GP Opinion - page 2

Balancing the positive and negative

THE vice president of Policy & Resources used this week’s Budget debate to call for deputies to give themselves a pat on the back for making a ‘stellar start’ to this four-year States term. It was an upbeat performance typical of a politician likened to Brer Rabbit for his perpetual, jaunty optimism. Part of Deputy Trott’s positive assessment undoubtedly came from the latest encouraging figures for States revenue and expenditure.

A lasting tribute to Georgina

AS EVERY parent knows, it is not always easy to keep your child safe, yet when an incurable disease descends out of nowhere the helplessness becomes overwhelming. A family who know this all too well are the parents and sister of much-loved Guernsey teenager Georgina Pearce, who this week lost her brave battle with the rare genetic disorder Niemann-Pick Disease Type C. From being a normal six-year-old, lively and top of the class in some subjects, she suddenly fell victim to memory problems.

Bond loan details held in private

ONE of the more surprising elements of a Budget described as ‘uninspiring’ by the Economic Development president was the suggestion that millions from the States of Guernsey Bond could be lent to non-government organisations. Details are scarce. It is not clear, for example, what sort of companies would make suitable partners, or, more to the point, why the States would consider it in the first place. All we know is that the firms would have to show a good business case and be able to repay the debt.

Deputies to get their fill of debating

FROM famine to feast, the States will tomorrow tuck into the first of a glut of November debates. After a seemingly endless preamble of elections and formalities since the new Assembly took its place in May, the chamber of the Royal Court House is at last getting some sustained political action. Given that the agenda includes finishing off last month’s mammoth Island Development Plan debate with its 32 amendments it is clear that the States has yet to find a way to even out its workload.

Non-public register will provoke MPs

THE scattergun approach by MPs keen to show off their anti-tax evasion credentials indicates why the coming storm over a beneficial ownership register is a reputational risk for the island.

Forget GST, debt is where the action is

A radical suggestion that both the island’s financial black hole and income tax could be wiped out by introducing GST at 27% has drawn strong public interest. It does not take a doctorate in economics to see that such an idea, were it to be implemented, would have a massive effect on the island. Thankfully, it is a long way from even being considered, let alone executed. It is just two economists blue-sky theorising about what might be feasible.

Building a case for new housing

HOUSING was for so long the forgotten issue. Thanks to the good work of the former Housing Department and Guernsey Housing Association, it had fallen down the list of political hot potatoes. That all changed in the final throws of the last States. There were increasing concerns about the stuttering market itself, seen clearly by falling document duty receipts leaving a dent in States finances, about the affordability problems for first-time buyers and what exactly was needed from the social housing sector.

Pats on the back show scale of task

IN A strange way it is the more positive messages in this year’s independent fiscal review that are the most worrying. If its two authors had, for example, declared the public sector overstaffed and overpaid, grossly inefficient with no revenue control or restraint it would be a bitter blow for politicians and civil servants. It would, however, also represent an opportunity. Something that badly broken could easily be fixed and help restore the island’s finances to rude health.

Unless States saves, GST will rise again

IT IS a debate that refuses to die. The spectre of a GST has again been raised as one of the answers to finally eliminating the deficit in States finances. While the option in the Annual Independent Fiscal Policy Review of a 27% GST coupled with scrapping income tax is one straight from economists’ wildest dreams, it is a timely reminder.

Government cannot be one man’s vision

A READER rang the Press offices the other day to complain about Deputy Gavin St Pier. Not that she had anything particularly against the president of Policy & Resources, just that she was tired of seeing his picture in the newspaper. ‘He must be imprinted on our very souls by now,’ the caller grumbled.

Marking Guernsey’s ‘finest hour’

IT HAS been hailed ‘Guernsey’s finest hour’, yet visit the scene of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry’s most historic battle and there is neither a reminder nor memorial. The local infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1916, would a year later fight in the now notorious Battle of Cambrai, defending the small French town of Les Rues Vertes against German counter-attacks. Fated to become a place name ingrained on the island’s memory forever it was the scene of appalling losses, with 40% of the regiment either killed, wounded or missing.

Shining light on an unloved industry

NOISY, grubby and old-school – parts of the light industry sector of Guernsey’s economy lack the shiny new appeal of, say, the digital sector. All angle grinders, blow torches and portable buildings it is an industry that people think they know and understand well, but only value when it goes missing. It is also a sector that, according to the new president of the Committee for Economic Development, has not received enough care in recent years.

Scrutiny is in need of more focus

IT DID not take long for Deputy Paul Le Pelley to remind the Scrutiny committee that he did not want to appear at its public hearing just yet. That came during the first topic for discussion, Education Sport & Culture’s 2017 budget and what it would mean for frontline services. But it is doubtful if Scrutiny had waited until after the Budget debate that it would have extracted any more enlightening answer than was given – broadly Education will try its hardest to meet it, but it will be tough and it does not know where the savings are going to come from. Scrutiny is planning on holding monthly hearings with the committee presidents. At the moment it is still finding its feet. These work best when there is a focused topic to be analysed, as with the waste issue last month. Too often yesterday answers drifted away from the question being asked.

Time to forge ahead on education

FOLLOWERS of the wranglings between the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture and Policy & Resources will be watching with interest today as Education meets the Scrutiny Management Committee. Given the well-publicised in-fighting among deputies and civil servants at Education, the ambiguously worded correspondence which led to the confusion as to whether or not the president of Education was told by the Policy & Resources president and States chief executive to stay away from today’s meeting, and if he would actually appear at the meeting, it is fair to say that the lead-up has been less than illustrious. Whatever the minutiae and the bumpy road that has led to this point, today’s meeting will provide Scrutiny with the chance to demonstrate the value it can add to the political process. As ordinary islanders, we can only sit back and hope Scrutiny does not drop the ball.

Population plans need addressing

IN SIX months’ time every resident of this island will be categorised under the new population regime. It will be a momentous change, discarding a system that has operated, albeit badly, for decades. From my-ancestors-built-the-dolmens locals to guest workers everyone will be assessed according to both their background and, if need be, that of their parents and grandparents.

Vision on

The man with the plan: Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 16353261)

‘Great Today, Better Tomorrow.’ It’s a promising start to the document Horace Camp has dubbed The Gavin Plan, but what about the rest of the vision?