Monday, 16 February 2009

The Jersey Finance Fantasy

Seafront plan 'will ease crisis': A major building development in Jersey will help stimulate the island's economy, a financial expert has said. Chief executive of Jersey Finance Geoff Cook said a multi-million pound plan to develop the Esplanade could help Jersey through the financial crisis. He said it would create jobs and tax revenue and boost the wider economy. Mr Cook said when the project was completed in about three years' time, the crisis should be over, creating more demand for office space.

When you are in a hole, there is nothing quite like digging it deeper. That is what I thought on reading, with incredulity, Geoff Cook's recent sound bites in the BBC and JEP about how it is especially important to press ahead with the Waterfront development. This is a development that will - according to estimates at the time - cost a cool half a million pounds in maintenance costs for the sunken road infrastructure. Can we afford to just chuck away that money as if there is no tomorrow? According to Geoff Cook, yes!

If he was a passenger on the Titanic, I can imagine him not only as one of those who dressed for dinner as the ship was sinking, but someone who would go one stage better and order one of the most sumptuous five course meals, with champagne, as well. Buttressed by his no doubt inconsiderable salary, and part of a quango which as far as I can make out - unlike even WEB - has no published accounts easily available, he can afford to indulge in these costly flights of fancy.

Whether the States can afford to indulge - or finance - someone like him is another matter, and one I would like to see Ben Shenton and his scrutiny team investigate. Who is Geoff Cook accountable to? Who elects him? He seems to me to be a complete fantasist, living in his own private world, a parallel universe without any recession.

I can hear him saying, "Don't worry about the iceberg, by the time we reach it, it is certain to have melted anyway" - that appears to be the Jersey Finance / Harcourt line on the credit crunch from the JEP stories on them. I think instead the iceberg will still be there, and there will be a nasty crunch when we hit it, if they have their way. 

If Mr Cook is a "financial expert", who "predicts" the crisis should be over, maybe he should write the horoscope columns for the JEP, because he is obviously an expert in that kind of prediction.


Grumpy said...

On the one hand, it's good, here in Jersey to see the odd optimistic comment about the economic climate in the JEP.

On the other, there is a difference between valuable optimism and mindless looney optimism aka "If I close my eyes - they won't be able to see me" syndrome.

I do believe that the media are running the risk of greatly worsening the recession (if they haven't already - thanks, BBC) by scaremongering. That said, I use the 'R' word - and don't deny that one is happening.

Balance is required - as with all things. Whether that is something we will see from the SoJ or not is another question, which I'm not even going to try and answer..

TonyTheProf said...

I've read 24/7's post about redundancy, now pulled, and he has a house, a mortgage, a wife and a young kid of around 9. I don't think it is scaremongering to face the human suffering that this recession is causing; for those not cushioned - like Mr Cook - Jersey has absolutely no decent mechanisms of support - until you are in the gutter, and can claim your income support. In the old days, parishes could provide temporary loans to help people while they found work (as has been noted by several Constables). With the "wonderful" income support, this discretionary help has been lost. I cannot see how this is a forward step! For the press to report this, and to highlight the jobs being lost, is to show up a very real problem. To say that we are not in recession, as Terry Le Sueur has done recently, is simply to appear ridiculous because he applies an arbitrary financial definition and disregards common sense.