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Reform Jersey Unveils 'New Deal' Plan

Credit: Reform Jersey.

Jersey's only political party has unveiled its ambition towards kick-starting the economy again - with proposals such as scrapping the cap on Social Security contributions, reforms to Income Tax and extending rent freeze legislation.

Reform Jersey says a recovery based on austerity cannot be followed again - instead proposing a 'New Deal'.

The party has put forward a series of proposals to rebuild society through the three R's: relief, recovery and reform.

The group of five politicians (Senator Sam Mezec and Deputies Rob Ward, Carina Alves, Geoff Southern and Montfort Tadier) say there's now a choice between another wasted decade of austerity or to build on the momentum generated around a new deal.

"Our government has got to make some very tough decisions very quickly to ensure that people's livelihoods are protected and we're saying now is the time for a new deal approach that puts people first and invests in those areas that we need to, to defend people's living standards.

"If that is our focus, we're more likely to succeed than if we simply adopt an austerity approach and just try to cut services to the bone like the previous government tried after the financial crash in 2008."

Possible proposals include:

* Providing free access to primary healthcare by maintaining the government employment of GPs.

* Extend the rent freeze legislation until 'rent stabilisation' measures can be introduced.

* Not immediately withdrawing access to income support for islanders with fewer than five years residency

* Writing off debts wracked up by households who will find it tough to achieve independence otherwise

"We worked for years to try and get access to GPs made more affordable for people with health problems or other vulnerabilities and we eventually got a good decision made in December last year to move in that direction.

"But when the crisis hit, it was done really quickly that the cost of seeing a GP was reduced and GPs were employed by the government.

"That just goes to show that when you hit a public health crisis, all of those things that seemed impossible and difficult, it turns out actually were possible and not that difficult right from the start.

"We've got an opportunity now of saying that this regime that we've created for the health crisis is a good regime and we should keep it to see people through the economic crisis."

A series of proposals have been put forward by the government to help keep businesses afloat during the crisis - such as the Co-funded Payroll Schemes, Business Disruption Loan scheme, Jersey Special Situations Fund and deferring GST and Social Security payments.

Reform Jersey says the economy will not return to full-strength by withdrawing support now. The government announced in a media briefing on Monday that the Payroll scheme will be extended until the end of August, when signed off by the Treasury Minister.

The party wants a focus on green jobs and digital skills as part of future economic packages, with proposals in this area including:

* Bringing minimum wage up to a 'Living Wage'

* Abolishing zero-hours contracts

* Subsiding economic sectors such as agriculture, through training for example.

* Taking over the remaining privatised utilities

* Investing in businesses while taking a stake in company profits.

* Factoring in cost of living pay rises for public sector workers into Government Plans and Budgets.

Reform Jersey leader Senator Mezec says a response to the crisis needs to be implemented 'swiftly' to make sure the damage is as limited as possible.

That includes:

* Making trading Jersey businesses pay Corporation Tax

* Scrapping the cap on Social Security contributions

* Reforms to Income Tax so higher earners pay under the same regime as others

"The new deal approach, like what was adopted in the United States of America in the 1930s to get out of the great depression, was a success.

"It brought millions out of destitution and it created the strongest economy in the world. That's the approach we ought to take in Jersey - not just because economically it's proved to be the most sound approach, but the fact that it will undo some of the damage that's there's been in the last ten years and hopefully raise people's living standards - which ultimately is, I think, the primary job and duty of a government." - Senator Sam Mezec.

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