23 November 2010

Jersey Finance - Playing Devil's Advocate

The 'success' of the Jersey economy over the years has traditionally been put down to several factors (by success, of course, we mean the high cost of living of food, drink, utility bills, high house prices, high rentals, sub-standard non-quals housing and the prospect of increased GST):
  • The sacrosanct and stable 20% tax rate (or much less if you are really wealthy)
  • Political Stability (electing docile 'noddy' dogs who will not rock the boat)
  • Years of Prudent Budgeting (Including investing in child welfare, hedging the Euro for the incinerator; the incinerator, the 'Cavern', and paying for the permanent modern art scaffolding installation to St James' Church)
But now it seems that there is one other much more important reason for Jersey's economic success, as revealed on the Jersey Finance website, namely that we have a legion of very powerful, sinister friends. The last paragraph quotes James Hines from the STEP Report 2009:

"International Financial Centres promote good government and the benefits that flow from demoncratic accountability. The evidence indicates that by far the most successful international financial centres are those whose governments score highly on the World Bank's indicators of governance quality."  

Now let's see how long it takes the well connected folk at Jersey Finance to pick up on their typo. The devil forbid that any God-fearing prospective clients pick up on this error lest they be put off from bringing their hard earned investments to these satanic shores!

17 November 2010

Jersey Care Leavers Press Release

The following press release has been received from the Jersey Care Leavers Association:

16th November 2010

The Jersey Care Leavers Association is aware of the request by Deputy Bob Hill for a formal apology to be made to the former Chief Officer of Police, Mr. Graham Power QPM.
We would wholeheartedly support this, but are dismayed and surprised with the response that the Chief Minister has given to Deputy Hill, and would wish the following comments to be noted.
·         As has been quoted before at no time were we given false hope of convictions by Graham Power or Lenny Harper and the team investigating the abuse scandal. We were invited to come forward with information as part of the ongoing investigation, and at all times were treated with dignity, respect and understanding in our dealings with the investigation team at that time. It is indeed due to the sympathetic manner we were dealt with that we felt at ease talking with this team, and thanks to that, some convictions have taken place.
·         The whole context of the relationship with the new incumbents to the Police when Mr. Power was suspended and Mr. Harper retired changed noticeably in regard to any trust that had been built up previously hence we see no requirement at all for an apology from either Mr. Power or Mr. Harper. On the contrary we have a lot to be grateful to them for.
·         We are rather concerned that yet again it appears that the people of Jersey and the financial aspects appertaining to the investigation(s) seem to take precedence over the real issue – i.e. child abuse and the victims who have not seen any justice or closure. It would be hoped that the people of Jersey and States Members will realise that this is a matter that can never be put to rest by those who suffered at the hands of the States of Jersey, and to state that ‘enough is enough’ can only but add insult to injury.
·       It must be noted that the team of Mr. Power and Mr. Harper secured convictions, and indeed cases are still pending thanks to their good work. For that the Jersey Care Leavers’ are thankful. It is rather unfortunate that the Chief Minister does not see fit to offer praise and support where it is very, very due – to the very gentlemen who he refuses to apologise to.

12 November 2010

When is a Categorical Assurance not a Categorical Assurance?

'It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.'  ~Aeschylus
Practical politics is a funny thing. For example, you are allowed to lie, and often with impunity, but you are not allowed to suggest that same person may have lied, or else you face being shot down by the Chair, with the full weight of Standing Orders behind him. This is to make sure that we all behave like civilised gentlemen - even the ladies.

However, this blog is not about lying, per se, rather about election promises and the consequences for society when those promises are not kept or worse -  broken. In researching for this post I came across several relevant quotes that I loved. I think my favourite was: 
Promises are like babies:  easy to make, hard to deliver.  ~Author Unknown

It is a quote that is quite relevant and it is most relevant to all politicians, but particularly those who are not 'in power'. In the UK, for example, it will be difficult for Labour MPs to deliver on promises, because those promises were conditional on them gaining power, and thus setting policy direction; and with the Liberals, even though they are in (a position of) power (sort of), it has been necessary to make compromises which, in some cases, are completely opposite to the principles on which they originally stood. Such is the nature of realpolitik

In Jersey, where there is no overt party system, this is even more pronounced. I might stand on a platform of free Coca-Cola (I won't by the way), but unless I can get another 26 of my colleagues to agree with me, the policy is academic. (I hesitated to say 'worthless', but this is not the case. Policies do (if they are held genuinely) give us some insight into what the candidate is about). So, it is necessary to distinguish between what are promises (i.e. what one is capable of delivering) and what are policies. Generally speaking, most electors are satisfied with their representatives, so long as they have tried to get their policies through, even if they fail. Better to try and fail than to not try at all.

However, there are those who are capable of both making promises and delivering on them. These are the Ministers, who set policy - even if it is the assembly as a whole which approves or rejects it. It is therefore reasonable for the public to expect that when a candidate stands for election, and he becomes Minister, he will do all he can to carry out his (key) promises - and not do the exact opposite.

In his manifesto in 2008, Senator Ozouf stated, 'I will robustly oppose any attempt to increase GST above 3%.' This can still be seen on his website under the large heading TAX & SPENDING. The wording could not be less equivocal. If I vote to re-elect Senator Ozouf, not only will he not support any increase, but he will oppose it robustly. 

This commitment to keeping GST at three percent was reinforced once again on 11th December 2008 in response to a question from Deputy Debbie de Sousa, when the Senator was seeking to be elected as Treasury Minister (by the States Assembly): -

Deputy D.J. De Sousa of St. Helier:
What guarantees can the Senator give that if the economy really does slow down, as expected, that he will not raise the rate of G.S.T.?

Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:
I can give the Assembly a categoric assurance that I will not bring proposals to increase G.S.T.  We have created the Stabilisation Fund and this Assembly has agreed to put some £120 million to £140 million.  That is the Fund that will enable us to take the economy through difficult times and I will have no hesitation in preparing scenarios for a downturn to keep Jersey people in jobs and our economy thriving.  Unlike most other jurisdictions, we have the wherewithal to do that.

So, one can quite understand how those who elected him, both as Treasury Minister and into the States, might be angry, disappointed and quite frankly disillusioned to see that far from robustly opposing any proposal to increase the rate of GST, he is actually the very one proposing it!

Of course, the Treasury Minister has reasoned that his comments were 'made in good faith' and that the economic outlook has now changed, but it must be remembered that when he gave his promise to the States Assembly, this was already 2 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and at any rate, the question was already conditional on the fact that the economy really would slow down.  

But, perhaps something even worse than breaking a promise that you could very easily keep is that as a society we have come to expect and even accept that is it what politicians do. For my part and the part of many of my colleagues, we do our utmost to stick to our manifestos. But when high profile politicians like the Minister break promises, there is a general mistrust of politicians, which can in some cases lead to a general disillusionment with all government. Those more wise will simply put it down to experience, and remember these broken promises AND vote accordingly next October.

It is not the place of this blog to speculate whether the comments of the Senator were made in good faith or not, however Aeschylus was right when he said, 'It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.'  

11 November 2010


Wilfred Owen
1893 - 1918

The following is a tribute to the 1st World War Poet, Wilfred Owen, who died on 5th November 1818, at the Sambre, 1 week before the war ended. He was 25 and this is one of his poems (with notes)


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest(3) began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots(4)  
Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.
Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . . 
Dim, through the misty panes(10) and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering,(11) choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud(12)  
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)  
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.(15)

Notes on Dulce et Decorum Est

  1. DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

  2. Flares - rockets which were sent up to burn with a brilliant glare to light up men and other targets in the area between the front lines (See illustration, page 118 of Out in the Dark.) 

  3. Distant rest - a camp away from the front line where exhausted soldiers might rest for a few days, or longer 

  4. Hoots - the noise made by the shells rushing through the air 

  5. Outstripped - outpaced, the soldiers have struggled beyond the reach of these shells which are now falling behind them as they struggle away from the scene of battle  

  6.  Five-Nines - 5.9 calibre explosive shells 

  7. Gas! -  poison gas. From the symptoms it would appear to be chlorine or phosgene gas. The filling of the lungs with fluid had the same effects as when a person drowned

  8. Helmets -  the early name for gas masks 

  9. Lime - a white chalky substance which can burn live tissue 

  10. Panes - the glass in the eyepieces of the gas masks 

  11. Guttering - Owen probably meant flickering out like a candle or gurgling like water draining down a gutter, referring to the sounds in the throat of the choking man, or it might be a sound partly like stuttering and partly like gurgling 

  12. Cud - normally the regurgitated grass that cows chew usually green and bubbling. Here a similar looking material was issuing from the soldier's mouth 

  13. High zest - idealistic enthusiasm, keenly believing in the rightness of the idea 

  14. ardent - keen 

  15. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - see note 1 above.