Monday, 25 May 2015

Shorelines, Waterfronts and Democracy

“The Queen has given Jersey ownership of much of the beaches and the seabed around the island. She has owned the land on Jersey's beaches up to the spring high tide mark and 12 miles out to sea. That will now go to the States which wants to lease the space for wave and tidal energy schemes.” (BBC News)

I have a horrible feeling of foreboding that this land will end up in the property portfolio of the States of Jersey Development Company, in which case not only will any wave and tidal energy be at a premium, it will also go to pay the inflatable salaries of its chief executives.

Reg Langlois was saying that the Jersey International Finance Centre was being put forward by the States, and by politicians we elected to govern us, so we should let them get on with the job of governing.

That’s a deeply flawed idea on two counts.

Firstly, it is the JDC which will be developing the site, and despite promises of returns, they have only made a paltry dividend return to the States. Most of this Quangos funds get eaten up by very high executive salaries, and consultancy and legal fees. In fact, incredibly, the States pay them for the rental of Liberation Station, land ceded at a peppercorn value to the JDC!

Instead of rewarding executives by that vague and slippery term “performance” for bonuses, perhaps they should be rewarded by the amount of cash they can return to the States – now, and not twenty years time by which time many of us will have shuffled off this mortal coil or joined the wheelchair brigade at the Midsummer Dream Retirement Home for slippered pantaloons.

The fact is the JDC, which is bringing forward the scheme, which hastily demolished the car park, is a Quango. It was not elected by us; we had no vote in it. That is something Reg doesn’t seem to have seen.

Secondly, the notion that we should just let politicians govern because they were elected, and they can therefore do what they like, does not accord with the idea of representative democracy. That is a democracy where we elect people to represent us. If the vox populi is against a finance centre, it is perfectly possible for the Council of Ministers to ignore that, but they can’t claim to represent us.

The notion that an elected body can do what it likes is an argument used by dictators all over the world. It is about time that we saw through the defects of that. You would think that the fact that Hitler came to power by democratic means would flag up a red alert on that fallacy, but it appears not.

That Reg can’t see that is a real blind spot in his argument, but one which I sure would have Robert Mugabe rejoicing!

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