Fresh problems for States’ fresh faces

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But having now been endorsed by the public vote, all will no doubt be as fresh-faced and keen to make their mark as any new starter.

The problems they are likely to face in the next six years, however, are not the same as the problems in the previous six. Just as today’s climate is perhaps not the most encouraging for the economy as a whole, the impact on the Island’s political life is likely to be almost as stark.

The fact is that the past couple of years have hotly favoured our political masters. In 2005, for the first time, the financial services industry produced some real growth after the recession of the early 2000s. And last year, according to the annual survey of financial institutions, the total profit coming from the sector was 12% higher than in the previous year. Question is, will that profit of £1.4 billion be matched this year?

Given that banks account for over four-fifths of it, and given that many of those banks with a presence in Jersey are currently being part-nationalised by their respective parent governments, the answer might well be no.

That leads to a lower income for the Comptroller of Income Tax. Not forgetting, of course, that from next year finance companies will only pay half of the tax that they (officially) used to pay before zero-ten cuts in.

If City of London trends are to be believed, bonuses this year might not meet the targets of previous years. So there will be less spending ability swilling around on the retail side. Larger expenditure items, such as glossy new cars and houses with swimming pools, might have to wait.

Of course the wily Treasury Minister will also be dipping his hand into your pocket with the ever-tightening 20 means 20 measures. But there will be less pocket money to dip in to. So all in all Jersey’s politicians may not have as much to spend in the next couple of years. Economic Development, for example, may have to watch its purse strings a little more, once its £1 million windfall has run out.

Keen or not, the new batch of Senators may find their public a little less congratulatory over the coming months, and increasingly hard to please.

IT is true, of course, that the clients of Jersey’s finance industry are spread far and wide. The problem is that even in overwhelmingly upbeat jurisdictions like Dubai there are murmurings of disquiet.

According to yesterday’s Financial Times a ‘crisis’ has engulfed the United Arab Emirates. As oil prices drop – and in some cases oil begins to run out – the rulers are becoming concerned that the money to build ambitious projects might run out as well.

This applies particularly in Dubai, where the ruling family has commissioned the world, literally – an island complex created from nothing – not to mention the world’s tallest building, an underwater hotel and an under-cover ski resort. Just about anything anyone could want (apart from indecency on the beach) is now available there.

The problem now is whether the debt needed to build those luxuries will need reinforcing, and indeed whether investment in the property sector is sustainable, given the mortgage dilemma of potential investors.

Only a couple of years ago Jersey firms were banking on Dubai’s success to fuel their own fortunes. Now China is the new Dubai. And even China is going for slow.

HOW likely is the completion of Esplanade Square, the new finance quarter on the waterfront? Some say there are plenty of takers – and if you total up firms that are currently in two or three locations around the town, there probably are.

On the downside, firms in the UK are already suffering from the rising cost of raw materials – up 5.5% in the year to June, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. In the circumstances, it is not too surprising that in the second quarter of this year new orders for projects were down 20% on the previous year. Further falls are expected come next year, with private industry and private housing hardest hit.

So there should be plenty of construction workers around, if indeed the waterfront contract is approved by the States. Workers will be oozing out of every downtrodden UK firm to come and work in Jersey.

I understand that some of our seaside cafés have been able to stay open over the autumn, but not because of the tourists. Construction workers, it seems, are their main customers. Bacon butties all round.

ANOTHER new trend that has increased noticeably over the last couple of months is to employ people in other places, but to make them responsible for Jersey operations.

For every genuine Jersey appointment sent in to the business pages there is a corresponding press release about someone appointed in Bermuda, Guernsey, Cayman, Dubai, Geneva and such like.

Naturally enough, we question the legitimacy of publishing appointments of people who are not actually living and working in this Island. Almost always the response is that the person concerned is ‘responsible for Jersey too’.

Could it be that Jersey’s notoriously high labour costs, rather than the J-category restrictions, are proving a little too off-putting?

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