Authentic jersey

If only candidates didn’t have to promise jam tomorrow…

Businessman Kevin Keen imagines what policies a would-be politician might come up with if he didn’t have to worry about being popular.

CANDIDATES in this election face a difficult dilemma: be completely honest with potential voters and face the strong possibility of not being elected, or promising good things to everyone, being elected and having to then break those promises over the next four years.

But what policies could a potential politician come up with if he didn’t have to worry about being popular and was just looking to do the right thing for the whole of Jersey?

I won’t be running for office, so I’m free to suggest a few policies—sure losers in the 2022 election—that I think are needed, especially if we’re thinking beyond 2026.

Population

Let’s start with this old chestnut, which has been the subject of more unfulfilled promises in the Jersey election than just about anything else.

To begin with, a population policy will not solve the current housing crisis; whoever says it is possible must tell you who they intend to expel from the island and on what basis.

The fact that most of us are living longer is great news, but it does mean that the overall population is bound to increase, and we will need people to care for these older residents. The latest census report confirmed that between 2011 and 2021, the total population increased by 5.5% to 103,267, but the population aged 65 or over increased by 29%. This trend should continue.

Would-be politicians love to talk about points-based systems etc., but the reality is that we’ve had huge barriers to immigration before – just ask any organization (public, private or third sector ) trying to find staff for the jobs they, and very often we need to do.

Thanks to Brexit, when it comes to workers from outside the UK, we no longer just have Jersey’s formidable bureaucracy, but also the UK Home Office. Added to this is the prohibitive cost of housing here, which is a real turn off for anyone wanting to work in Jersey.

Whatever would-be politicians tell you, we will always need immigration and in many cases we should count ourselves lucky that these people are willing to leave their home countries to come here and serve us.

Build in the countryside of the island

In my mind, the cost of housing is the biggest problem Jersey faces and part of the solution (but not all in my opinion) is supply. We need more houses. If we want to build real houses with gardens and parking lots, country parishes must play a greater role.

This idea would be a surefire vote loser in rural parishes, where there are greater turnouts and where NIMBYism seems to be very entrenched. Again the latest census highlights this problem, showing that there are 3,716 people per square kilometer in St Helier and only 267 on the same base in Trinity. Housing is an island issue, not a vote winner. All parishes must play their part.

I thought Senator Kristina Moore’s proposal to rezone land with abandoned greenhouses was a good option and would also have helped preserve good farmland. If the barrier is that we don’t want to enrich landowners for letting their land deteriorate or the cost of infrastructure on that land is high, then apply a change of use tax on the landowner to help finance it.

Sell ​​Fort Regent and other surplus assets

For as long as I can remember (long enough now), politicians have promised to do something about Fort Regent. The only thing they really did was let it rot, as has happened with so many other public buildings.

In the real world, time is money – but that rarely seems to apply to our government. The truth is that rather than focusing on getting a few important things right, encouraged by us, they want to do it all and often end up doing nothing.

So another vote loser – let’s be brave and sell neglected properties like Fort Regent to the private sector for redevelopment as first-time buyer homes or to pay down our debts. Too often the government tries to be a jack-of-all-trades and ends up having no control. We need more focus and urgency.

Build a tunnel or bridge to France

Another policy unlikely to get votes, but at least worth studying properly, is to create a physical link with France. Brexit makes the challenge of living in France and working in Jersey much more difficult than it used to be, but if they could be overcome the benefits would include:

Bringing down the cost of homes for people who live and work here. Because it would be possible to live and work in France, this would probably also put pressure on property prices on the island.

Giving us easier access to services that need to evolve to function – universities, hospitals, etc.

To provide a fast, convenient and reliable way to get goods and people to and from Europe.

With the government’s terrible record on major capital projects, the short-term approach and the radical nature of such a notion, no would-be politician would dare even mention the idea, let alone put it in a manifesto. . Unfortunately, the current apathy and our political system mean that big ideas don’t even have a chance of being considered, let alone implemented.

Self-registered pensions

Ensuring that Islanders have a comfortable retirement should be a real vote winner, but I suspect the opposite would be true. Many struggle to meet today’s costs and, consciously or not, let tomorrow take care of itself. The problem is that this is not the case.

In the 2015 social survey, it was noted that more than 40% of adults had no occupational or private pension plan. The survey also revealed that just over half of us are worried about our standard of living in retirement, so we need to do something about it.

The UK has a scheme, Australia has a scheme, Guernsey is considering one and, in my view, Jersey should introduce automatic pension enrollments. This would be another cost to businesses, which would not be popular and no employee really likes to see their pay cut, but in the long run it’s the right thing to do.

Taxation

With growing demand for public services, aging demographics, a continued need for investment in basic infrastructure and a debt of £1.8billion, I really think we will have to raise taxes further. This is another thing that would be the kiss of death to electoral success, unless the candidate can identify someone else to pay him, preferably someone who does not vote.

The fairest thing, even if she is unlikely to win the election, is to ask the better-off to pay more. The challenge is that there aren’t many.

According to the response to a freedom of information request in May 2021, of 46,000 islanders registered with the tax authorities, only 5,500 had incomes above £100,000.

The other challenge is that the government is wasting much of the tax revenue it generates, so many islanders would resist tax increases because they fear their hard-earned money would go to more consultants, more unnecessary exams and even more jobs in the civil service. .

So until that changes – and it has to – any new tax must be focused on helping those less fortunate and reducing our £1.8billion mountain of debt. We are the ones who created the debt, we should at least start paying it.

So 25% on total earnings for anyone earning over £150,000, including a removal of the £145,000 tax cap for wealthy immigrants, but an increase in the tax exemption, so those who only earn the minimum wage, around £19,000, would pay no income tax. This should improve participation.

Even at 25% the income tax rate would still be low and without capital gains or inheritance tax the island should still be attractive to our very wealthy residents.

I understand that such left wing policies wouldn’t win many votes and would probably get me kicked out of the IoD and the Chamber of Commerce, but the sacred 20% rate was lost some time ago and in my opinion , is not sustainable anyway, especially with an aging population.

Pay more politicians

If we want better politicians, we need more competition, but the current system just doesn’t work. We really need a salary package that would persuade more experienced and qualified people in their 40s and 50s to give up successful careers to become Member States. The current salary may be suitable for younger elected officials or those who have retired and have actually benefited from a pension supplement, but it is a failure for many others.

Also, ministers should be paid more because the job is full time. Why shouldn’t the chief minister be paid like the chief executive, or ministers like chief executives? If they were, I’m sure there would be more good candidates for voters to choose from.

Likely a loser of the vote if the candidates say they need to make enough money to make giving up successful careers to serve the island worth it, but it shouldn’t be.

Compulsory voting

Jersey’s election turnout is frankly embarrassing, and certainly politicians – current and potential – must shoulder their share of the blame. But the islanders too. How long does it actually take?

The turnout is even more shocking given that there are still people living in Jersey who know what it was like to be occupied by the Nazis and of course we can all now see what kind of democracy Vladimir Putin has in mind for the people of Ukraine and probably elsewhere. It’s our moral duty to vote, but since most of us just can’t be bothered, it’s time to make voting our legal duty.

Finally, a plea…

Kevin Keen

As the election cycle heats up, think carefully about what future politicians are promising. Ask them how they are actually going to do it, why current politicians haven’t already done what they promised before and of course how we are going to pay for what they promise.

If it all sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. But please go ahead and vote on June 22.

Just to prove that voting isn’t just for old people like me, consider what popstar Taylor Swift said, “It’s not enough to want change…You have to go and make the change by voting.”

Or the equally talented and eloquent Billie Eilish: “We all have to vote like our lives and the world depends on it, because they do. The only way to be sure of the future is to make it ourselves.

Kevin Keen’s opinions are entirely personal and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he is associated.