The Chief Minister has insisted his Assistant Treasury Minister was talking in a personal capacity when he told business leaders last week that “a few percent” should be knocked off GST as a way of kickstarting the economy post-lockdown.
The GST suggestion from Senator Ian Gorst – which he said was not supported by his Ministerial colleagues – came during a Chamber of Commerce webinar last week, and was also raised during a Scrutiny meeting.
It was the second time in recent weeks he had spoken out on economic recovery policy without the full backing of the government.
In the first instance, Senator Gorst warned that “there is no such thing as free money” as he claimed that taxes will have to rise when the virus crisis is over.
Though supported by Treasury Minister Deputy Susie Pinel, the remarks caused disquiet among Ministerial colleagues, with Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham stating during a later press conference that he wished to “distance” himself from that view.
Pictured: The Treasury Minister, Deputy Susie Pinel, said taxes will have to rise to restore public finances.
Questioned by Express during a press conference yesterday, Chief Minister Senator Le Fondré said that Senator Gorst’s comments to Chamber were a personal view, rather than him speaking as a representative of the government.
He did not endorse or discredit his colleague’s idea when asked for his view, but simply stated that it would depend on “what does economic recovery looks like versus what do we need to do on restoring the island’s finances”.
“That’s going to be the issues we are going to have to face, but that’s going to be over the coming weeks in bringing that package together,” he said, adding that that piece of work had started although the focus of this week was the lockdown exit plan, which will impact the recovery.
Video: The Chief Minister answered questions during a press conference yesterday.
Asked about whether the island should be looking at longer or shorter term recovery measures, he explained: “You’re not going to restore the island’s funds to where they were in a year.”
He then went on to explain that the Government had to work out “a reasonable time period” over wish to replenish the public coffers and stating his personal view on how it should be done.
“I think, me, at this stage, subject to all the approvals that we need to get, it would be in the medium to longer term on that outlook rather than the short term.”
The Chief Minister also said that any financial recovery from the public sector would have to be balanced with the economic recovery and the island community recovery, describing the process as a “jigsaw”.
Pictured: The Chief Minister said balancing the financial recovery of the public sector and the economic recovery was a "jigsaw".
“Basically, whatever we are going to have to do it’s a balance…” the Chief Minister explained. “This is all about long-term. It’s the economic recovery long-term, versus restoring the island’s finances long-term, and that is going to be a balance of measures…
“There’s a balance of things we can be doing and those discussions at least the very, very initial discussions actually started today [Monday] with a group of Ministers. It’s going to formulate a structure very, very quickly, that’s going to bring in key members of the community and that’s going to feed into the Council of Ministers.”
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