Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Order Matters

We don't just remember. We re-enact, eating matzah, the unleavened bread of affliction, tasting maror, the bitter herbs of oppression, and drinking four cups of wine, each a stage in what Nelson Mandela called the long walk to freedom. And it all begins with the question asked by a child: why is this night different? I can still picture in my mind those nights long ago when I was the child. They gave me my first induction into the ideals I've tried to carry with me into adult life, above all a sense of fellow feeling with others who suffer, eating their own bread of affliction. (Jonathan Sacks)

I have always held the opinion that any tax which taxes life's essentials is immoral, unfair and falls disproportionately on the less well-off....The argument that has always been used by successive Ministers for Treasury and Resources in regard to GST is "keep it simple", "it's only 3%". I sign up to keeping things simple, but not to an inequity; it was wrong to tax these items at 3% and to consider taxing food and heating at 5% is indefensible (Andrew Green)

Does order matter?

Freeze GST for 6 months?

Freeze GST for a year?

Keep GST at 3%?

GST rise to 4%

GST to 5%, but with exemptions

GST to 6%, but with exemptions?

GST to 5%

Does the order in which a debate is carried make a difference to the final outcome? Where there are so many amendments on the table to the final option (GST at 5%), I think it could well make a difference, and that the person controlling the order by which the choices are given (the agenda maker) has great control over the outcome. There is a considerable body of literature which has examined this phenomena, starting with Schwartz's groundbreaking study on "Agendas and Control of Political Outcomes".

Understanding amendment rules and voting methods is important for political analysis because it reflects the degree to which outcomes depend on structure rather than votes

After a bill is reported to the floor and amendments are offered, the voting method employed can have significant effects on the final collective choice. The method of choosing between mutually exclusive legislative proposals, and the position of the status quo (i.e., when it comes up in the decision sequence and when it is the default alternative), varies across countries.

The voting agendas in place to decide on the details of the bill vary cross-nationally. The two most studied procedures are the so-called amendment and the sequential-elimination procedures. The first is employed primarily in Great Britain and its former colonies including the U.S., and the latter is mainly used in Continental Europe and Latin America. The two archetypical methods have existed since at least the Roman Empire (Farquharson 1969) (1)

Jersey uses the "amendment procedure" rather than the "sequential-elimination procedure"

Under the amendment procedure, amending votes precede an enacting vote: a draft bill is pitted against amended versions until, at the end, a surviving version is pitted against the status quo. The winner is the alternative chosen in the last vote, after all other alternatives have been voted at least once

Under the sequential elimination method, mutually exclusive alternatives are voted up or down in a given order. If a majority chooses one alternative, it is the outcome; voting on that section stops, and all other mutually exclusive alternatives are considered rejected. (1)

How can this effect outcomes?

In the 1950s Duncan Black first noted that under the amendment procedure the later an alternative enters the voting stage, the greater its chance of adoption. Under sequential elimination agendas, it is the opposite: the sooner and amendment comes up for voting, the greater its chance of winning (Farquharson 1969). (1)

So the order in which matters are presented in Jersey, and the amendment system means that the likehood is that items such as a 4% rise on GST rather than a freeze would have stood a better chance. In fact, Senator Francis Le Gresley tried to boost support for the freeze by withdrawing his own suggestion to raise GST to 4% instead of five. Philip Ozouf then (citing the "mood of the house"!!) withdrew the amendment to GST of 6% but exemptions from the table, so the only choice was over exemptions - against which he could argue a revenue loss, rather than a tax neutral option.

But if the freeze options had come last, before the final 5% with no exemptions, it would have been a straightforward tussle between the two options. With no other options in the pipeline, such as GST at 6% but with exemptions, there was always a chance that those who were convinced of exemptions, such as Andrew Green, Brian Le Marquand, Jacqui Hilton and Ian Gorst, might have voted for a freeze, which might have given time, both for a changed economic outlook, and, of course, a changed political outlook as with even the 6 months option (taking the rise to December 2010), a new house would be sitting.

As it stands, it is a "win win" situation for some politicians who voted against exemptions, such as John le Fondré, because come the next election, they can say they had voted for a delay in GST, and they can even get off Montfort Tadier's "GST Party Win's Again" list, even though they were only voting for a delay, not a cancellation!

(http://mtadier.blogspot.com/2010/12/gst-party-win-again.html )

Francis Le Gresley's vote was surprising, especially as the Citizen's Advice Bureau took a completely different line. Clearly once he had withdrawn his 4% offer, there was nowhere else for him to go but 5%, as he didn't want exemptions.

Jersey's citizens advice bureau says people living there less than five years will be hit hardest by the rise in the goods and services tax (GST). Malcolm Ferey, from the bureau, said they may not be able to apply for income support. Jersey politicians voted to keep GST on food and fuel and to increase the tax to 5% from June 2011. Malcolm Ferey said he was disappointed the States did not allow goods and services tax (GST) exemptions. He said there was a portion of the community that falls into the gap and loses out on support (BBC News)

Here is the voting list - it can be seen that Ian Le Marquand, Jacqui Hilton, Ian Gorst - who have consistently been elected on a mandate of exemptions on GST have continued to honour their commitment. Ministers or Assistant Ministers they may be, but they still show an independent which is to be welcomed, and which derives from thinking ethically rather than managerially about the debate. There is, I think, too little discussion of ethics, and what would constitute a just society, in today's politics, and too much concentration on a "fixit" economics. While we need to have a budget that works, we should also be mindful of the poorer members of society, and not just look for an easy managerial solutions.

Anne Dupre had another change of mind, citing 5% as too high, although less generously minded commentators such as myself think that as she voted against exemptions just after the last elections, she needed to do something to boost her credibility before next year's elections.

The Constables are split by 9 parishes to 3.

POUR: 24 CONTRE: 26 ILL: 3

Senator Terence Augustine Le Sueur
Senator Paul Francis Routier
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf
Senator Terence John Le Main
Senator Frederick Ellyer Cohen
Senator James Leslie Perchard
Senator Sarah Craig Ferguson
Senator Alan John Henry Maclean
Senator Francis du Heaume Le Gresley, M.B.E.
Connétable John Le Sueur Gallichan
Connétable Daniel Joseph Murphy
Connétable Michael Keith Jackson
Connétable Silvanus Arthur Yates
Connétable Graeme Frank Butcher
Connétable Peter Frederick Maurice Hanning
Connétable Leonard Norman
Connétable John Martin Refault
Connétable Juliette Gallichan
Deputy Robert Charles Duhamel
Deputy John Benjamin Fox
Deputy James Gordon Reed
Deputy John Alexander Nicholas Le Fondré
Deputy Anne Enid Pryke
Deputy Angela Elizabeth Jeune
Deputy Edward James Noel
Deputy Tracey Anne Vallois

Senator Ben Edward Shenton
Senator Alan Breckon
Senator Bryan Ian Le Marquand
Connétable Kenneth Priaulx Vibert
Connétable Alan Simon Crowcroft
Connétable Deidre Wendy Mezbourian
Deputy Frederick John Hill, B.E.M.
Deputy Roy George Le Hérissier
Deputy Judith Ann Martin
Deputy Geoffrey Peter Southern
Deputy Carolyn Fiona Labey
Deputy Jacqueline Ann Hilton
Deputy Paul Vincent Francis Le Claire
Deputy Shona Pitman
Deputy Kevin Charles Lewis
Deputy Ian Joseph Gorst
Deputy Philip John Rondel
Deputy Montfort Tadier
Deputy Daniel John Arabin Wimberley
Deputy Trevor Mark Pitman
Deputy Anne Teresa Dupre
Deputy Michael Roderick Higgins
Deputy Andrew Kenneth Francis Green M.B.E.
Deputy Jeremy Martin Maçon

Deputy Collin Hedley Egré
Deputy Sean Power
Deputy Deborah Jane De Sousa


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