Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Council of Minister’s Policy Forum

I've reprinted below Ben Shenton's pre-Christmas comments on the newly formed "Jersey Policy Forum", as I think they deserve a more permanent airing than the pages of the JEP.

The so-called "Jersey policy forum" seems to be "The Council of Minister’s Policy Forum" by any other name. It states that:

"All research published by the Jersey Policy Forum must be independent, objective, evidence-based and soundly argued. A research committee will ensure that relevant experts appropriately reference facts and sources through peer review and scrutiny."

However, listening to Mark Boleat, who founded the forum, at a Chamber Lunch just before Christmas it was apparent that scrutiny mentioned above did not mean Scrutiny, as for example, John Le Fondre's panel looking at the economic viability of the Jersey International Finance Centre. For "peer review", then, read, a review by like minded people, in which a real critical voice is not heard.

For example, I gather that Sarah Ferguson is not the kind of member they want, nor, I imagine, Ben Shenton or John Young, or for that matter John le Fondre. What remains is a cosy club.

Mr Boleat's own paper - the only one available so far - shows signs of his own pet hobby-horse, immigration - "Even in the City of London today the British Government’s attempts to restrict net immigration are being held to be detrimental to the ability of the City to maintain its pre-eminent position as the world’s leading financial centre.". No references or data are given for that statement.

And yet in London, commuters can feed in from an ever sprawling suburb, something which he seems to ignore when it comes to Jersey's immigration strategy. And yet he doesn't mention the impact on housing by migration, something taken up by an LSE report on immigration and London - "Their demand increases pressure on the housing market, pushing up prices as compared to other parts of the country and helping to generate movement out of the capital. Increases in house prices reduce the amount of space that Londoners consume, increases problems of access to owner-occupation and puts greater pressure on the rental sectors both private and social." (cf. The Impact of Recent Immigration on the London Economy)

That's something which we see in Jersey, and while he states this - "As a very broad generalisation, small communities, including islands, suffer from depopulation, as young people in particular find greater job opportunities and a more attractive lifestyle in larger communities.", what he doesn't address is that youing people - outside of finance - find few opportunities for home ownership because of the high prices.

What Mark Boleat seems unable to do in his paper is join the dots and make the kinds of correlation between infrastructure, including housing and education, and population. Infrastructure, as I have noted before, is a weakness in his immigration policies for Jersey.

There's also a diversion on rugby, which is one of his hobbies, but has nothing really to do with the subject of his paper. Who on earth peer-reviewed this, and why did they let a private enthusiasm mess up an otherwise fairly formal piece of work?

In fact, it is not stated anywhere who peer reviewed this, and this indulgence spoils the paper - it is certainly not what I would expect to see in "relevant high quality research"; it is more like the asides on American baseball that the late Stephen Jay Gould fitted into some of his popular pieces for Nature. As a result, his paper comes somewhere between an academic piece of work, and a popular essay.

Everyone should feel represented by the States
by Ben Shenton

In one of my comment pieces earlier this year, I revived a concept of 40 years ago, based on a recommendation of the then economic advisor Colin Powell, that Jersey should have a political or Island forum to advice the government on economic and social policy. It should encompass people from all walks of life, especially private enterprise, as policy is often perceived to be by the government for the benefit of the government.

My initial enthusiasm that such a body had indeed been formed soon evaporated when I saw the list of participants, nearly all of whom are remunerated either directly or indirectly by the Jersey government - so no conflicts there then.

I can only assume that the invitation list was mixed up with one for Senator Ozours Christmas drinks party as all of the members would almost certainly be very welcome at his abode.

This train of thought reminded me of a rather amusing incident in 2007. I had been elected as Health Minister a few months before Christmas, but was not the Council of Ministers' chosen candidate. Being the uninvited guest was always going to be an uncomfortable experience and I was pleased to have been invited to a Council of Ministers' Christmas get-together at the Chief Minister's house.

Sadly Frank Walker informed me that the event had been cancelled at the last moment, to be re-arranged for another time. I subsequently found out that the cancellation only applied to me and that the event went ahead in my absence. Under the circumstances they probably had a more enjoyable time without me, especially the Senator - who shall remain nameless - who had been so adamant that I should not attend that he threatened to boycott the event.

When it comes to government everyone should feel that they are represented and a diverse political assembly is necessary to ensure social and economic wealth.

Government needs to listen to the vocal minority, the silent majority, and new media - and not dismiss views and opinions just because we do not agree with them or they are inconvenient truths - such as the States passing the Waterfront plans on the basis that the development would be undertaken by a private developer at no risk to the taxpayer,

With Christmas Day just three days away I'd like to wish a very Merry Christmas to the politicians that have not forgotten why they were elected, to the unionists that represent the well-being of all workers not just the public sector, the pensioners that feel unloved by this government, the families undergoing financial strife, the parents who have to cope in an increasingly difficult world, and all those that love our Island. Happy Christmas.



1 comment:

Colin Machon said...

Good posting! I too was alarmed by this grouping of self appointed worthies. Especially with the States of Jersey Immigration Policy now officially dead and presumably with a stuffed penguin to take its place or even less.
The heartening note in all of this is the resounding thud that the Jersey Policy Forum has had in its modern marketing ,social media savvy presence as supported by the professional experts that they are... very few friends on Facebook and as of today 157 Twitter followers despite following 528 others! It looks as if most of that 157 are from our fourth estate friends looking for effortless copy.For goodness sake even our local pariah ex politician has 3370 followers and an establishment embarrassment like Anne Pryke has 856.
But, no doubt. any utterances will be sucked up by the vacuum that is the collective Council of Ministers crania and converted into 'wise' and 'blessed' and 'to be followed as a principle of faith'.