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The mysterious case of the Economic Council

The mysterious case of the Economic Council

Friday 04 December 2020

The mysterious case of the Economic Council


Concerns have been raised over the transparency, and actual influence, of a panel of industry experts tasked with advising Ministers on the island's economic recovery, which a Scrutiny panel described as “shrouded in mystery."

The questions over the Economic Council's aims were raised in a report by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, which analysed the Government’s response to the pandemic.

The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, announced the creation of the Economic Council in June, alongside that of a new Political Oversight Group for Economic Recovery. 

He said the council would make use of “the local expertise within our island” and that both groups would help to inform the Government’s efforts to support jobs and local businesses.

The groups evolved from the Economic Taskforce and Coronavirus Business Liaison Group which had been formed in March.

eco_council-2.jpg

Pictured: The Economic Council included community and business representatives from a range of sectors, who all participated on a voluntary basis.

Despite repeated questions from Express, the Government took over a month to release details of the membership of the Council, which is chaired by Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham.

It includes community and business representatives from a range of sectors, all participating on a voluntary basis.

These include Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Carnegie, IoD Chair Lisa Springate, Durrell CEO Lesley Dickie, ArtHouse Chair Philip Hewat-Jaboor, and Lodge Farm's Becky Houzé.

Other industry representatives include Visit Jersey Non-Executive Chair Kevin Keen, BDO CEO Matthew Corbin, R&H Partner Jen Geddes, Garenne Group CEO Martin Holmes, teaching union NASUWT's Marina Mauger, Carey Olsen Group Managing Partner Alex Ohlsson, Youth Service Ambassador Rina Rodrigues, former PwC Head Brendan MacMahon, and Tony Taylor of Jersey Sport, Jersey Dairy and Jersey Electricity.                                                         

The Council's terms of reference stated it had been formed to consider ideas and initiatives that: 

  • support the renewal or expansion of existing economic sub-sectors; 
  • help to diversify Jersey economy into new sub-sectors; 
  • build greater resilience within local businesses;
  • improve productivity within the economy;
  • simplify the process of doing business with Government and associated bodies e.g. regulators, so as to improve competitiveness whilst maintaining Jersey’s position vis-à-vis international standards. 

According to the EIA Panel, the group has met eight times since it was established and is due to publish their interim report - which has so far not been released. 

During the first three meetings discussions focused on general initiatives and targeted support for the hospitality sector and small businesses.

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Pictured: Minutes of the Council's meeting show concerns have been raised about the number of sub-groups being established and the need for cohesion.

The Panel noted in its report that minutes of the meetings – which Express has been requesting since the summer - showed concerns had been raised about the number of sub-groups being established, and the need for cohesion.

In addition, during the Panel’s regular catch-up sessions with the Chamber of Commerce, which forms part of the Economic Council, it was noted that they felt the group did not have enough “teeth” in making and influencing economic decisions.

It is understood that ideas put forward by the Council are passed on to the Future Economy Political Oversight Group (POG) - but no information has been given to what happens next.

Political Oversight Group

Pictured: The Economic Council is overseen by a Political Oversight Group, and feeds into several working groups.

In his foreword, the Chair of the Panel, Deputy Kirsten Morel, described the role of the Council as being “still somewhat shrouded in mystery."

He added: “We look forward to receiving its long-awaited report and will study with interest the manner in which the Government acts on its proposals.”

Express has asked for the meeting minutes again and is awaiting a reply.

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Posted by John Henwood on
Deputy Morel is looking for the bogeyman again. Is it healthy to be in government and continue to be a conspiracy theorist? Speaking for myself, I'm grateful to those people - and I know one or two of those named - who give up their own time, share their intellect and offer advice for no reward other than the satisfaction of having made a contribution to the wellbeing of our Island.
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