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IoD Jersey Debate explores future funding challenges

IoD Jersey Debate explores future funding challenges

Lively discussions at this year’s IoD Annual Debate provided interesting insights into the future role of government, Jersey’s population policy, and approaches to taxation and education.

The event, entitled ‘Funding our Future’ and sponsored by law firm Carey Olsen, sought to assess the measures available to Jersey’s government to maintain high quality public services against the backdrop of a growing population, looking in particular at taxation, population, skills and government structure. 

Whilst broad in scope, the Debate explored a holistic view of what is required to make Jersey’s economy sustainable, with joined-up government and policy being essential. Amongst the widespread views aired at the event, key points included:

  • On the size and scale of government, there was strong feeling that government could be smaller, but identifying what areas could be cut was more problematic. The overarching theme, though, was that more important that the size of government is the efficiency of processes demonstrated by government and its ability to be joined-up in policy making.
  • Where population is concerned, panellists stressed how critical and pressing having a coherent population policy is and that if one is not implemented imminently, Jersey could find itself in an extremely difficult position. There was strong support for moving away from language about high and low value immigration, and for a balanced approach in creating a diverse and sustainable economy that acknowledged the value of all sectors, including financial services, digital and hospitality.
  • On taxation, the consensus was that the current system works well and that stability is very important in business decision making. There were question marks, though, over its long-term sustainability and some support for higher taxation as long as the tax system is honest and transparent, and that there is clear evidence that tax revenues are being used to add real value.
  • The importance of education and investment in skills locally was emphasised by panellists too. Whilst there was acceptance that more could be done to support funding of off-island university education, there was an indication that there is policy and a potential framework in place to establish a specialist university in Jersey that would both attract and grow skills in the island.

Meanwhile, keynote speakers at the event Bronwen Maddox, Director of the Institute for Government, and Sir Peter Caruana KCMG QC, former Chief Minister of Gibraltar, provided some fascinating thoughts on the decreasing powers of governments, and the importance of citizen-government relationships and a long-term approach to open market politics for small economies in a time of unprecedented change.

Panellists for the event were Deputy Rod Bryans, Minister for Education; Fiona Kerley, President of the Jersey Hospitality Association; Senator Alan Maclean, Minister for Treasury and Resources; Deputy Susie Pinel, Minister for Social Security; Ben Shenton, President of the Channel Islands Co-Operative Society and Investment Manager; and Charlotte Valeur, Governance Consultant and Professional Non-Executive Director. The debate was moderated once again by renowned news broadcaster Alastair Stewart OBE.

This year, key points from the Debate were captured in visual form on a digital storyboard, which will be used as a benchmark of progress at a further event ahead of next May’s general election.

Commenting on this year’s Debate, IoD Jersey Chairman Chris Clark, said: "Debate this year was particularly lively, and I have our panellists, keynote speakers and fantastic audience to thank for that. As our speakers acknowledged, one of Jersey’s great strengths is our ability to have these frank discussions between businesses and government. I think that is healthy for our island and really came to the fore this year.

 

“There’s no doubt that Jersey faces some real challenges over the coming years, but what was encouraging about this year’s Debate was the acknowledgement on the part of both business and government that there is a need to look to the longer-term and think seriously about sustainability, but also an ability to identify some really exciting opportunities. The prospect of a specialist university and a focus on a diverse, vibrant, young and innovative economy were some of the ideas that came through this year, and if we can follow-through on those, the future could be very bright for us indeed.”