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Jersey planning for ‘the follow-up crisis’

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MAJOR capital projects will have to be deferred and large parts of the Government Plan rewritten, as Jersey will experience the biggest financial downturn since the economic crash of 2008, the government chief executive has warned.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker, in his first public address since the Covid-19 crisis began, added that a recovery plan was already being worked on and stressed that austerity measures would be needed to get the government back on track financially.

‘We have created capacity and facility to go and borrow money and we will need to do that,’ Mr Parker said at a press conference yesterday. He added that he was not in a position to say how much the Island might need to borrow.

‘We have lots of businesses in distress – how quickly can they come back, what the Island will look like, what will the driving force be for the economy in the future? This all requires careful and thorough planning and that is what we are doing behind the scenes.

‘It’s not about quick numbers and fixes. Its not all about the immediate crisis, either. It’s about the follow-up crisis, which will be an economic one.’

Mr Parker could not give details on what projects might be deferred but stressed, by the nature of lockdown, that construction work on major capital projects had been halted, which, he says, will save the government cash in the short term that can be ploughed into healthcare.

In response to a question about a shortfall in government revenues, Mr Parker said: ‘Inevitably we are going to find some real revenue shortfalls – things like tipping fees, sports fees and parking fees will be significantly down on normal. Additionally we will not be receiving revenues from businesses in the form of GST, so, yes, we are doing a lot of analysis. The Income Forecasting Group is looking at all of that behind the scenes – not just the impact today but in six months’ time.’

And addressing his absence from the public sphere, which has been noted by several political commentators, Mr Parker said: ‘Some people have asked why I have not been seen in the media during this time.

‘What my colleagues and I want to talk to you about is how we have been preparing behind the scenes to deal with coronavirus since it was first reported by China in January.’

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Mr Parker also thanked public-sector workers, from those on the frontline to teachers, post workers, staff at Jersey Water and Jersey Electricity and the emergency services.

In 2018, the government imposed a recruitment freeze on public-sector workers to save cash. Mr Parker was asked if whether, in hindsight, that was the correct move as the Health Department were now appealing for retired workers to support them.

He said: ‘Clearly nobody across the world would have foreseen just two months ago the impact of coronavirus and it would be difficult for any organisation to have the staff trained with all the specific skills in place.’

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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