Mr Speaker, I would like to start by making a point of clarification in respect of one of the matters that the Chief Minister detailed yesterday in respect to the COVID recovery charge.
We have had representations overnight from the industry and we have agreed to engage with them in how we can address the COVID recovery charge in a way that does not harm their businesses. As members of Parliament will know, this is a sector that supported us during COVID, took no money from us during COVID, worked with us during COVID to deliver business as usual. And for that, we have expressed our thanks and appreciation over the past years.
In the circumstances, what we are considering is limiting the charge to those companies that are actively trading Gibraltar. But we will have the discussion with them. Members opposite should be aware that we will have those engagements with them to ensure that we are able to preserve what is an important part of the Financial Services sector and one that I look forward to engaging, as we always have done in talking through all the issues with them. They have always been supportive, not just in respect of the COVID period, but in respect of all the directives that we had to implement whilst in the European Union and have always been very responsible, helpful. And I look forward to continuing with the Chief Minister of those discussions in the coming days.
Mr Speaker, anybody listening to the intervention from members opposite would believe that Brexit and COVID were two things that we made up. And that, in fact, they’ve had no impact on our economy, the numbers should be looked at in the cold light of day as if those events had never happened.
Mr Speaker, these are not excuses, these are unprecedented events that have impacted the entire planet. And so, for members to come to this parliament to tell us that your spending in the GHA last year was over budget. Well, my God, if there was one year when that should be looked at kindly by this house, it should be during the COVID pandemic, because that is exactly what has happened to every single country on this planet. And so, I would ask members to think carefully about the responses they make, because although, yes, this is a political chamber and yes, we are all in politics, it has to come with some responsibility. And I don’t feel, Mr Speaker, that to brush aside COVID, to brush aside Brexit, which six years on we are still working on, is realistic or responsible.
Mr Speaker, every single country is suffering from debt. The consequences of that debt and the monetary measures implemented to deal with that debt now give us inflation, the war in Ukraine, the world is upside down. In most countries around the world, unemployment is a problem, in other parts of the world there’s a problem with not having enough people to put into employment. Gibraltar, I think the Chief Minister told us yesterday we have a level of unemployment of 35. That’s remarkable. After COVID, after Brexit, 35 unemployed. So, I think putting things in context is what this house should do when we talk to our people in what is in effect the one time in the year the State of the Union message.
Mr Speaker, the opposition would have you believe that Gibraltar is the only country that has been impacted negatively by COVID. We’re the only country that has debt. We’re the only country that has to take these draconian measures, which neither this government or especially the Chief Minister wanted to take. But being a government is about making tough decisions, ones that are going to be unpopular. And the sign of a good leader is one doesn’t shirk away from that responsibility. You take them because you have to.
Mr Speaker, why would the opposition have us believe that we’re the only country in the world that has got these issues because of COVID? Well, politics, convenience. Now, Mr Speaker. Because last year, the Opposition said specifically in relation to the issue of COVID, and I’ll quote from Hansard, the Honourable Roy Clinton. At the beginning of his intervention in respect to the budget last year, said: “In hindsight, I do not think this Parliament could or should have done anything materially different in the way the crisis was tackled from a financial standpoint. I welcome the way the COVID-19 Response Fund was created and indeed is properly reflected in the estimates book 21/22. And I wish to personally thank the Chief Minister and the Financial Secretary for listening to us and taking on board some of our suggestions as to how the COVID Response Fund should be published on a quarterly basis and accounted for in the estimates book”.
Mr Speaker, the Honourable member, quite rightly, acknowledged the work that had taken place between the Opposition and the Government in how we placed the response to COVID in the estimates book. But listening to the opposition yesterday, that didn’t seem to matter. It was just dropped into the numbers, the global numbers, as if COVID and the COVID Response Fund wasn’t relevant.
Mr Speaker, surely the honourable members are not suggesting to the people of Gibraltar that the last 12 months is where the problem has arisen? Surely not, especially since they themselves have accepted repeatedly, in fact, the Honourable the Chief Minister quoted the words of my Hounourable friend, Mr Feetham that the problem has arisen since COVID. Now, it doesn’t take an economist. It doesn’t take a banker. Even a simple lawyer like me can understand that when your revenue is down, taxes are down, import duties down, business is down, productivity is down. And your spending is up, more in the health service, furlough schemes, BEAT schemes, paying almost the entire private sector salaries when they were not producing, is going to have a pretty significant impact on your numbers. And this has happened everywhere, not just Gibraltar. So let’s deal with it and let’s accept it. And let’s not try and throw all these numbers into the air and hope they land in a position where you can say it’s their fault. No, Mr Speaker, it’s nobody’s fault. And we’re all trying to fix it.
Mr Speaker, let’s just say that the members opposite are right. Let’s just say that we are in financial ruin. We have problems. Yes. But let’s just say that we were in financial ruin. Mr Speaker, if you were, I would expect the Opposition to be the first people, if that’s what they believe, to come to this Parliament and to vote in favour of any measures that increase revenue. Surely, surely you should be supporting any measure that increases more money because we’re in financial ruin. But no, the Leader of the Opposition yesterday complained about the increase in the prescription charge from £2.50 to £5, for goodness sake. It’s £9.60 in the United Kingdom. That hasn’t been touched in years. £2.50 to £5. We’re in financial ruin, but he complains, it’s not credible. It’s just not credible. And he says, Mr Speaker, we have no plan. We have no direction. We have no policy. That Mr Picardo slipped his hands into their pockets. Mr Speaker, surely if we were in the crisis that they describe, surely they would welcome that we actually raise revenue, raise income and begin to deal with the problem that they believe that we have. But no, no, they don’t support that. Which to me brings into question the veracity of the message, they’re delivering, which is we are in financial difficulty. Yes, we’re in debt. Yes, we need to raise money. Yes, we need to repay the COVID monies. We know that, we’ve been telling the people of Gibraltar repeatedly that this is the position that we will end up in, if predicted.
Mr Speaker, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition then goes on to chastise us for what he calls our Brexit plan or lack of plan. And he refers to the 1000 page treaty that the UK has. Nothing in Gibraltar. Well, my gosh. You said a thousand page treaty for the UK, nothing for Gibraltar. I wrote it down. We’ve missed the boat. We’ve missed the boat. Mr Speaker, what boat have we missed? Because the boat I want to be in is one that gives Gibraltar access to the UK financial services market, to the UK gambling market, where all our jobs are and gives us mobility across the frontier, which is the treaty that we’re working to deliver. The best of both worlds Mr Speaker. We haven’t missed any boat. We’ve been a boat for ourselves, which is far better than the one that is contained in the 1000 page treaty that the Honourable member refers to.
Mr Speaker, who remembers what the GSD policy was on Brexit? I don’t think anybody does because they haven’t got one. Who remembers what the GSD policy was on the treaty? I don’t remember, Mr Speaker. Nobody else would because they haven’t got one. They will come up with something at the appropriate time. God help us. Because they’re against the Tax Treaty. They’re against the treaty with Spain. They’re against the Brexit deal. They’re against everything. But what the heck do they believe in? What do they propose as a solution for the people of Gibraltar? Nothing. They come here with nothing.
Mr Speaker, this is an opposition that has two primary roles. Checks and balances. And an alternative to government. The role of any opposition anywhere in the world is to provide a credible alternative to government. Where are their ideas? Where is the thinking? What do they propose? Who knows? I certainly don’t. And I don’t think they know themselves.
Mr Speaker, he talks about the blue card holders typically crossing the frontier. It’s a testament to the negotiating ability of this government and this Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, that Gibraltarians are the only British nationals that can cross into Schengen without having their passport stamped, or hasn’t he noticed. But no, no. They focus on the blue card holders. Well, let’s get real when the blue card holder lands in Malaga when he was in the European Union it’s exactly the same. And what this government is walking to working towards is to deliver a treaty on mobility that will benefit the whole of Gibraltar, those that live here, those that reside here and those that work here.
Mr Speaker, that is what the business industry is calling for. That is what the entire business community needs mobility, because without it, they can’t survive. And I’m staggered that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition comes and tells this House that we’ve missed the boat. I wonder if he’s read this fabulous 1000 page treaty that the UK had with the EU? Because I have yet to come across a non-cabinet politician that describes it as a good deal for the United Kingdom. Yet the honourable member suggests that we should have been a part of that deal. I, for one, Mr Speaker, I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted, and I know that the entire business community is also that we are working on a mobility deal, that we have access to UK financial services, that we have access to the UK online gaming market because that’s what delivers business to Gibraltar and employment for Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker, the UK treaty that the Honourable member says we missed the boat on doesn’t give you access to the Single Market, doesn’t give you any movement at all that we will have and doesn’t give you movement of goods either. Our deal Mr Speaker, when it’s delivered by the Chief Minister, I’m confident that he will, does exactly that.
So Mr Speaker, before we criticise and before we say no to anything and everything, I believe we have to accept the quite incredible progress that we’ve made in the time period that we’ve been able to do it. And again, comes and says Brexit was X years ago. Again, does he not wake up in the morning and realise we’re going through COVID? Two years of the entire system shut down. I just cannot understand how members opposite are able to come to this House and describe things in the way they do, as if we’re living in a different planet. Mr Speaker we live in reality, we take the difficult decisions that we have to in this reality, and we will come out with this at the other end in a much stronger position that we we’ve gone in.
Mr Speaker, as I mentioned before, in my view, the Opposition should support the revenue raising measures. If they honestly believe that we are in the position that they tell us that we are. The truth of the matter, is that whatever we do on this side of the House, whether we increase taxes massively. Or whether we abolish taxes altogether, they’re still going to vote against this bill. That’s incredible. That’s incredible, because we know before we start that they’ve all prepared speeches which say no before even listening to us, before even understanding the rationale or the reasoning. This is meant to be debating chamber, not come prepared with your prepared text. Whatever the Chief Minister says, whatever announcements he makes, “I’m going to make the same speech”.
Mr Speaker, the decision to vote against the Appropriation Bill started in 2017, and I believe the Honourable Mr Clinton persuaded the Honourable then leader, Mr Feetham, that they should vote against. A political stunt, a political stunt which they are now hoisted by their own petard and have to follow every year in order not to make that initial decision look as stupid as it was.
Mr Speaker, why have they voted against the budget? Well, again, I go to Hansard because it’s always quite a useful tool to understand why things happen. And I quote again from my friend Mr Clinton’s intervention last year. Members will know that, well, I’ll just quote: “We still have no visibility of the state of government owned companies. Indirect debt is not recognised. We now have three years supplementary appropriation with us, we have no proper finance bill, more of which I will say later. And the last report of the principal auditor was for financial years, 2015, 2016. We have no public accounts committee and the cumulative result is that this Parliament cannot exercise any effective financial scrutiny of the executive of, or the government. And so I still cannot support a half year budget. I will not vote for it. No matter what screams. And no doubt there will be screams of the need for solidarity. The new word that we hear again and again that will come from the government benches”.
Mr Speaker, the reasons that he votes against the appropriation bill, is because the system of Parliament that we’ve had from year dot, and I go back to 1990, to 1996, when the Honourable Members were in power. Mr Speaker, they did exactly the same thing. We tell them every year they don’t listen. Every single year we demonstrate. And the Chief Minister took hours last year, explained to them why it was the same, but for no reason, because they say the same message, that they come with a prepared text before they come to this house.
Mr Speaker, since the year dot, this appropriation bill has been prepared. The estimates book is being prepared today with much more clarity, with much more information than ever before. But it’s not enough because that, ‘we’re voting against’. No matter whether you’re abolish taxes or triple taxes, our position is going to be the same, ‘we don’t like it, so we don’t want to play’. I consider that to be irresponsible, Mr Speaker. Oppositions from time immemorial have made their points about the budget, but supported it because of the impact of the budget. Well, why? Very simple. Because we used to have sensible people in my position. We don’t anymore.
Mr Speaker, last year was the budget of beg, borrow or scrape. Well, I’m delighted to tell the Honourable Mr Clinton that this year we’ve continued to beg, borrow and scrape, which will result in significant savings to the taxpayer, including, as the Chief Minister mentioned yesterday, the undoing of that wonderful financing deal that the members opposite entered into all those years ago in respect to the hospital, 3 million of savings to the taxpayer. So the scraping is working. We continue to try to scrape as much as we possibly can. But, Mr Speaker, the interesting thing, again, going back to the principle that if things are as bad as they say they are, how should we be acting? I’m going to quote again from Hansard and again from my honourable friend Mr Clinton’s intervention last year. And I do so in the belief and on the basis that his intervention, will be similar to what was last year because that’s what it’s always been since we started: “I was delighted to read. I was delighted to read the Government’s press release on the 22nd of June this year announcing plans for the building of a National Theatre”. Again, Mr Speaker, I pause to remind people that this is against the financial crisis, okay. So he was delighted to read about the plans for the building of National Theatre. “The performing arts, compared to sports, have long been overlooked by this government, despite its repeated manifesto promises. This delight was short lived because I then found that the cost of the theatre was to be met by begging from the general public and generous private donors”. Well, Mr Speaker, I’ll just pause there for a minute. I want to thank those sponsors, some of whom have been announced recently, who are supporting the endeavour, which delights the Honourable Mr Clinton in delivering the National Theatre. And we will get there. We will get there, because the community in Gibraltar supports good projects. But Mr Speaker, when we are in financial crisis, when we are with our backs against the wall, as Mr Clinton says we are. How can his delight be short lived when you realised that the government is not going to pay it? Surely if the government’s got no money, how could he possibly want us to spend money on a national theatre? I just don’t understand it. So he goes on: “Yes, Mr Speaker, begging to announce the creation of a foundation to spearhead the fundraising campaign, as some great event was truly Orwellian. Given the way this government has spent on previous capital projects with no regard to affordability or balance”.
Mr Speaker, I walked here this morning through the quite beautiful Commonwealth Park. Mr Speaker, the money that we spent, we spent on things like the Commonwealth Park, our schools, our sports facilities. Mr Speaker, we have invested money which will be here forever for the people of Gibraltar, the community that live here to enjoy. That is good investment. Not spending like they would have done in digging a hole in the Theatre Royal or lending money to OEM to lose on houses that were never built.
Mr Speaker, the contrast between telling Gibraltar that were at death’s door and then telling us that we should be spending more money on things like the National Theatre, which we don’t believe we should, which we don’t believe we should at this moment in time do. And that’s exactly what we’re not doing, is, I believe, prudent, responsible and appropriate. But Mr Speaker, the Honourable member goes on: “It is worth quoting directly from the glossy project plan. A very nice glossy prospectus which the government produced, no doubt, to send to all those donors who will dish out the millions to produce the project that they said they were going to do. It really is quite remarkable”.
Well, Mr Speaker, it’s not remarkable if the honourable member wants a national theatre, he should not want the taxpayer to have to pay for it if others are willing to stump up their hard earned tax income to support Gibraltar in more of its project like they did with Campion Gardens. That should be welcome. Mr Speaker, surely, surely the honourable shadow member for our economy would welcome that, not be upset and angry and call it begging. I find it really quite remarkable.
Mr Speaker, we increase electricity by 8%. That’s terrible, that’s terrible. Mr Speaker does the Honourable member not realise the extent of the subvention that Government makes on electricity? All that we’re doing is continuing to subsidise electricity, but less so, in the hope that we will catch up. Mr Speaker, the Honourble member opposite and his party when in government had a plan, or has he forgotten, to increase electricity by 5% every year. At a time of what they call crisis, we increase it by 8%. And he says it’s terrible. Flipping heck. What are we meant to do? 5% per year for 20 years, I think it was. Mr Speaker, we’ve raised it by 8% and it’s terrible. What would you have said to the people who’ve been in government for five, six years and he’s raised it by 30% because he was going to do that and he committed to do it whilst in government. And now he tells you Gibraltar 8% is terrible. Come on.
Mr Speaker, what does it take to get the Honourable members to support an appropriation bill which will pay the salaries of our frontline workers or police, our firemen? It seems nothing. It seems that it’s simply not possible as a matter of political opportunism. They will continue to vote no to the budget, whatever we do. I think it’s unfortunate and it’s sad, and I know that the people of Gibraltar will take that deeply into consideration when they listen to the presentations before this House. Mr Speaker, in dealing with the various responsibilities that I have. I will begin my address by talking to the recent decision of the FATF to grey list our Jurisdiction;
MONEYVAL is a permanent body of the Council of Europe entrusted with the task of assessing compliance with the principal international standards to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism and the effectiveness of their implementation. As well as with the task of making recommendations to national authorities in respect of necessary improvements to their systems.
MONEYVAL’s role is as one of the eight FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs). As such, MONEYVAL is autonomous and independent from the FATF, but closely cooperates with it, as well as with other FSRBs.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. The FATF has developed the FATF Recommendations which ensure a co-ordinated global response to prevent organised crime, corruption and terrorism. The FATF also monitors countries to ensure they implement the FATF Standards fully and effectively.
In 2015 the Council of Europe adopted a resolution which allowed Gibraltar to be evaluated by MONEYVAL. In April 2019, the first Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) process on Gibraltar commenced when an evaluation team of the Moneyval Secretariat and peer jurisdiction assessors came to Gibraltar and drafted a report. The MER was considered at the December 2019 Plenary of Moneyval and subsequently published. The MER consists of two parts:  Technical Compliance against the 40 FATF Recommendations and  Effectiveness Compliance.
The Technical Compliance Element of the MER consists in ensuring that legislation, policies and procedures exist in a jurisdiction that would enable the application of preventative measures.
The Effectiveness Compliance evaluation focuses on the attainment of the 11 so called Immediate Outcomes. All MERs carried out on all Jurisdictions are conducted using the same methodology of the FATF.
All FATF Recommendations that are marked as Partially or Non-Compliant in the MER have to be addressed by the jurisdiction in time for its first follow-up report. Note that this is only in respect of Technical Compliance issues. The submission of evidence for the follow-up report was made by Gibraltar in time for the Dec 21 Plenary and the follow-up report was published in November 2021. In order to achieve the results that Gibraltar did, a substantial number of legislative changes were made. This follow-up report demonstrated a very material improvement in the technical compliance of our jurisdiction.
A subsequent review on effectiveness was not strictly necessary if the measure of ‘broad money’ in Gibraltar did not exceed the threshold of 5 billion euros. In late 2021, Gibraltar surpassed the 5 billion mark and was, naturally, obliged to inform Moneyval of this.
This then led to a full review of Gibraltar’s effectiveness in practice, with 10 of the 11 Immediate Outcomes being assessed:
The FATF’s International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) oversees this. The ICRG process submits a jurisdiction to scrutiny on how, since a MER was published, it has made Positive and Tangible progress in attaining the MER’s recommended actions on effectiveness.
In May 2022, Gibraltar submitted its report on the progress made against all of the recommended actions in the MER to the ICRG. This report was followed up by a face to face meeting which was held in Paris and to which all stakeholder authorities of Gibraltar were present to answer questions from the Joint Group (JG) of the ICRG. The end product of the Gibraltar submission and face-to-face meeting is the Post Observation Period Report (POPR) which is produced by the JG to the ICRG Committee. The ICRG committee then presents the findings of the JG to the plenary for adoption. Gibraltar had a total of 78 Recommended Actions in the MER of 2019.
On 17th June 2022, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) identified Gibraltar as a jurisdiction under increased monitoring in respect of only two Recommended Actions; relating to the pursuit of regulatory sanctions and the pursuit of final confiscation judgements. A colossal amount of work by all the supervisory authorities and others went into achieving the reduction to just two Recommended Actions in the FATF Action Plan.
HM Government of Gibraltar was naturally disappointed at the outcome but fully accepts this Action Plan as identified by the FATF and is committed, at the highest political level, to show full compliance within the timescale given. Gibraltar’s Action Plan is the shortest of any country or jurisdiction that has been identified as under the increased monitoring process; informally known as “grey listing”.
The FATF does not call for the application of enhanced due diligence measures to be applied to jurisdictions under increased monitoring, but encourages its members and all jurisdictions to take into account the information presented below in their risk analysis. Some countries will require enhanced due diligence measures as regards Gibraltar but we would expect these to be proportionate to the brevity of the Action Plan.
Needless to say, HM GOG has been in very close contact with HM Treasury for a significant period of time on the subject of Gibraltar’s review and they have been and continue to be extremely supportive. Likewise, HM GOG has been liaising closely with all relevant sectors in Gibraltar.
HM Government of Gibraltar continues to work in partnership with the FATF and is proud of the relationship that it has with this international standard setting body. Lastly, we look forward to being removed from the list of countries under increased monitoring in as short a timeframe as possible.
Mr Speaker, the Financial Services sector continues to grow, as does the wider business support community. Firms are busier than ever before and employment opportunities continue to outstrip those available in the market place in both financial services and gaming.
The Gibraltar insurance market continues to grow. By far, the largest sector is motor insurance and we estimate that Gibraltar’s share of the UK motor insurance market is close to 30%. As a jurisdiction, we have seen tremendous growth over the last nine years. In my time in Parliament since 2013, I have watched Gibraltar’s share of the UK motor insurance market grow from some 12% to the 30% it is currently at. All this despite Brexit, despite COVID and the many other challenges we have faced and continue to face. It is a real testament to the professionalism and entrepreneurial skill of this sector.
Today, we have over 40 insurance companies writing new business and collectively the gross premiums of all these insurance companies is well in excess of £5 billion.
In the DLT/Blockchain space we continue to thrive and innovate;
Presently, the GFSC account for the following regulated entities in this sector:
- 15 DLT Regulatory Framework permissions;
- 17 Initial Coin Offering’s registered under the Proceeds of Crime Act:
- 3 firms permissioned as Virtual Asset Arrangement Providers
- 1 full bank permission;
- There are a growing number of “crypto hedge funds” domiciled in Gibraltar. In 2020 the market was estimated as having US$3.8 billion AuM, with some 9% of these funds domiciled in Gibraltar;
- There is also a strong pipeline of new applicants at different stages of the regulatory process.
It goes without saying that all of the aforementioned create fees, employment, taxation and a general contribution to GDP as well as a deserved reputation internationally for supporting innovation and leading edge multinational technology firms.
We have continued to work closely with GFIA, the Association and the sector generally. They are professional, energetic and innovative and it has been a real pleasure to work with them this as in every other year. We meet regularly and as a result of their work we have introduced significant new and exciting legislation for the Industry, with more to come. My sincere thanks to Jay Gomez, James Lasry and Jonathan Garcia.
We continue to work with HM Treasury on the delivery of the GAR regime which is on course to be implemented in Q1 of 2024. This will, as Parliament knows, confirm our market access to the UK Financial Services market which is so critical to our financial services community. I am grateful to the team at Treasury with whom we are working on this, as well as Jimmy Tipping and Julian Sacarello from the GFSC who are leading on this important work.
Legislation and Governance
Mr Speaker, over the last financial year we have;
- In April, the Government published new regulations setting the standard for market integrity in the virtual asset space. This “10th Core Principle” is the first time that any Jurisdiction globally has established market integrity standards mirroring those in traditional markets. My thanks to the many individuals both in Gibraltar and abroad who have contributed to this working group alongside private sector firms, the GFSC and Gibraltar Finance.
- In December 2021, a working group was established to review the Central Securities Depository Regulations (CSDR) which has now reported back to me with their recommendations. The working group included industry and legal experts in this field together with the GFSC and Gibraltar Finance.
- In December 2021, the Government announced that we will begin a process by which we will integrate blockchain technology to complement our eGovernment systems. The technology builds upon and enhances the functionality provided by eServices, with the focus of the initial phase being to enable users to store government-issued and certified credentials in a digital wallet. We are grateful to our partners in this enterprise, IOV Labs and Bitso.
- GANT has in Q3 of 2021 established a working group, which includes industry representatives and Gibraltar Finance which will, in due course, provide guidance and recommendations on the DeFi space and how Gibraltar can safely engage further in this industry..
- On the 26 November 2021, we announced, after a rigorous review and consultation process with GFIA, the Limited Partnerships Act and the Protected Cell Limited Partnerships Act. This new framework keeps our legislation up to date, competitive and able to attract business globally.
- On 30th March 2022, after a long but beneficial engagement with GFIA we announced new legislation to allow for a dual funds regime for Experienced Investor Funds. Gibraltar is now in the position to maintain its long established AIFMD compliant funds management regime (which has direct access to the United Kingdom) whilst also allowing Experienced Investor Funds to opt out of this regime when targeting global audiences.
- In June 2022 Gibraltar was recognised in the PWC 4th Annual Global Crypto Hedge Fund Report the 3rd Best Jurisdiction to set up your Crypto Hedge Fund. This is the second year running that we rank 3rd in this report. My congratulations to the sector.
The Public/Private Sector Partnership
I must thank the Gibraltar Finance Centre Council for their work and support this past year. Outgoing Chair and Vice Chair Nick Cruz and Marc Ellul for their sterling work over the past 24 months, and incoming Chair and Vice Chair Shaun Cawdery and Emma Lejeune. I look forward to working closely with them for the benefit of the Industry. I must also thank the member associations with whom we have worked closely and have proven themselves to be a valued and important part of our partnership with the private sector.
Mr Speaker, In April of this year Government set up a Working Policy Group on Financial services to advise Government on all aspects of the sector including our product range, new areas of business and how we can improve our offering more generally. The Group has done a huge amount of work and has met with all areas of the Industry and engaged in detailed discussion on these areas. I am much looking forward to engaging with them and working to deliver their thinking. The members of this Group are Reshma Bhambhwani, Charles Bottaro, Louise Cruz, Nigel Feetham QC, Jonathan Garcia and Jay Gomez.
The GFSC under the leadership of its CEO Kerry Blight have emerged from the COVID period with a rapid return to business as usual. Their work on the GAR is worthy of particular mention as has their work in managing their day to day business against significant staffing challenges. My thanks to Kerry and the Senior Management Team, as well as the Chair and members of the Board of the GFSC for their continued good work.
I must also thank my team at Gibraltar Finance including Jimmy Tipping, our CEO and our Senior Executives Mike Ashton, Paul Astengo and Tim Haynes for their work this year. As we emerge from COVID they will be at the forefront of our efforts to once more bang the Think Gibraltar drum.
Gibraltar International Bank
The transition back to normality following the peak of the Covid pandemic has been seamless and the bank is now servicing the needs of the local community. Economic activity has reverted to pre-COVID levels, with the bank continuing to perform well and maintaining a stable deposit base over the last 12 months, and currently at £1.173 billion – a remarkable deposit figure.
The Bank currently has over 19,000 clients, which hold over 32,000 accounts. With regards to loans/mortgages, the book currently stands at £321 million.
The Bank has forecasted a profit for this year to March 2022 of £3.2 million.
The Bank has worked hard this year to deal with a large number of attempted scams. The Bank has responded well to this challenge altering its policies to combat fraud and continuing to communicate with its clients on the risks of disclosing personal information to anyone.
Finally Mr Speaker, I am grateful to the CEO Lawrence Podesta who has unfortunately announced his intention to retire. Lawrence was there on day one of the creation of the Bank and was the architect of everything we have done. The unquestionable success that this Bank has been is in no small measure due to his professionalism and expertise for which I will always be grateful. I must also thank his excellent Senior Management Team and staff, and indeed the Board who under the Chair of Albert Langston continue to drive GIB forward. My sincere thanks to them all.
Interest in the jurisdiction as a place for people to operate internationally as a gambling business remains strong (albeit this creates pressure on the local employment market). The gambling sector in 2021/22 has remained vibrant with employee numbers remaining stable (c3500), reflected in stable PAYE revenues.
Merger and acquisition in the sector was a strong feature before the downturn in financial markets, but this has not caused pressure on overall license numbers. The Government introduced change of control fees in anticipation of the M and A activity; which has allowed cost recovery for the detailed due diligence work conducted on acquiring companies.
From April 2021 to March 2022 there were 3 new B2C licences issued and one B2B. There is a pipeline of 8 new licenses in train (5 B2B and 3 B2C) and we have seen two new licenses granted to a company that has repatriated an element of its business to Gibraltar.
There has been some reduction this year in corporation tax receipts, but we expect the yield to recover by 2023. The overall sector contribution to Government revenues is in excess of £65 million.
Because of well known factors, there has been some delay to the introduction of the Gambling Bill; a command paper has now been drafted and we expect consultation with the industry and wider stakeholder to take place before and during the summer months; with a view to the bill coming before Parliament in the Autumn. We have already started the process of one to one consultation with our stakeholders, and will work through their comments and contributions to our work.
Additional, but proportionate, resources have been granted to the Gambling Division to enable it to cope with a new licensing regime; including the personal licensing of key individuals. There will be extensive industry consultation and an increased amount of policy work to embed a new regulatory framework. That framework aims to maintain high regulatory standards (including international best practice in social responsibility) whilst maintaining Gibraltar’s attractiveness as a business hub.
I am also pleased to report the opening of the Centre for Excellence in Responsible Gaming. The Centre is now engaged in an active research agenda and cementing its international standing. I am grateful to the team at the University of Gibraltar for this exciting work and to our Gaming Firms who have agreed to participate with us in making a real contribution to better understanding responsible gambling and how best we can each work to identify, arrest and support problem gambling.
The Gambling Division have done extremely well this year under their quiet but professional Head Andrew Lyman. They manage their significant business load with no fuss delivering efficient licensing and regulatory oversight and enjoy my full confidence. They have been instrumental in the preparation of the new Gambling Bill together with the drafting team of the three Peters.
Mr Speaker, the Liaison Department – Lizanne Ochello and Tania Pereira, since its inception in 2013, has continued to be instrumental in providing business support to the Gaming and Finance sectors.
In November 2021, the Liaison Department created a one-stop-shop to offer support to persons referred by the Special Needs and Disability Unit (SND). The Department helps some of the most vulnerable people in our society access Government services.
The Department has also been given the responsibility to deliver and assist the public in accessing support from the Customer Services Hub at 323 Main Street, which will service anyone seeking assistance in their interaction with HMGOG.
Mr Speaker, the ‘new’ Broadcasting House was inaugurated on Tuesday 19th October 2021 by the Chief Minister. I am happy to say that the operation has resulted in a seamless transition, without interruption to service.
Production teams have worked hard to raise the quality of programmes during the last twelve months. A major effort has been made to improve studio-based television shows, all of which have benefitted from new sets and branding.
On Wednesday 15th December the GBC Open Day was held, raising a record-breaking £185,000 for local worthy causes. This will enable the Open Day Charitable Trust to support a variety of projects nominated by locally registered charities throughout 2022.
On May 8th Gerard Teuma, GBC’s CEO retired after 38 years of service, the last 10 as CEO. During his tenure, Gerard oversaw the transition to Digital technology in 2013 and many other changes – too many to mention today, but perhaps his legacy will be the huge task in successfully relocating Broadcasting House to its new home. I wish Gerard a healthy and long retirement.
I would also like to congratulate Mr James Neish on his appointment as the new CEO of GBC. He will take up his appointment in October and I look forward to seeing his work as we now take GBC to its next level of development. The community expects, and I am sure James will deliver.
I must thank Pepe Caruana the Chair of the Board and its members for their work throughout the year, and especially for having managed so successfully the selection process for the next CEO, and for their work on developing a strategy for the future of GBC. My thanks to them all.
Mr Speaker, AquaGib continues to successfully service contracts in respect of potable, seawater and sewerage services in Gibraltar.
As the Chief Minister has already announced, the Government intends to acquire the shares in AquaGib currently held by our partners and take full ownership of this Company. The negotiations have been driven by the Financial Secretary with my full support.
We will of course continue to invest in capital projects as part of the asset replacement plan, including the replacement of potable and saltwater mains across all areas in Gibraltar and the new potable and seawater infrastructure for the Eastside development and OHL tunnel project. Additionally, this year AquaGib will make a significant investment in additional production capability for the first time since 2011, to ensure that our potable water requirements are met for years to come.
This will be an exciting time for AquaGib and I look forward to continue working with them.
GIBRALTAR ELECTRICITY AUTHORITY
Mr Speaker, with respect to the Gibraltar Electricity Authority, there has been significant progress in the fine-tuning of the new North Mole Power Station. As one can imagine, the transition from commissioning to operating the plant is not an easy task, but we are progressing well.
The North Mole Power Station generated approximately 182Million units (KWh) during the last financial year 21/22. Regarding emissions, this again saw a decrease in C02 emissions of about 4% from 123,869 tonnes in 2020 to 119,247 tonnes in 2021. It is expected that upon the release of the North Mole temporary rental plant, there will be a further drop to under 90,000 tonnes per annum, which will be close to 50% of what our emissions were in 2016 (161,358 tonnes) when all power generation was derived from diesel.
The GEA is actively pursuing the installation of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). This will effectively make our power generation solution a hybrid one. This initiative will serve to mitigate any potential power outages and it will contribute to less emissions, by minimising spinning reserve and enabling the more efficient use of the integrated renewable energy sources within our grid. I hope to have this tender published in the coming months.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS DEPARTMENT
Mr Speaker, as we move out of the global pandemic and return to the office environment, the ITLD team has responded to these challenges by implementing measures to reduce working from home services and to further develop and enhance Government systems.
It is clear that technological infrastructures are critical to Government operations. Data security and privacy has become progressively more important, not just for the Government but also for our citizens. In order to keep up to date with these ever-evolving technological trends and patterns the following initiatives are currently being worked on:
- Migration to a hybrid Office 365 email setup that will benefit from extensive protection against spam and malware by using Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection;
- The implementation of additional advanced email protection systems that uses core artificial intelligence to stop the most advanced email threats, aiming to protect Government employees from the full range of threats targeting the inbox;
- Preparation and planning for a full server technology refreshment and migration programme;
- The continued development of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) for application and system integration with eServices;
- Continuation of the rolling out of email encryption services across Government domains to prevent misdirected email and encrypting sensitive data to GDPR standard;
- Coordinating departmental relocations in terms of IT infrastructure and provisioning network connectivity.
I am grateful to Tyrone Manasco and his team for their work in these and many other areas. Human nature is quick to shout when systems are down, but not when they are working perfectly – which is thankfully most of the time!
Mr Speaker, the Government continues to invest in digital transformation.
The Government’s ERP platform has now been operational for over a year. This combines procurement, purchasing and financial accounting to form one system. Centralised reporting will enable the Treasury and the Office of the Financial Secretary to interrogate live data and have access to corresponding reports. Variations of the same will shortly be introduced to all Government departments and organisations.
Today, Government invoices are processed centrally by a team of 4 people. This can only be done with the use of automation. As an example, last financial year, the team processed 58,307 invoices. We expect this number to increase as we onboard more Government suppliers and services providers.
The eAdministration team is now finalising the work on the HR system, which will be fully integrated into the ERP system. We are aiming to go live with the HR system in October of this year. An incredible amount of work is being put into the amalgamation of employee data into a central system, which will be used to manage the Government workforce as a whole.
The current list of eServices can be found in the Gibraltar Government website. There are over 25,000 registered users and more that 100,0000 applications have been processed online. Existing eServices have been enhanced and a number of new departments will be onboarded in the coming months. These include:
- Property Register
- Office of Fair Trading
GIBRALTAR HEALTH AUTHORITY AND ELDERLY RESIDENTIAL SERVICES
Mr Speaker, it will not go unmissed that health and care systems globally have been most seriously impacted by the Covid19 pandemic. Not only has this tested the resilience and agility of the health and residential care system in a crisis, it has also, diverted attention from the day-to-day delivery of previously agreed strategic initiatives and priorities.
Furthermore, having to deal with cross border logistics which were further complicated by Brexit arrangements, while there were extreme challenges with supply chain issues due to the pandemic, all combined to result in the GHA and ERS having to make decisions against a background of extreme uncertainty to ensure that essential, emergency health services and residential care services continued to function to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
The combined impact of these factors has placed the GHA, ERS and Public Health staff who supported these efforts under enormous pressure – indeed like never before. However, it also brought together those in health, residential care, across the public sector, the voluntary sector, and the wider community. There is no question that this coming together of all services and the community, has undeniably lessened the impact of the pandemic on our people and undoubtedly saved many lives from this deadly virus.
But the real hero’s have been our front line staff – they have put their lives on the line to protect the people of Gibraltar day in day out during the course of this pandemic, something we must not forget and I Thank Them for their total unconditional commitment and professionalism.
As of the 19th May 2022; 18,273 individuals have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. As well as being thankful for those we protected and treated we should never forget the lives that we have sadly lost including health and care staff.
It is testament to the tenacity and commitment of the GHA and Care staff across all disciplines and those that supported us through the pandemic that the authority has continued to deliver all that was required of it to help Gibraltar survive this global crisis.
Mr Speaker, I do not apologise for listing just a few of these examples which I believe need to be mentioned;
- Rapidly and consistently securing stock of vaccines for a highly successful vaccination programme
- Quickly expanding local laboratory testing and genomic sequencing with swift access to results, with performance that exceeded that of the UK at the peak of the pandemic
- Increasingly strong containment of outbreaks and protection of vulnerable adults
- Establishment of a 111 service to ensure that people had ongoing medical advice, support and were signposted as we managed outbreaks
- Promptly adapting our residential services to ensure protection of older people and managing their healthcare needs without the need for admission to hospital
- Getting Gibraltar on the Green list for Travel before most other destinations in Europe.
Healthcare systems have been fully tested around the globe and many have not fared so well or indeed been able to reopen and safely implement their exit strategies at such an early stage.
It will take some time until we fully understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on the people of Gibraltar. But we have learned so much in respect of promoting and protecting the health of the population. We will use these important lessons to guide our thinking for the future.
In spite of these pressures the GHA and ERS have continued to deliver their services across our community, especially in:
- Supporting and treating the most vulnerable, including those with Cancer where we have significantly reduced admissions to hospital.
- Delivering all urgent outpatient work with minimal disruption even where there were enormous pressures and diversion of resources to manage in patients during the pandemic.
- Strengthened local laboratory capability beyond COVID19 testing so we can provide a local service rather than outsourcing beyond Gibraltar.
- Starting the process to digitize hospital records in a move towards creating a fully electronic record that helps manage care more efficiently and effectively.
- Strengthening pathways of care across many specialties including older peoples services, Mental Health Primary Care and A&E services.
- Continued to progress development of a modern ENT facility to be opened at the end of this summer.
- Delivering several key milestones in the National Mental Health Strategy.
- Planning the move of the Chemotherapy Unit to more appropriate accommodation.
As we emerge from the pandemic the GHA family of services are embarking on the implementation of a Reset, Restart and Recover Strategy designed not only to help get us back on course and address the impact of the pandemic but also to improve and modernise our services. The authority is already beginning to work towards:
- Stabilizing its workforce
- Implementing a program of improvements to its facilities and to upgrade and replace key diagnostic equipment
- Improve systems for booking services – we understand and appreciate peoples frustrations at the PCC Booking system and will resolve this. It is not good enough.
- Strengthening patient safety and patient liaison arrangements
- Strengthen local services so that people do not have to leave Gibraltar for treatment
The GHA Board which is made up of Executives and Non -Executives Directors and led by an independent Chair and Director General has met and approved an initial set of objectives for the forthcoming year and details of these will be published by the GHA in the forthcoming months. I am grateful to them all for their contribution to this work.
What I have outlined today is a very brief summary of the journey the GHA and care Services have been through over the past two years and the challenges they have had to overcome. But equally as important is their plans to reset, restart and recover the Health and Care Agenda.
In the months to come more details of these objectives will be made public – all are intended to improve the quality of the care we provide and to deliver to our community value for money in the provision of these services.
I would like to end by thanking the GHA and Care Staff for the fabulous work they do in keeping us safe and healthy and always putting the needs of our people first. Their devotion and care have saved lives. Easy to say, but difficult to do.
Mr Speaker I must specifically thank Mr Patrick Geoghegan, our Director General and his senior management team at the GHA. In the short time I have worked with him I have been most impressed not only with his knowledge and expertise, but more importantly with his calm energy and determination to address the challenges we face at the GHA and to deliver his vision for a service we can all be proud of. It is a privilege to work with and support him in these areas, and I am confident that his efforts will result in real and tangible change in the manner we provide healthcare in Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker, I now turn to my responsibilities in respect of the Care Agency.
I am delighted to report that Learning Disability Services were able to maintain people’s quality of life, despite the impact that Covid-19 has understandably had on everyone. In collaboration with Public Health, Gibraltar, the service was still able to provide support to service users and families and was able to keep St Bernadette’s Resource Centre open throughout the year. Remarkably, staff sickness levels were down this year despite Covid-19.
The Care Agency continues to recognise that one of its most important resources is its staff. It is committed to the training, learning and development of its entire workforce so that they will gain the necessary skills and knowledge to reach their full potential and provide safe and informed care. Of note, Care Agency employees have recently qualified as Positive Behaviour Coaches and Functional Assessors by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities – an organisation championing the human rights of people with learning disabilities.
Another noteworthy achievement is the creation of the Community Learning Disability Team, which supports service users and their families throughout their lifetime. It consists of a team of social workers and respite managers that aim to work in collaboration with other professionals to ensure that the individual service users’ needs are met. The Team host drop-in sessions where information and advice is provided to people with learning disabilities, their families, or carers.
Targeted investment has also helped to improve physical assets, including the acquisition of 3 flats within the community and therapeutic equipment such as sensory integration apparatus, interactive Smart Boards, education resources and materials for sessions in the therapeutic programmes offered to service users, to help them achieve their individual aims and objectives.
Sporting and leisure activities have also been developed further, such as the partnership scheme with the Gibraltar Football Association which has been established. The scheme effects bespoke coaching sessions delivered to service users.
Mr Speaker, the Bella Vista Day Centre had 2 periods of closure between July and August 2021, and again between December and February. In order to ensure service user’s needs continued to be met, reviews and assessments were carried out and packages of care provided to ensure the wellbeing and safety of those remaining in their own homes during these times. Vulnerable individuals who were Covid positive were supported by a specific team to prevent hospital admission and to reduce the spread of the virus. In addition Adult services have been integral in organising the delivery of medical supplies, food and therapeutic activities.
The Waterport Day Centre has remained open and continues to provide a service for our elderly community, some of whom are socially isolated having little or no family or community support, to socialise in a safe and stimulating environment.
The Care Agency are actively involved in the Gibraltar National Mental Health Strategy and are working alongside partner agencies to support the strategy and its overall implementation; to help improve the services and and provide care and help for those suffering from mental health issues.
A Social Worker with a background in mental health has now been established within the team as the link person between GHA and the Care Agency. Multi agency strategies are being implemented to ensure a more seamless pathway for those accessing multiple services, including individuals involved with the drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
The Care Agency’s Children’s Social Work Team have continued to receive a high volume of referrals and have seen an increase in the number of referrals from previous years. The Social Work team are currently working with over 300 children and their families to support and safeguard children. The team continue to work tirelessly to ensure children are safeguarded; and a significant amount of advice, support and practical help is provided to families within our community to ensure that children can where appropriate safely remain at home.
The team at the family centre have increased their workload to cover for children and families in need ‘early on’ to ensure that families receive parenting support, advice, and training courses to help prevent family breakdowns.
Importantly, Independent Consultant Deirdre Mahon has completed a review of Children’s Services which has helped formulate an Improvement plan for the service to look at how we can develop and build the service further. The team are striving to improve services to ensure good outcomes for children and young people.
The Therapeutic team’s cases significantly require specialised forms of intervention which do not fall under the remit of generic counselling. The context of the work conducted by The Care Agency therapeutic counsellors is highly complex and lies within the therapeutic professional realms of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect with both victims and perpetrators of abuse, including therapeutic risk management and clinical analysis for registered sex offenders under MAPPA. The team’s nucleus of work is within trauma, risk assessments, safeguarding, therapeutic skills-based training, and both support and evaluation in the field of emotional and/or behavioural difficulties.
Drugs Alcohol Rehabilitation Services
The Therapeutic Team under The Care Agency CEO have taken on the management and clinical lead on Drugs Alcohol Rehabilitation Services (DARS) to include both Bruce’s Farm Residential Service and Drugs and Alcohol Community Services. The Head of Service and Lead Counsellor have led on this project and together with the new Homes Manager, Nurse and Staff team have completely revised, restructured all 3 Operational, Residential and Community Based programmes to include an established Drugs and Alcohol Pathway plan with GHA Psychiatry which focuses on the importance of an inter-agency approach.
The Care Agency now has 8 new local qualified Social Workers who have joined the department. They successfully graduated in Social Work with the University of Kingston, and had their graduation ceremony in May 2022. This is a significant achievement which will help provide local families with consistency of Social Work care and support moving forward
I am pleased to report that the Out of Hours Service (OOHs) provided by the Social Work team is now being streamlined via the 111 line. Calls will be filtered and directed to the relevant Social Worker covering OOHs when the office is closed, ensuring a more efficient and user-friendly service.
I am delighted that the Care Agency was awarded this year with a Staff Well-being at work recognition award as well as the Mayor’s Award in 2021.
A small but important recognition of the great work provided by the Agency to our community. Carlos Banderas and his team deliver a quality of care and service to our users that is difficult to understand. They are totally committed and I am sincerely grateful to them for their dedication and sacrifice in caring for others.
Mr Speaker I must thank the team at my office for looking after me this year and for their untiring work in supporting me as we strive to deliver our objectives. They all work in different areas but each is critical to our progress. Julian, Karon, Gareth, Karl and Natalie are all supporting my work in different areas of responsibility and my secretary Lourdes, who retires in the coming weeks. My sincere thanks to each of them.