The law of unforeseen consequences, it is said, applies particularly to political decisions. Polices adopted to achieve one purpose actually achieve an unexpected and undesirable purpose.
One such may be the zero ten tax policy now firmly in place in Jersey. It prescribes that companies (not financial services companies) that are owned by non-residents of Jersey do not pay any Jersey taxes on their profits. It also prescribes that Jersey residents deriving income from those companies pay tax at 20%. But non-Jersey residents deriving income from those companies (in particular as owners) pay nothing in Jersey tax.
The unexpected effect? Jersey businesses will increasingly be owned by non-resident landlords. They will call the tune – from outside Jersey.
Interestingly, a far-reaching (and, no doubt, beneficial) States policy adopted in the early 1970s has had a similar effect in the financial services industry. Jersey’s future, it was decided, would best be secured by pursuing a policy of licensing only banks in the top 500 in the world. No locally-owned banks.
The later vulnerability of Jersey to “absentee landlords” – international banking groups – has been seen many times in the past 40 years. See bold above. “No fruit from Jersey?” “Close the Jersey operation!” In some ways this has worked well in the past. International banks pressurise their Jersey operations into higher and higher profitability and the Jersey tax-take gets higher and higher.
Why is it, then, that many Jersey residents cannot see another vastly more important non-resident landlord? The extract in bold above can be dated to the very last week of Jesus’ life – just before the Jewish Passover festival in AD 33. The scene is Jerusalem. The people listening to Jesus are the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. He speaks of his Father the giver.
Their leaders have just asked Jesus for proof of his identity. “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you the authority to do them.”
Jesus continued his parable like this. “They took [the landlord’s servant] and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’”
Jersey has learnt that it must “respect” the non-resident heads of its international banks. Many times, in my own experience, has pressure been brought to bear on the States by them: pressure to make changes that would render their Jersey operations more fruitful.... Would Jersey respect their wishes?
Jesus finished his parallel. “But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.”
As with all of the teaching (and historic life) of Jesus Christ, however, this parable has a wider parallel that the actions of the Jews and Romans in AD 33. The vineyard of the LORD God Almighty, the Creator, is this world in all its beauty, with all its fruitfulness.
What is this world doing with the son of the owner – who died to take the place of “whoever will turn to him” and who rose again and calls us?
The absentee landlord’s actions are eventually inevitable. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.” To others who respect and turn to his son.