Guernsey Press

300 more workers in each year is ‘a Ponzi scheme’

INCREASING the island’s population to keep the economy afloat has been decried as a ‘Ponzi scheme’ by the vice-president of the senior States Committee.

Vice president of Policy & Resources Deputy Heidi Soulsby. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31364271)

Deputy Heidi Soulsby, vice-president of Policy & Resources, made the comment in yesterday’s Scrutiny Management hearing, when the committee faced questions on the progress of the Government Work Plan.

The population report from Home Affairs has proposed that the island should be prepared to accommodate an additional 300 people for its workforce each year to sustain the economy.

Scrutiny chairwoman Deputy Yvonne Burford asked members of P&R if the island’s housing crisis would ever be solved, considering the additional pressure the increase would put on the demand for housing.

‘I am concerned that the more people we bring in, it is a Ponzi scheme,’ said Deputy Soulsby.

‘The more people we bring in the more people we have to look after ­– and we end up being like Hong Kong and have to build higher and higher. That bothers me, and we need to think outside the box about how we can help people and support our population in terms of productivity.’

She said she hoped to see more conversations taking place on the issue, which is due to be discussed by the States next week. A number of amendments have been submitted to the proposals, most attempting to water down the immigration target.

‘Where can we get growth rather than just by adding more and more people?’

Earlier P&R president Peter Ferbrache said that successful economies would always have concerns about housing, but that was different to experiencing a housing emergency, which the island is currently facing.

‘If the economy declined, and the population shrunk to 50,000, there would be enough houses and they’d be cheap, but people wouldn’t have jobs, or well-paid jobs,’ said Deputy Ferbrache.

‘Our schools and hospital systems wouldn’t be as good as they are – people would have to take a significant reduction in [the standard of] living.’

Population increases could result in a need for up to 4,000 new homes over the next 15 years, leading Deputy Simon Fairclough to ask where exactly they could go.

Deputy Ferbrache said even without population growth, the island would still need more houses, and revealed he had thought of one potentially suitable site for development. However due to stringent planning regulations, he assumed there would be a large number of impediments to it being built on. ‘It is 11 acres, a completely overgrown vinery, with rubbish tipped all over it, that would make an ideal housing development,’ he said.

Amendments for population debate, page 4