So, there it is. We have a proposed Migration Policy. It has been the key issue in Jersey politics for at least the last 20 years, and the stick which has been used to beat successive Ministers, and Committee Presidents before them.
Without clarity on the desired scale on the island’s population, how can we resolve the education, health, housing, infrastructure, economic and environmental issues which all stand before us?
But precisely because it is such a pivotal question, it is one which the island has been unable to answer. That continues, until we are now told, at least 2022.
We now have some proposed migration controls, which the Chief Minister says, will actually give officials the tools to the job…whatever the island decides that job to be.
He also admitted, for the first time in recent political history, that our current (and previous) controls were not fit for purpose – for the simple fact that they allow permissions to be ‘recycled;’ essentially, passed onto someone else.
Pictured: Jersey's population growth.
In recent years we have thankfully moved on from an obsession with a magic number, as if 100,000 people is somehow fine, but 101,000 isn’t…and once you reach 99,999 people (as if you could even measure that precisely, in ‘real-time’) do you have a ‘one in, one out’ policy, like some back-street nightclub. Ridiculous.
But we haven’t moved on from setting targets, which are then repeatedly smashed, and being told that we have the controls to do the job, when we clearly don’t.
Consider these words from the official 2011 States proposition which created the system we currently have:
“…contradictory objectives remain between the need to manage immigration more firmly, the protection of local housing and jobs, support for employers, and better housing rights for migrants. The challenge is to balance these objectives, and this Law gives the States and their appointed Minister the controls to do this.”
Apparently, that’s not true. The Chief Minister told us yesterday that it actually does nothing of the sort. It doesn’t give us “the controls to do this” at all.
Which means that on THE most critical issue in Jersey - a description often confirmed by various public surveys – we have so far been caught short…again.
Pictured: The Chief Minister at this week's media briefing.
But this time, it’s all different! The new proposed controls will change all that. Finally, we will have controls which will enable a “responsive” and “transparent” system (please can someone describe it as “agile” just to complete the set?), perhaps putting Ministers in the position of a fighter pilot, with a comprehensive array of up-to-date information in front of them (surely a “dashboard”), precise controls to effect the most minute of course corrections, and laser-guided missiles to (“dynamically?”) hit the desired target. Hurrah! Dig out the Aviator sunglasses, all is well.
Now, all we have to decide is what that target is. Because that is still completely missing. We still don’t know how to balance the “contradictory objectives” mentioned above. We still don’t know how to balance the needs of the environment and the economy, and if they even need to be in opposition. We still don't know if the island can support the people it needs to deliver a decent standard of living for all. People follow prosperity, with the reverse also true – there are examples within our own Channel Islands of that.
So, scrap the fanfare, and pack up the bunting. Put the fireworks back in their box, and send the covid-muffled bands home. We still don’t have a population policy. We still don’t know what we want. But we have new controls; which are apparently better that the old controls. Somehow, it's all very 2020.
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