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Letter to the Editor: 'We live in an island that has a great future, and we should seize it'

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UNTIL this week there had been an almost unstoppable tide of opinion about a deficit in Jersey's public finances that had allegedly previously been undisclosed.

What become known as the 'black hole' caused a huge amount of angst and uncertainty, which knocked confidence in the Island.

In 2014, as the then Treasury Minister, I published three reports that set out four areas which would need tackling in 2015-2018:

1. Significant investment in Health and increased allocations required for Education.

2. Promoting Economic Growth and diversification to boost jobs and revenues.

3. The need for efficiencies across the public sector.

4. The capital investment required for investment in infrastructure – especially a new Hospital.

For whatever reason, it is now clear that the reports did not form the basis of the debates that followed. The reports were clearly misunderstood by many.

The Chief Minister and others have consistently tried to explain why reductions in spending were being made, and that they were necessary. Reductions in spending are still needed to fund increasing Health costs for the future.

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The carefully laid plans to boost economic growth were derided but are actually coming true.

The Chief Minister has now been criticised for repeating the things he has said in the past. Moreover, because it appears the plans are working – almost faster and to a greater extent than was hoped – the criticism is getting louder. That in my view is unfair.

Tax receipts are up because of an increase in the number of Islanders in employment – a result of a buoyant economy fuelled by a resurgent finance sector. There are encouraging early signs of success in our digital sector and in many other areas.

Spending reductions are greater than those which were originally set out in 2014.

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At the same time, the States public investments appear to show spectacular returns in 2016. If these reserves had been spent earlier – as had been argued by some – these returns would not have been made, and today they place the Island in such a strong asset position.

These strong financial and economic results in other places would be welcomed.

With the benefit of hindsight, not all decisions are the right ones. Anyone who makes decisions and takes responsibility makes mistakes. But there needs to be a balanced debate about the policies of the last few years.

Politics in Jersey has become focused on negativity. There are certainly some issues which should not have been allowed to happen. We have so much to be thankful for and the results now emerging show that not all is bad – and never was.

The readers of the JEP deserve an honest and realistic debate about the positive economic and financial situation that Jersey finds itself in today. There are positive choices ahead. We live in an island that has a great future, and we should seize it.

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