26th March 2020 13:00
Statement from the Jersey Chamber of Commerce
One week has elapsed since a cross-section of key Jersey business leaders wrote privately and in fairly direct terms to the Chief Minister seeking his personal engagement in providing an economic package to shore up the Island economy. Since then there has been absolutely no practical change in the situation; not a single pound has yet been released to help employees keep their jobs. We know from our Chamber members that businesses are failing and laying off staff. This sits in stark contrast to the measures already being delivered in UK and France, and the sense of initial uncertainty and frustration amongst Chamber members is now turning to anger. The leadership of our Government has distanced itself from the community and it is fast losing legitimacy in the eyes of many islanders.
We are disappointed that the Chief Minister has still not responded to those 19 business leaders or met with them. After days of silence there was a response in the media to the pleas from business followed by on open letter from the Chief Minister. His letter simply repeated the previous announcements made on 12th, 18th and 20th March, and gave no confidence that there would be any immediate support to businesses or their employees. Our understanding is that the procedures are ‘still being worked on’, and no funds will be released until next month. There is no sense of urgency as the economic impact of Covid-19 itself goes viral. The plans announced are hardly bold, but despite the Chief Minister assuring the States Assembly that ‘a £180m package of measures was in play’ this is blatantly not true and highly misleading. They were not in play and are not accessible to any business still, and provide no sense of Government support. The bank loan scheme, grant aid scheme and Covid-19 Payroll Support Scheme are announcements that, as yet, offer no practical help to anybody, despite several weeks of waiting. The cash flow measures such as deferment of Social Security and GST, not due for payment until the end of April, are also of questionable practical value right now.
We acknowledge the enormous task before our Government and the hard work and long hours many officers have undertaken. However, we have been overwhelmingly requested by our members to speak out publicly at the lacklustre speed of the delivery of aid. We have received countless offers of professional help for the Government from lawyers, tax experts, accountants and bankers who, as world-class leaders in their profession, could be mobilised to expedite the delivery and minimise the delay in designing accessible processes. Currently the Government is preferring to keep its distance and go it alone. Every hour another business is closing its doors and laying people off. The economic impact of this crisis is looking very worrying and is perhaps as frightening for many as the virus itself. It is affecting the lives of every Islander - everybody is worried for their future.
We need these much-lauded schemes from the Chief Minister in action now, and that means financial aid and the precise details of how it is to be accessed by businesses for their employees clearly set out to sit alongside the many weeks of promises. Businesses can only plan their future and that of their employees with that detailed information, which is so far been woefully slow and lacking immediate help.
Jersey Chamber of Commerce Press Release.