GSD will open the books

GSD will open the books



Openness and transparency. Words much vaunted by politicians. Words used by the GSLP/Liberals when they ushered in their supposed ‘New Dawn’ in 2011. They have failed to deliver. Their atrocious lack of openness is reflected in how our public finances are handled and in the award of public contracts. I wish to tackle both issues with you today. 

Economic and political self-sufficiency

When Sir Joe Bossano was Chief Minister, he always correctly argued that our political emancipation as a people had to be accompanied by economic self-sufficiency. Given our size and the sovereignty challenge we continually face, this analysis is absolutely correct. The same was said by another former Chief Minister, Sir Peter Caruana, when he gave his final budget address in Parliament and stated, when describing Sir Joe’s position in this respect: “…this community, challenged and threatened as it is politically, could not without independent economic security safeguard its political security…I adopted this mantra because it struck me as absolutely right’. This view is all the more pertinent with the added challenge that is Brexit.

How much money or lack of it, we have in our coffers is also very relevant in the context of the increasing demands that we, as a society, make on those funds. Put simply, if there is less available there will be less to distribute. Careful management of our finances therefore has a direct effect on highly important items of government expenditure such as health, education, social services and how much money we keep in our pockets.

It is for these reasons that the GSD has been increasingly alarmed in its 8 years in opposition at the secrecy in the management of our finances. I recall when we found out, almost by chance, of the existence of a company many of you will now be familiar with, Credit Finance Company Limited during the bye-election campaign of 2013. The company had come to our attention because it had a mortgage over the Sunborn Hotel.

This company was central to and a radical departure from the government’s approach on how to arrange our public finances yet not a dicky-bird was said about it. We were cynically surprised that a government which has a penchant for self-publicity, photo shoots and plaque unveiling (rarely does a week go by when at least one Government Minister has not appeared in the press) should have failed to make any announcement about such an important policy. It certainly did not feature in their 2011 manifesto. We immediately smelt a rat. Fundamentally it is this secrecy which led the 2011-2015 opposition of which I formed a part to walk out of Parliament in protest and the last GSD opposition to vote against the budget.

Clouds on the horizon?

The issue with lack of accountability is that everything may well be hunky-dory but we only have the Chief Minister’s word for it. This is not enough. We all need to know where the money is so that we can make a judgment as to whether we agree with the Chief Minister or not. Trusting his word is simply not good enough. If there are clouds on the horizon we need to prepare for that eventuality. This is why we will have innovative promises in our manifesto which will make financial unaccountability a thing of the past. We cannot continue to allow government to be run this way. If our calculations are right and our gross debt is at over £1.3 Billion, we need to know how that is going to be paid especially with Brexit looming.

If there is not enough money, is there not a risk that we will (i) be less resilient in resisting pressures from Spain; and (ii) not be able to pay for some of the things which we take for granted and others things which we need to improve services? Whether it is the payment of tuition fees, full mandatory grants, the use of tertiary care out of Gibraltar, the care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, investing in greater assistance for those families who have children with special educational needs - all of these things can be put at risk if our finances are not managed properly.

Awards of contracts

We also need a robust system in place which will once and for all end the lack of transparency in relation to the award and control of public contracts. We are therefore seeking to make the system open to ensure that there are equal opportunities and there is no doubt that contracts are allocated fairly. That is why we will be proposing the setting up of an Allocation Board which will take decisions and publish reasons for the award of contracts. Fully transparent criteria will be published.

Many, many millions of taxpayer’s pounds are being spent in the building of new schools, for example. We have to ensure that these contracts are administered fairly. We will therefore be introducing rules and systems to curb wastage and enhance value for money.

Vote GSD

You have a choice to make at the election. If you want our future to be in safe hands, I strongly urge you to deposit your trust in the GSD again and give us your ten votes. If you are as concerned as I am about the direction that we are heading, there is only one choice to make and that is to vote all 10 GSD candidates on 17th October.