Monday, November 26, 2012

Warr and peace at Scrutiny - stand back - nothing to see here

President of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, David Warr, appeared before the Corporate Services Scrutiny Sub-Panel on the Population, Housing and Control of Work laws today (Monday 28 November 2012).
He was interviewed for this blog following that meeting.

David Warr’s 90 minutes appearance was the umpteenth scrutiny meeting/hearing that I have witnessed over the years talking around the various problems associated with growing the economy but without increasing the housing shortage or the population.
Some hopes!

After all these years – and the Housing (J) Law has been in place since 1949 – the penny really should have dropped by now. These conflicting aims and objectives are simply incompatible.

That there is now unemployment is nothing new either. The Work Permit law referred to here was approved back in the 1970s (from memory) when there was a previous dip in the economy and the Island had a few hundreds of unemployed people.
Now of course, the Jersey population has increased to nearly 100,000.

Yet, with 1,700 officially registered as unemployed (which means 3,500 according to more accurate ILO counting) the % is nothing as bad as places like Spain which has 25% overall unemployed but an astounding 40% of youngsters on the dole.

Quite why the Chamber of Commerce (C of C) so regularly participates in Scrutiny proceedings is puzzling because it seems to represent the interests of only the smaller businesses in Jersey.
Although we all know that it is Finance that has driven the modern Jersey economy – I cannot remember ever attending a scrutiny meeting where Jersey Finance or the Financial Services Commission was grilled.
Maybe it has happened and I missed it – but the C of C appears before all sorts of panels on a regular basis and, although blessed with a long and interesting history (since its foundation in 1768, just prior to the 1769 Revolution), it has a very narrow, unchallenging and limited remit now.

I cannot ever recall Unite the Union appearing as a scrutiny witness either for that matter – but it might have happened.

Today’s interrogating sub-panel consisted of Deputies Power (chair), Rondel, Le Bailly and Southern but it was just another friendly chat in reality. No hidden secrets were revealed.

As always the “jobs and houses for locals” theme dominated the proceedings today but the hopelessness of trying to hold back the tide of population expansion was obvious and Chamber always plays the same record of wanting less bureaucracy and red tape to ease the pursuit of profit for its members.

That Jersey does not exist in this world in an isolated bubble is appreciated by “Mr Warr the businessman” yet he still hangs on to the conflicting desires for economic expansion alongside a balmy Jersey countryside of green fields. It is a branch of the same romantic battle now being fought at Plemont and (less romantically) on the Waterfront.
Economic growth does not come without cost.

The Population/work/housing ID card that we shall all soon be carrying is most certainly not a significant part of any solution to the many and complex problems – whether economic or social. How it will be implemented, organised or issued is still apparently a mystery but at least it will create a few more States’ jobs…and Mr Warr anticipates that it might reduce bureaucracy.

We would, as a community, surely be better advised to concentrate on solving some of the social problems - such as the shortage of housing - rather than grasping at such paper illusions (that’s my thought not David Warr’s}.

Many more issues were discussed at the scrutiny hearing, such as the “illegal” employees working in some sectors, the low value of CVs in choosing job applicants and lack of “spot checks” on employers by the Regulators – but I was the only member of the “public” present to observe and there was just one from the “accredited media.”

Of course, those who want to access the official audio recording can do so via the scrutiny “streaming” system but this hardly seems like a serious attempt to “engage the public” in these important matters. Surely there must be a better way…

My thanks to David Warr for his time and expressing his views with enthusiasm and rather more humanity than might be evident here…

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