The £44 million boost is just what is needed at a time when Islanders are clearly beginning to feel the pinch. The prudence of the politicians responsible for establishing the Stabilisation Fund and feeding cash into it when surpluses were available is, therefore, to be commended.
We should, meanwhile, be heartened by the knowledge that even after the £44 million has been spent, more than £100 million will remain in our front-line defence against economic adversity. In addition, the famous ‘rainy day fund’ remains in reserve for potential use in further adversity, though balancing public sector books might well have to take precedence.
‘Timely, targeted and temporary’ are the watchwords linked to the use of money from the reserve. In the light of advice received from the Fiscal Policy Panel, the Treasury appears to have concluded that these criteria will be met most easily by pumping money into bricks and mortar in various shapes and forms.
This has the virtue of providing work not only for major construction companies and their employees but also for the small builders and tradesmen who have been badly hit by the downturn.
Money will also be spent on easing the path for those on income support through the extension of the transitional relief programme, a measure that will address problems experienced by the least well-off in this community.
Positive effects in construction and through income support should be seen reasonably rapidly, but a further area of spending – on training and retraining – can only be expected to pay slower dividends. And it is vital that this spending is targeted very carefully indeed. Training for jobs which no one can realistically expect to exist would clearly be an utter waste of time and resources.
With this in mind, the proposed nursing apprenticeship scheme passes the practicality test in that medical staffing issues are among the problems currently affecting our health service.
If the present spending plans can be criticised it is on the grounds that they offer little in the way of innovation and will play no conceivable part in the much-needed diversification of our economy – though it can be argued that a period of economic firefighting is anything but the best background for encouraging the launch of pioneering businesses.