Sunday, 13 September 2009
Jersey Finance Ltd (“Voice of the International Finance Centre”) is organising a two weeks promotional trip to China in October.
We haven’t managed to find out much about it and they refuse to allow us a link to their very boring blog /web site so that you can more easily look for yourselves.
But we at “The Voice” presume that it will be an expensive do and wondered if any taxpayers’ money would be spent?
Again we haven’t managed to discover very much except that the Jersey Financial Services Commission assure us that they are not participating in any way. Quite rightly they have confirmed that it would be improper for the regulating body to be seen to promote the industry. This policy is in line with the recommendations of the Edwards Report.
Jersey Finance Ltd blurb says that their promotion will concentrate on such as “capital structuring, the management of private wealth with a particular emphasis on Foundations” which sounds like the sort of activities that nearly brought about the collapse of the world economy just a few months ago! They also want to officially open Jersey’s 2nd “overseas representative office” in Hong Kong (oh really? And we didn’t even know that Jersey had a foreign office or a foreign policy).
And they want to promote the listing of Jersey companies (like the Jersey Steel Mill Co Ltd or the Jersey Aircraft Factory Co Ltd?) on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange too.
We contacted Senator Philip Ozouf the normally talkative Minister for Treasury & Resources and he e-mailed a reply but asked us to;
“keep these comments to yourself “
He also said that he is “happy” to talk with us – but so far only silence and we have asked him verbally and e-mailed him again but still nothing………
Of course, there are significant human rights implications in dealing with a country like China.
Indeed, as an international finance centre, many Jersey businesses already deal with the most sordid regimes all over the world and unless the UN or the EU actually imposes sanctions against it, nothing seems to appeal to any hidden sense of ethical standards or restraints.
The smell of wealth is just too overwhelming apparently.
It is especially sad in an Island where Philip Ozouf was the official government spokesman to contact last week regarding the proposed Same Sex Civil Partnership legislation. This is of course an important Human Rights issue in Jersey (and Philip declined to speak with us about that either) and the subject has revealed problems in China where attitudes towards homosexuality remain largely discriminatory even though gay sex is not now officially illegal there.
But it must be said too that from Jersey - without any anti-discrimination legislation in place, and still not having even ratified such important UN Conventions as those to prevent discrimination against women or to protect the rights of the child - we can hardly preach to China or Saudi Arabia or anywhere else on human rights issues.
The Chinese attitude towards tax havens must also be encouraging to our money hungry leaders and business folk. At the recent G20 summit the Chinese; “categorically opposed the practice of some developed countries unilaterally incorporating some developing countries into the blacklist of tax havens.”
The Chinese don’t just talk sympathetically about tax havens either because they are very busy around the world investing in likely projects and such places at the Bahamas where their official spokesman Wu Bangguo recently said;
“We support the increased management of the international financial institutions and also reform of the international institutions. But what we would like to see is an increase in the representation and in the voice of developing countries in the international financial institutions.”
So there you have it. Sweet old fashioned Communist China – the cuddly political panda - is in the international market place both economically and politically. No doubt the Chinese could be induced to finance the comatose Jersey Esplanade Quarter (Chai and a Bun square?) or Old St Helier’s regeneration (the Mao Memorial Millennium Park?) but what would they want in return and what will they get in return for bailing out the Bahamas?
The question then is not just about whether Philip Ozouf or any others from this silent Council of Ministers will be off on a tax payer fuelled jolly to China – but, what messages will be sent there and what are the limits of our kowtowing before this new Eastern mountain of wealth?
We know that some elected Jersey politicians ( and a few non-elected dignitaries) are very keen to develop Jersey’s “international profile” (although not at all keen to ratify international human rights treaties) because it allows them to play alongside the political and economic big boys.
But who is to determine Jersey’s “foreign” policies and is this something we can safely leave with our anonymous overseas representatives? Shall Colin Powell (our adviser to the Chief Minister on international affairs and general political handyman) – aka the man that they couldn’t retire – be discussing Jersey politics soon with the equally ancient heroes of the Chinese Revolution?
And, do Jersey’s overseas offices fly the Union Flag or the Jersey one?
Perhaps Philip Ozouf or somebody can supply us at “The Voice” with a photograph – a silent souvenir - just for the record.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.