- THE DEFICIT ARISES FROM SPENDING THAT THE GSD AGREED TO
- MR CLINTON AND MR AZOPARDI NEED TO BE AS BRAVE NOW AS THEY WERE WHEN THEY AGREED THE SPENDING
- GOVERNMENT WILL NOT COWER IN DEALING WITH THE DEFICIT
The Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP said:
“I note the latest GSD statement on the deficit.
As Minister for Public Finances, I take full responsibility for the state of the Public Finances of Gibraltar.
But I must remind the GSD that Mr Clinton and Azzopardi took the relevant decisions with me to spend the money that has resulted in the losses that we are experiencing.
The deficit arises from the payments we have made under the COVID fund, to pay the salaries of those who could not work the past two years, to the sectors, such as building companies, transport operators, taxis drivers and many others which depended on tourists who were not coming to Gibraltar, and in forgone revenue from some sectors like restaurants.
These are areas of spending which the GSD did not just support, they urged upon us every time someone or some sector asked for help.
It is also expenditure involving the GHA costs of additional staff, the Nightingale Hospital, new equipment and PPE, and free testing which is still incurring costs of testing.
It is in order to tame the deficit that arises from this spending agreed with the GSD that all areas of current spending are now, necessarily, under review.
The Government has therefore not lost control of spending, what we have done is ensured, with the support of Mr Clinton and Azopardi, who now seem to have forgotten the facts, is that we have paid monies out to people who were not working and also covered the additional costs of COVID in the GHA etc.
So I am perfectly happy to be the one to shoulder responsibility for the deficit, because the BUCK, literally, stops with me.
But the GSD need to remember that they stood shoulder to shoulder with me on the spending that has given rise to the deficit and they were happy to try to share the political limelight when it came to announcing that spending or to asking us to help different sectors.
They have to be as brave in now facing the need to tame the deficit that has arisen from their agreement to spend as we have, as they were in bravely agreeing we should take this path and calling for extra expenditure.
They should now not cowardly hide behind the deficit to try to gain a few votes of those who might not see the reality of the situation.
I am not going to cower in the face of these challenges. I am going to put things right.
I will therefore continue to do what I have done, with all my Ministerial team and in particular Mr Bossano, in addressing these issues and in consulting and working with Unions and the private sector in putting in place the right measures to ensure we strengthen our public finances and our economy in equal measure.
Additionally, it should be noted that these are issues which are affecting every economy in the world, including the post developed and largest economies in the world. It is foolish in the extreme to pretend to suggest that Gibraltar could have avoided such a situation as we increased spending and reduced our income by shutting down our economy.
In fact, I am surprised I have to remind Mr Clinton and Mr Azopardi of the words of Mr Feetham at the last Budget session of the House in 2021, when he said:
“… [A]nd, of course, no one on this side of the House, is saying that if they had been prudent with the people’s money over the last 10 years we could have avoided a £157m deficit, which is, of course, COVID related and no one could have predicted the pandemic…”
Additionally, I am surprised that Mr Clinton and Mr Azopardi should be preaching about how to tame the deficit whilst marching with the widely discredited Community Care Action Group to Convent Place, asking, in effect, that the Government should provide an additional charitable contribution to the Trustees of the Independent Charity Community Care, of an additional £5,000,000.00 a year.
That may, however, have more to do with Mr Joseph Capurro being a candidate for the GSD Executive than with any principle or with any desire to tame the deficit.
Unfortunately, the GSD under Mr Azopardi has become a real case of him and Mr Clinton wanting to jump on every bandwagon, run with the hares, hunt with the hounds and desperately try to do anything which might win them a vote by any means necessary in time for the next election, which Mr Clinton has predicted will be in three months’ time.
Anyone who is following the detail of this will see how ridiculous it is to see a purportedly mature political party behave in such a fashion, demonstrating, in doing so, that it is far from being an alternative government.”