Letter 2

Sour grapes had nothing to do with why I left Jersey

A FALSEHOOD, no matter how often repeated or how widely believed, remains a falsehood.

John Boothman (JEP, 24 May) states that my involvement in the Tax Justice Network is motivated by sour grapes at not being promoted within the Jersey civil service. I have never knowingly met or spoken with Mr Boothman. He has definitely not interviewed me. I have no idea how he arrived at this conclusion about my motives or personality. Presumably he feels under no obligation to speak to people before writing in such personal terms.

As a matter of public record, let me explain why Mr Boothman is so completely wrong about the motives he ascribes to me.

Virtually everyone who knew me either professionally or as a friend when I was in post in Jersey was aware of my criticisms of States policies relating to the Island's development as a tax haven. My concerns included issues such as the crowding out and inflationary impact of hosting such a dynamic industry, the regulatory deficiencies, the inevitable risk of being overdependent on a single sector, the likelihood of international intervention to counter tax harmful tax practices, and the reputational risk to the Island arising from hosting a tax haven.

Equally well known were my more general concerns about the incoherence of States policies on environmental issues - ranging from population policy through to waste management and transport.

My decision to resign from the civil service in 1998 was not taken suddenly. Disillusionment set in fairly soon after I took up post in 1987. I contemplated resignation in 1992 but was prevailed upon to assist with advising candidates standing for the 1993 elections under the Notre Ile banner. I worked with many of these politicians for several years. Another reason for delaying my resignation was because my wife and I had two sons between 1993 and 1996 which made it impractical to up sticks and leave the Island.

By 1996, however, I had accepted a job in London but deferred departure for 18 months in order to complete work commitments and the restoration of our home in St Helier.

Equally importantly, anyone who knows me will be aware of my long-standing commitment to global justice and sustainable economic practices. I worked on overseas development issues prior to joining the States, and returned to working in this area when I left the Island in 1998.

In 1999, Oxfam asked me to participate in preparing their report on the impact of tax havens on poor countries ('Releasing the hidden billions for development', June 2000), and in 2002 War on Want asked me to take a British delegation to Florence to attend a meeting which concluded with the decision to create the Tax Justice Network.

So sour grapes have had no influence on my decisions or actions. I never harboured ambitions beyond the post I held and had no intention of remaining in the Jersey civil service for the rest of my career.

A decade before David Cameron was talking about the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, I chose to give priority to my family and to the principles which have guided me throughout my adult life. My involvement with TJN is entirely consistent with these principles.

For those wishing to know more about my motives for resigning in 1998, a follow-up to the best selling 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man' will be published in the United States this autumn. My contribution will be the opening chapter.

From John Christensen, director, Tax Justice Network International Secretariat.          2/6/06

New Economics Foundation, 3 Jonathan Street, London.