I'm not going to lie, today was pretty irritating!
Myself and someone I know had been doing a bit of digging lately, trying to uncover what we thought might be a political scandal. We were on the verge of being ready to go public and, lo and behold, the media somehow managed to beat us to it!
I am of course talking about the story today that the States has spent £860k on setting up and running the Jersey Aircraft Registry, and only two aircraft have actually signed up to it.
Just a few hours after this story hits the headlines, my written question for the States sitting tomorrow was published, so I've missed the chance to get involved. Oh well! - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyQuestions/2017/(152)%20Dep%20Mezec%20to%20EDTSC%20re%20cost%20of%20jersey%20aircraft%20registry.pdf
There will be more documentation being published at our initiative soon to reveal a few more details.
The Isle of Man Aircraft Registry has almost 1,000 aircraft registered to it, and Guernsey's paradoxically named "Channel Islands Aircraft Registry" has 160 registered. We have two. That's £430k per aircraft, with only £11k in registration fees made to offset that. Pretty embarrassing, by all accounts.
I think that most Islanders will rightly feel aggrieved that, once again, a venture headed by the Economic Development Department has led to a huge amount of taxpayers money being squandered.
Whether it is the business class golf jollies around the world, the failed Innovation Fund or now the failed Aircraft Registry, there is a legacy of embarrassment haunting this department.
Whenever questions are raised about what the department are doing and the legitimacy of any of their activities, we get normally a rebuttal from the minister, Senator Farnham, which usually is missing any actual answer but instead contains a bit of hot air about how "this government is a success because the economy is growing and you lot just hate success".
This is incredibly worrying that Farnham thinks this is acceptable answer and, in my view, shows that he either doesn't really understand how economics works, or that he does but is just awful at bluster to hide his failures.
In a nutshell -
Jersey has had some economic growth over the last two years, but it has been erratic and doesn't reflect a positive trend. In one year growth was driven by the finance industry where several large firms undertook one-off restructuring, but all other industries shrank. The next year, finance shrank and growth was driven by the other industries. Nobody can really take anything genuinely positive out of that, especially when a large proportion of that growth was driven by the fact our population is massively increasing every year (which is ultimately a Ponzi scheme).
So, having noted some of this bluster and been unable to find any evidence that government policies were having any positive tangible effect on our economy, I thought I'd just ask a simple written question asking the minister to list everything he has done which he thinks has helped develop the economy.
Here is his answer - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyQuestions/2017/(15)%20%20Dep%20Mezec%20to%20EDTSC%20re%20promoting%20economic%20growth.pdf
To sum it up in one word, this list is - pathetic.
The first one on the list is the regulations to extend pub opening hours for the Queen's birthday (which by the way was actually my idea! But anyway...), as if this is a true success story for our economy. Unbelievable.
Others include the raising of various fees charged by the States. As if increasing the cost of business helps grow the economy.
But, most amusingly, a whole seven items on this list are to do with the Aircraft Registry!
In a parliamentary question to a States Member about measures which have had a tangible effect on economic growth, Senator Farnham chose to boast about a scheme which has seen a deficit in States finances of £849k.
You could not make this stuff up.
If his department had any proof that their actions had actually done anything to help businesses in the Island, cut unnecessary red tape or improve the regulatory framework for those busy employers in the Island, then I'm sure they would be shouting them from the rooftop. But instead we get pub opening hours on one weekend and the Aircraft Registry.
When I stood for election last year, I was asked at one hustings what I would do to create jobs in the Island. I said a combination of three things -
1) Cut Social Security Contributions for the self-employed (ironically the opposite of what the "pro-business" Tories in the UK are now doing), so they have more security in their lives, can afford to invest more and employ more people.
2) Form a joint review group of employers and trade unions to work together at finding the laws and regulations which no longer suit the needs of either workers or bosses and consolidate, update and simplify those laws.
3) Push forward with the eGovernment programme to cut down on bureaucracy and red tape that businesses have to contend with when dealing government.
I think these policies aren't too bad for a left-winger. Yet instead, the pinnacle of our government's creativity is the creation of an Aircraft Registry.
Lord help us!
So, is Senator Farnham our most useless Minister? It's a tough one. Leave your thoughts in the comment box below!