for framework to make sure this can never happen again to vulnerable children in Jersey. That would be money well spent, not like the thousands they have needlessly wasted trying to cover it all up.

The fact that the government will waste money on things like this whilst telling ordinary working people that they have to face cuts to public spending shows contempt for the ordinary people of Jersey.

All of the money that can be saved should be spent on projects for job creation and helping small businesses. GST should be cut (if only temporarily) and alternative tax methods should be looked at that focus on extracting more from the islands wealthiest.

The problem is that the personal politics of it is coming before the economics. The individuals that are fighting for these things aren't able to do so on a wider platform. So nobody ends up with what they want out of the government.


As I have made clear in my previous posts on electoral reform, Jersey's political system is not fit for purpose. It is neither democratic, nor capable of producing an effective and cohesive government.

In my essay The Economic Dictatorship I argue that the most profound benefit of a full and working democracy is that it is inevitably going to create a better economy. It provides for the utilisation of all talents, it allows the incorporation and consideration of criticism and provides for the benefits of wealth creation to be equitably spread around.

Instead we have a States Assembly with many talents excluded from government, valid criticism is often silenced, and Jersey is becoming more unequal every day. We need a dramatic change in the political culture of this island otherwise we are doomed to decades more of the same, running this beautiful island into the ground.

A seemingly absurd comparison

The more I think about it, the more I am drawn to make an historical comparison that may on the face of it seem absurd, but hear me out.

Karl Marx believed (and I agree with him wholeheartedly) that revolutions are an inevitability in systems that allow the the material base to become so far detached from a mass of people who are becoming more and more intellectually and philosophically aware. He predicted that this would be the case with capitalism (and he has yet to be vindicated), but it's a principle that clearly works in other situations.

Take for example the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, the people of the USSR began to realise that their economic and political model was unsustainable and had to go, but that it was best for everyone to avoid a revolution because (as the early anti-Trotskyites realised) a revolution is chaotic and does not necessarily lead to democracy.

This was realised and spearheaded by the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev (in my opinion a great man), who wanted an organised transition from a Communist dictatorship into a social democracy. But the hard line Communists (who had vested interests) attempted to subvert the process, which caused chaos, which was exploited by Boris Yeltsin (in my opinion a terrible man) who was able to take power, get independence for Russia, break apart the Soviet Union (despite the only democratic referendum in Soviet history showing a huge majority supported keeping the union), and plunge the country into economic downturn. Now the former nations of the Soviet Union have bad relations, there has been war, and Russia is run by the oligarchs. Now the world is left with one superpower, the United States of America, which has been a profound force for evil internationally and has not had another superpower to balance it out (do you think America could have invaded Iraq if a democratic Soviet superpower had opposed it?).

Now compare this to Jersey. We also have a political system that is not fit for purpose, that the public are growing increasingly discontent with. We had our great reformer, Daniel Wimberley, set out the framework to fix Jerseys political system. But those with vested interests sought to subvert it, and Senator Bailhache was able to usurp it. If the people of Jersey remain complacent, Senator Bailhache will be our very own Boris Yeltsin.

(Yes, I did just compare the Jersey Establishment to the Soviet hard line Communists! That was the part of the comparison that might have sounded absurd)

The point that I am trying to make is that culturally, Jersey is completely in the wrong place to fix our problems. We need more political engagement and active debates on the economy as a whole and what values we want behind the policies to ensure that the island resembles what we want it to. But Jersey must be able to reform itself and put aside the vested interests.

Those that have been in power in Jersey for decades have run the island for the interests of only themselves and a small minority of the islands population (the rich) on the basis of an ideology that is not only morally bankrupt, but also ignorant of the economic realities that have been adduced since the 1920s.

Jersey needs to build a popular movement of ordinary people from all walks of life that can fight and argue for an administration that runs by full democratic principles and actively seeks out to create a fairer society based on the values that we all hold. Jersey needs a democratic socialist political party in whom we can place our trust and help to win control of Jersey so that it can be run by the people, for the people.

Having full employment is not impossible. Having decent pensions for our old folks is not impossible. Having a society in which we all have our fair place and contribute a fair amount to the community is not impossible. We just need to accept these realities and work together to cast aside the vested interests and make this island as good as it can be.

We're working on it!


P.S. Deputy Pitman has started video blogs talking about topical events and giving a spin on it that you won't hear in the mainstream media. Check it out -

Also, since I mentioned the Williamson report, here is the reaction from the JCLA -


  1. There is another aspect of those figures that I find even more worrying than the overall contraction. The figures seem to show a serious narrowing of the economic base, a decrease in diversity. From a risk management perspective this is really bad news. If the finance sector stumbles, let alone collapses, and it could, the rest of the economy simply is not strong enough to deal with the consequances. We risk everything being dragged down with it.

  2. Sam,

    Don't believe all the figures.

    Bear in mind that Guernsey put a lot of effort into LVCR avoidance (aka the fulfilment industry), far more than Jersey did. These figures are for 2011: next year the figures for Guernsey will show a marked fall after LVCR was abolished this April and a lot of businesses packed up and left.

    1. Certainly true, but then Jersey is going to experience much of that too. So if Guernsey slips back into decline, Jersey will go even further behind too.

  3. Problem is that most people are happy with things as they are. Jersey is a fantastic place for most people who live here.

    1. This is the exact sort of complacency I was criticising in my blog. If you were one of the 1,600 unemployed, you wouldn't hold that attitude. My values make me care about those people a lot more than those that are doing alright.

    2. The complacency is real and the things you strive for will not affect the vast majority of the population. There will be no popular uprising or major change (i.e. to party politics) if most people are happy with the way things are.

      So where does that leave you and your aims?

      Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great blog (except the bit about the USA) and a think you have a lot to offer the people you care about. I just hope you find a strategy that stands a chance of making a difference.

      Keep up the good work.

  4. I can't believe you're still going on about dropping GST when it would clearly not benefit an import dominated economy such as ours.

    1. It's not as clear cut as that and it certainly isn't clear. After all, I am joined in this opinion by the head of the Chamber of Commerce...

    2. The head of the COC is biased. His members are the ones that will pocket the 80M as exra profit.

  5. Sir,

    As we derive our GDP from exports and we are at the mercy of the world economy, our own economy is actually in fantastic shape. We continue to spend vast amounts on health, welfare, education. We have lots in the bank, no public borrowing and we are spending strategic reserves on boosting the economy.

    All the things you would like are already happening without the need for your outdated communist ideals.

    I have one word of advice for you. Modernise!

    1. My outdated communist ideals? I thought I'd just written a blog post that condemned communism?

    2. State Socialism = Communism

    3. I don't agree with that at all, but I wasn't arguing for State Socialism either.

      I mentioned my Economic Dictatorship article. Have a read of that. That's what I'm arguing for. An economic system that is democratic.

    4. I read that, but you haven't answered the comments at the end. I really don't see it as an alternative to what we have now as it leaves so many questions unanswered. Capitalism isn't going anywhere. Even Marx couldn't come up with an alternative.

    5. Well no one sat down and devised the capitalist system before it's implementation so why should it's replacement be different?

    6. That's the whole point. Natural evolution leads to democracy and capitalism. Everything else has to be forced on the people against there will.

    7. ... and you think this is the pinnacle of human achievement? The end of the evolutionary line?

      Try as might, I just cannot accept that mankind is not capable of so much more.

    8. Of course not, but I don't believe that democracy will allow anything other than evolutionary change. Capitalism will occasionally wonder off course but will adapt and continue. It is flawed but can be fixed. It doesn't need to be replaced and any attempt to do so is doomed to fail. The last century has shown us that.

  6. Well done Sam. Another great post. That gives me some encouragement now to continue on with my day! The comparison with 1980s Russia is not inappropriate.

  7. Your revolting!

  8. "We had our great reformer, Daniel Wimberley"

    err, did he actually reform anything?

    1. Oh yeah, I can see the similarity now.

    2. Why did you delete your post about Gorbi!

  9. "Now the world is left with one superpower, the United States of America,"


    1. China isn't quite at that stage yet but hopefully one day soon it will be though. China isn't strong enough yet to stand up to American hegemony. China may have some pretty appalling aspects of its internal politics, but externally it is far more benign than America and the world would definitely benefit from a strong China. Brazil too, that would be good also. Not Russia though.

    2. Maybe we could have another cold war?

  10. Your history of the break up of the USSR, and in particular Gorbachev's involvement, leaves much to be desired.

    1. Well I was pretty brief with it...

      Though I don't think anything in that wikipedia article contradicts what I wrote above. It just backs it up if anything.

    2. Except it was Gorbachev's policies that led to the break up and the baltic states abstained from the vote, and the break up was welcomed outside of Russia etc etc.

    3. Karl Marx said that capitalism would fail, but what he failed to allow for was capitalism's ability to adapt.

    4. Not at all. Gorbachev's policies of glastnost and perestroika (I'm certain I've spelt those wrong) were aimed at creating a democratic "Union of Sovereign Republics" with a rearrangement of the relationship between the member countries of the Republic. It was the country's inability to reform itself and the chaos that was caused by the backwards looking communists that led to Yeltsin being able to make a power grab and dissolving the USSR without Gorbachev.

      (You're right that the Baltic states abstained, but they were unfairly incorporated into the USSR after the war and had no future in it no matter what. But they were totally different to Ukraine or Belarus etc)

      And of course the break up was welcomed outside of Russia. Russia on her knees means America is supreme. Had Gorbachev got his way and the USSR has been rearranged into a social democratic state, it would have been an incredible example to the world.

    5. "the Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed in the fall and winter of 1991. Between August and December, 10 republics declared their independence, largely out of fear of another coup. Also during this time, Russia began taking over what remained of the Soviet government, including the Kremlin.
      The final round of the Soviet Union's collapse began with the Ukrainian popular referendum on 1 December 1991, wherein 90% of voters opted for independence" - I thought Gorbachev didn't resign until 24/12/91?

      It seems that the break up was all but over long before this.

      If you unite peoples at gunpoint and then give them freedom they will choose independence.


    Glad to see the Fiscal Policy Panel agree with part of my 5 point plan!

  12. Yeltsin could drink lots of Vodka and he was a great dancer!


  13. Hi Sam and All,
    Just a quick word on the Failing Mouthpiece of the Failing Government created by it's Failing and rigged pseudo-democratic system.

    Once again we have the teddy bear features of Sir Philip Bailhache smiling reassuringly at us out of the JEP

    This morning I posted the following at 11:34 am


    ‘almost criminal’

    errrr.... yes Sir Philip, perhaps you hadn't noticed that the island is a little strapped for cash at the moment. hospital etc ..........

    Perhaps you could extract a little of your funds from errr..... Panama and buy this land yourself ?

    Just an idea.

    Or perhaps you think we should raise GST to pay for it.


    It was NOT published

    This is a very minor example of local media censorship

    1. Maybe media censored it because it was childish, inaccurate and possibly libelous?

    2. Hi Unon @ 3 Oct 11:51
      Assuming you are capable of an adult conversation "Maybe" you would like to point out which bit was "inaccurate".

      Any grown up (e.g. Sam who published it) can see it is not "libelous"

      In any case in order to be libellous [double 'l' btw] it would need to be errr.... false.

      Over to you .......

    3. Where are you Unon @ 3 Oct 11:51 ?

      No response published yet; surely Sam is not censoring your opinion....... like the JEP does.

      Turns out that I made an error in my comment:
      From a little research I gather that both "libelous" and "libellous" are valid true words in the language.

      Perhaps you too need a bit more research before forming your opinions ?

      Now where did the references to Panama come from ? - The register of member's interests perhaps ?

      The same register of member's interests that "Sir" Philip rendered worthless by not allowing the wording be BENEFICIAL interest ?

      ‘almost criminal’ ?

    4. Innacurate = the island is not strapped for cash. It has half a billion in the bank.

    5. No mention of Panama?

    6. 'teddy bear features', implying Sir P is stashing money away in Panama, 'assuming you are capable of an adult conversation'

      All a bit childish.

      In total contrast to Sam's measured and intelligent analysis.

  14. Hi Sam and All,

    This is a far more interesting bit of CENSORSHIP by the JEP

    September 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm I left the following comment in reply to "COM-Mentator " #1


    Perhaps this is a smokescreen.

    Perhaps we don't need a new law.

    Perhaps we just needed the prosecution to actually present the evidence on the Dangerous Driving charge.
    (the above photo being a goo d starting point, given that it is a 30 limit!)

    Perhaps they shouldn't have let the car to be quickly covered up and apparently spirited off island

    Perhaps comments like this didn't used to get published.


    It was NOT published.

    I thought that this might push the envelope of the JEP's new found "perestroika" but this free expression gone mad caused an emergency shut down of the thread which would normally have been open for a fortnight or so.

    So it is valuable to have confirmed that the JEP is still complicit in government/judicial cover up and gerrymandering.

    This is big. Mark my words.

    Not as big as Jimmy "So-Vile" Savile but still big.

    1. In my experience, the biggest censors are the bloggers. Many of my comments that disagree (always politely) with the bloggers views never see the light of day.

    2. btw, Sam's blog is an exception, he always posts my comments.

    3. I let as many comments through as I possibly can. Exceptions are ones that are just plain abusive without any possible vague merit. I've also stopped some that have brought up my professional associations (which in fairness they were doing in a nice way, but I just didn't really want the discussion to be in public).

      I even let the occasional troll through just to make an example of them!

      But I'm quite lucky in that I don't get many trolls or abusive comments. The vast majority are completely sensible contributions. Even if I disagree with what is being said, so long as it's being said in an appropriate way, I'm happy to publish it.

  15. Hi Sam.

    Just put up two Interviews from today on Jersey Radio of Mark Williams-Thomas & Esther Rantzen.

    You & your readers can Listen HERE


  16. Is Stuart talking to himself? On his blog there's a posting (Wednesday, 3 October 2012 22:24:00 BST) "Mr Syvret, may I recommend that your readers do consider the fact that charges have been brought against the Attorney General in that other Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man?..."

    It's EXACTLY the same writing style as from Stuart himself. Same paragraph formations, tell-tale vocabulary, etc.

    Very strange!

  17. The link provided on 5 Oct 04:46 is not working I notice when i paste it into the browser it has the word delete at the end. I then deleted the word delete from the end of the link.

    There is no mention of Panama. Was it there, has it been removed?

  18. Hi Sam.

    Just put up Audio & Links to last nights Question Time, with Janet Street-Porter saying it wasn't just Rumours.

    But didn't say anything.

    You & your readers can Listen HERE

    1. Thanks! I did watch this last night with disbelief.

      I'm always suspicious of someone who comes out during a scandal and say they knew about it all along.