Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dragon's Den - Ozouf style

We all know the TV prog – somebody has a great and original idea that will make them rich if only they had some start-up funding. They must make a sales pitch in a semi-derelict warehouse type building to a panel of tired old rich whiz-kids and try to persuade them that their crazy idea deserves to be financed in return for a share in the immense profits that will be generated…

It’s the classic greed is good for you and me and everybody else concept that fuels our capitalist system and Ozo of the Treasury has just come up with his very own localised version to be played out in Jersey.
It’s his latest cunning plan to follow on from previous brainstorming world-beaters, – namely Zero-Ten, The Agricultural Loan Scheme, Limited Liability Partnerships, the London Office, Tourism Development Fund, Intellectual Property Rights and the Fulfilment Industry – but this one he promises will beat them all – it’s a cracker!!!

So brilliant, that he has already been kissing frogs, Ozo told panel members today, because the sheer brilliance is that he already has the money - £10 millions in fact of public dosh – but his version of the challenge is to persuade the panel to let him give it away!! He actually does not need the money at all!!! And there is more where that comes from if necessary…

Like all brilliant ideas it’s the simplicity that is so amazing – almost scary – if I understood him correctly, as he gesticulated his way towards delirium and pointing vaguely towards Plemont.

Ozo outlined a specific example of the sort of dream that has been keeping him awake, so to speak. It’s an olde fashioned sweet shoppe called “True Innovation” - like he used to know as a kid - but in his modern version he plans to give away the gobstoppers and other sweet goodies in the form of grants and loans. Sweeteners by any standard and not without risks – but he was most insistent. There is no choice – if we want growth and diversity – then “innovation is the one measure to jump start that” and he promised very good measure to all his potential customers because we are a service based economy and we cannot risk our reputation…

Ozo was not alone. He had a team of slick talkers to promote his scheme – not that it needed much selling. Duggie and Jim were at hand to assist but it was mostly a Mr. King who explained the more technical stuff, like measuring “success.” But when he explained that the Shoppe might want some goodies back as part of a replenishment policy Ozo was not so keen and that seemed to please the Panel members who were reluctant to have used sweets re-circulated for some reason.

Nobody asked if Jersey Rugby was an example of a successful “Innovation” initiative but Mr King is Welsh and must surely know something about it…

Then Ozo warned that ultimate responsibility for the success of the venture would not rest with him at all but another chap called Maclean besides that Mr King’s head “was on the block to implement and manage risks” as CO.
The temperature certainly dropped a bit when he said that because on the public seats there were those who recalled what happened to a previous Mr King “on the block” in January 1649 and that was not very nice.
But then we remembered that Mr Pollard (another States CO) more recently  had a £250,000 plus pay-off packet when he was painlessly “resigned” and Mr Ogley (the States CEO) left with over £500,000 after Ozo’s everlasting acid drops finally wore him down and he lost his taste for the job.

Ironically at one stage, when asked about how things would be managed if anything did go wrong Ozo launched into a demi-lecture on “how things are run in the States” and that the Comptroller and Auditor General “will call in the papers.” He presumably did not mean the JEP.
There was certainly a slight hush at this point because it had been widely rumoured that the aged old gent with a beard was actually buried under the floor boards of the very room we were in since he has not been seen for months, having been so missed at the States’ Xmas party…

Anyway Ozo’s enthusiasm was such that he carried on talking long after the 5.00pm bell rang and he still had not managed to explain why the Jersey Business advice service which now cost £700,000 a year to fund was such better value than the former and very successful Jersey Business Venture which only cost £200,000 but he did suggest that his new wonder brainchild, “in his favourite phrase - was not - a self-service buffet.”

Jersey Dragons’ Den cast;
Economic Affairs Innovation Fund Scrutiny All-Male Sub-Panel;
Deputy Luce, Constables Pallett and Paddick.


  1. The innovation fund is nothing of the sort. I know a local who used to work in commercial research and ran a multi million pound scheme for technology creation and transfer to industry. Ideal candidate to consult on innovation, but no! Only the captains of local industry are worthy.

    The reason is the scheme is not about innovation. It is a job creation programme. As we know only wealthy people of capital do that in the eyes of Ozouf and Maclean. So expect your taxes to be used underwriting the riskier commercial ventures of the Island's wealthiest.

  2. How many mobile calls and text messages did OZO make during his attendance?

  3. The OZO PLAN is that the money should be seed corn for budding entrepreneurs in Jersey who have good business ideas that are unable to find funding through conventional lending sources, namely Banks, who are dependent on propping up their balance sheets using similar, but larger, amounts of cheap money from governments. Since Banks will not lend that cheap government money to anyone with a small business on "Main Street", governments have decided to lend it directly.

    The Board of the Innovation Fund will comprise successful Dragons Den type business people, of whom there are many in Jersey we are told, who will make decisions about the suitability of prospective ideas, assisted by a few bureaucrats. They will have £5-10 million to dispense.

    The overriding criteria for lending will be that it generates jobs and not just profits. The Innovation Fund is a government strategy to counter ever rising levels of unemployment. So high are those numbers of unemployed that politicians responsible for the economy have decided that there needs to be more than just Jersey Finance. Finally the need for diversification of the economy has become apparent, albeit a little late in the sixth year of a recession.

    There is an air of desperation about the Innovation Fund project as a mechanism capable of creating the necessary employment, now that businesses built on tax avoidance schemes like LVCR have collapsed.

    It may succeed; then again this government largesse might just be paying people to dig holes and fill them in again. The contradictions of the monoculture of finance are becoming apparent. Scrutiny will meanwhile struggle with the hydra of loans without collateral to projects of uncertain merit.

    Senator Ozouf reassures us in a pithy sound bite that “it won’t be a free for all buffet”. Is that indigestion and flatulence I hear in the corridors of power?

  4. Innovation, like Ozo's mate's Puddleducks?

  5. Seems like you were spot on all along Mike. Well done.

    This is a perversely brilliant blog. If one can ignore the millions of pounds of wasted taxpayers' money, of course...