An Economy That Works For All
“Reform Jersey believes that Jersey’s prosperity lies in securing a growing economy which works for all, not just a few at the top. A growing economy will deliver better job opportunities for Islanders, as well as the revenue required to fund our public services. We believe that the government should develop our industries and support businesses to grow, whilst safeguarding conditions for employees to protect their standard of living.”
After many years of recession, Jersey’s economy has only recently begun to see low levels of growth return. However, this has largely been driven by the unsustainable population growth which the current Council of Ministers has failed to control. It cannot continue into the long-term. The targets on productivity have not been met.
Over the last decade, earnings have only increased by 0.1% in real terms. Last year, the economic standard of living for Islanders decreased by 0.3%. Pay for the lowest paid workers has fallen below that of the UK and Guernsey for the first time in 10 years because the States has refused to raise the Minimum Wage. It has also allowed the proliferation of zero-hours contracts, and unstable working conditions to increase.
How can it possibly be right that when our economy returns to growth, Islanders are still worse off?
The next government must make a concerted effort to reverse the economic trends that have seen it become harder for ordinary Islanders to get by. The number one mission of the next government should be to improve the standard of living for ALL Islanders.
Reform Jersey wants to see a prosperous economy where all sections of our community can share in the benefits this creates. This will mean striking an important balance between supporting businesses and workers’ rights. We must move on from the complacency that has existed over the last decade.
The finance industry remains Jersey’s main employer and a very important source of income for the Island. We will support the industry in all its efforts to continue to be at the top of the league when it comes to meeting our international obligations on transparency and co-operation, so we can offer a world class service.
There will be challenges in the future as the nature of the finance industry changes, in particular as the banking sector shrinks and the funds sector increases. We will not bury our heads in the sand when change is on the horizon. We will support those who promote the industry abroad and be ready to actively assist businesses in adapting to change. As technology and automation changes the nature of work in the finance industry, we will make a concerted effort to protect livelihoods.
Last year, the European Union Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation ruled that Jersey was a co-operative jurisdiction, however there are changes that must be made in 2018 to ensure that this is maintained. These changes relate to the so-called “substance test”, which involves making sure that companies registered in the Island have a genuine presence here. It is essential that these changes are made by the end of this year. We will ensure that there is no room for complacency and that those in charge are held accountable to make sure that we meet our obligations.
It is an exciting prospect to consider Jersey as a future centre of excellence for digital innovation. We must seize the opportunity to ensure that our economic framework and infrastructure is fit for purpose to allow businesses to flourish in this new and fast-developing area. We will support a digital skills agenda in our schools to ensure our young people are equipped to succeed in this industry. The States should prioritise local digital businesses in the procurement of government services.
Supporting this emerging industry will require more than just offering positive PR but should include all the necessary legislative changes to enable those businesses to operate. If this requires spending money on reviewing our business legislation and modernising it to accommodate tech businesses, then this would be a worthy investment.
Where there is potential for the Island to attract innovators, and opportunities for businesses to use Jersey as a test-bed for new technology, the States should be quick off the mark to be accommodating. This may involve changing our legislation to accommodate test technology.
Jersey has a long history of producing high quality agricultural products. As farming methods adapt to ever changing consumer demands we will invest in our farming industry to balance the need to maintain standards, increase production, yet reduce the negative impact on our environment.
We are not afraid to explore the possibility of greater support for the industry through subsidies, to ensure parity between our agriculture businesses and their competitors throughout Europe. The industry must be supported to improve working conditions and pay for its employees and to move towards more sustainable farming which protects our environment.
Tourism and Hospitality
Whilst the numbers of visitors to Jersey has risen in recent years, more must be done by the States to support hospitality businesses and improve what is on offer for tourists to enjoy. All candidates will say that they support “event-led tourism”, but many fail to deliver. Reform Jersey will commit to increasing the promotion budget year on year over 4 years.
We should reform Jersey’s licencing laws to better reflect tourists’ expectations.
The fundamental factor that the government must address is the provision of reliable travel links by sea and air. Reform Jersey will address this issue as current contracts come to an end.
The Parish of St Helier should be given more powers, so it can take the lead in providing entertainment and cultural events in public spaces to enhance the experience in town for visitors, and to make it an even more attractive place for people to visit and enjoy.
Supporting Jersey businesses
Small businesses are the bedrock of our economy, employing local people and creating local jobs. The government should be on the side of people who want to start a business, helping create an environment where those with initiative, who take on the risk, are supported to enhance their chances of success and to provide a safety net if things go wrong.
We will ensure the States provides better outreach services to help businesses deal with employment issues. We will also introduce a system to allow businesses to pay their licences in monthly payments, instead of ad hoc full payments at inconvenient moments in the business season.
We will oppose the introduction of stealth taxes and charges on businesses, which do not reflect the businesses’ ability to pay.
Low pay and insecure work
Over the last few years, Jersey has gone backwards as the lowest paid workers have seen their wages fall in value, and rights have been eroded in the workplace. We believe that every single Islander deserves to be paid properly for the work they do and to have security in their jobs. They need to know that they cannot be treated unfairly and can provide for their families during tough times.
We will legislate to introduce compulsory regulations on zero-hours contracts to outlaw their inappropriate use and enforce minimum-hours contracts for workers who are not involved in casual work. We pledge to raise the Minimum Wage to £10 per hour by 2022. We will introduce legislation to protect workers’ jobs through company acquisitions. This legislation was introduced almost 40 years ago in the UK, yet Jersey is lagging behind. We will reverse the unreasonable decision by the previous Minister for Social Security to extend the period before unfair dismissal can be claimed from 6 to 12 months.
The current government has failed to control population growth. In 2014 they set an interim target of 325 net inward migration per year, yet the average has been 1,000 per year.
Jersey’s population policy must not stifle businesses that rely on workers with skills that are not available in Jersey already, however there must be a focus on training people already here to take up as many of these jobs as possible. Targets set must be followed.
In our opinion, and that of the Statistics Unit, the new proposed work permit scheme will prevent between 500 to 700 registered workers from "graduating" to permanent residence after 5 years. This will solve the problem in terms of the numbers contributing to population growth. The problem then is just a question of commitment: that is, setting a limit and sticking to it on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. This will enable the government to achieve its target of selecting high-earning, highly trained migrants paying tax and Social Security, and thus contributing to increased productivity and economic growth. It can be done. It would also motivate employers to offer better training schemes for its current workforce rather than depend on inward migration. Automation of jobs, may also help.
We do not support the plans to introduce a photographic ID card, as evidence received by Scrutiny demonstrates that these could be forged or sold on the black market.<< PREVIOUS NEXT >>