A protected species – in these times of recession

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Take the term ‘quantitative easing’, for example, which featured in numerous worthy media reports this week.

Or ‘protectionism’, which my dictionary defines as the government practice of protecting domestic producers through restrictions on foreign competitors. In the words of some of Jersey’s entrepreneurs, think twice, buy local.

It is this concept of protectionism which has been bandied about by several Jersey politicians of late, not least because of the Island’s fiscal independence. Our government depends on the Island’s population to raise the taxes that keep it going. There is no fallback position for Jersey, no bolstering from a larger economy, no one to turn to for help if the tax earnings fail to come in.

To put it bluntly, if the Island doesn’t work, there’s nothing to eat.

Those senior ministers who have raised the question of protectionism are to a man agin the idea. The idea of taking anti-competitive measures would be abhorrent to them, they say.

But in truth there seems to be a fine line between what counts as protectionist and what doesn’t.

Take the recent measures to better enable Jersey firms to bid for States work, for instance. So far, we are told, around 250 local suppliers have registered on a newly-created States internet site which advertises business opportunities across departments.

Given that there are over 4,000 registered trading companies in the Island, it is not a huge number. But the intention seems to be that that this initiative should grow and that Jersey firms should at least be seen to be able to take a larger bite of the States cherry.

Being seen to be fair is, of course, good politics.

But the underlying economic reality is that the more non-locally based firms there are trading in the Island, the less tax take there will be for our government. The new zero-ten tax regime – under which only utility companies, financial services firms, and Jersey-resident directors and shareholders will pay corporate tax – means that the Boots and the Burtons of our high street will be paying the 20% tax they used to pay to the States of Jersey to Her Majesty’s Treasury instead.

The same principle presumably applies to UK-based construction firms, contractors, IT service providers, and the myriad other UK suppliers of States departments on a day-to-day basis.

So it is no wonder at all that Jersey firms are being encouraged to bid for States tenders. The question that should be asked is why it did not happen long ago – there have certainly been enough complaints from small businesses who say they have been consistently undercut by larger UK competitors.

What is now clear is that the States will need to become less reliant on outside sources in order to bolster its own economic strength. And no doubt this will be music to the ears of Jersey employers – and employees – in these difficult times.

If that counts as protectionism by the back door, so be it.

OUR parking control officers – traffic wardens, to you and me – have come in for a bit of stick of late.

Their new patrols of the yellow lines around the school belt have proved mighty unpopular with those who hitherto have been ignoring both the colour and the purpose of said markings.

I, however – and I never thought that I would say this – am wholly in favour of the officers’ actions and I do hope that they will not be deterred by the wrath of parents who believe they have the right to flout the rules.

I have to confess a large dollop of self interest. As a resident of the school belt I have become all too accustomed to the line of people carriers parked along the road, on occasion across the entrances to private dwellings.

But on a more general note there is nothing more frustrating than trying to negotiate a way through a relatively narrow gap when both sides of the road have yellow lines – and at least one side of it is lined with cars.

What is the point, I have asked myself on numerous occasions, of applying yellow paint when the authorities have absolutely no intention of enforcing the rules.

I have also become accustomed, on the odd occasion when I have been at home during the afternoon, to watching young children running around private dwellings, expending their energy at the end of the school day by kicking dustbins and throwing empty crisp packets over the walls of neighbouring properties.

One way of using up energy is to walk to and from school, or at least to a convenient drop-off point. Walking is a lifetime’s good habit which, as a parent, I believe should be endorsed.

So please keep up the good work, parking controllers.

Perhaps you might consider extending your patrols to the shops near the Five Oaks roundabout, where the problems are just as severe – and where an accident or two is just waiting to happen.

HAVING just spent the best part of a week in foreign climes, I find myself musing on the level of cost control we travellers are subject to these days.

You only have to log on to an airline website to see how little things add up. A charge for choosing your seat here, a charge for taking your suitcase on board there, a little travel insurance here, a charge for on-board drinks or a snack there. You can even put some money into the conservation cause by covering your carbon footprint.

Of course no one is disputing the rising cost of commodities or the need to put something back into the environment. But now, according to some media sources, Mr O’Leary of Ryanair is talking about charging a few pennies or so to use the on-board loo as well. OK, he may only have been trying to make a point, but he certainly has not ruled out the possibility.

So look out next time you try and book your flights on-line. Given the propensity of competitor airlines to follow the leader, there may be an extra button to press, if you decide that you don’t want the option of spending a penny while airborne.

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