This Budget is a mirage or an optical illusion, says GSD member ROY CLINTON

This Budget is a mirage or an optical illusion, says GSD member ROY CLINTON

This Budget and the estimate book for 2019/20 has all the characteristics of a Mirage. We are being asked to believe what our eyes perceive to be a shimmering land of plenty, an oasis in which our financial thirst will be quenched and satisfied.And yet on closer examination of this miraculous Mirage we find out perhaps too late that our minds have been deceived by an optical illusion that we have been only too quick to believe. 

We are invited to believe a record surplus of £82.8 million, net debt down to £314 million and bumper revenues of £706.6 million in the year ended 2018/19.

This pre-election Budget has been purposely designed to create just that, an illusion of plenty when the truth is the opposite, and we should not allow ourselves to be so cruelly deceived.

The truth is simply that again the Government is running two sets of books and we are only being shown a fraction of the financial reality in the estimates book before us for 2019/20.

We need go no further than look at the expenditure line for the new schools in the Improvement and Development Fund.

In last year's Budget 2018/19 the Government put in a token £1,000 which I said then was obviously nonsense and not enough given that the contract for the new comprehensives had already been awarded for £52.2 million. I could not believe my eyes when the outturn expenditure for 2018/19 is reported not as tens upon tens of millions in excess of £1,000 but instead ZERO! Yes, page 163 clearly shows ZERO. Nothing. Zilch! HM Government of Gibraltar has officially spent nothing on new schools.

In a letter to the Gibraltar NASUWT dated the 9 May 2019 the Chief Minister boasted that the investment in “educational infrastructure will be well in excess of £100,000,000”.

Well we can see that schools are indeed being built ….but at what cost? The estimates book would have us believe that they appeared by magic at no cost or perhaps Mr Speaker our eyes are deceiving us and it is all a mirage, some sort of an optical illusion.

Which is it? Do the schools exist or not? Where is the expense? Or are we to believe that the mysterious Gibraltar Development Corporation owned GEP Limited, that signed the construction contract for the new comprehensives, to going to gift them to us like some fairy god mother? Mr Speaker we are being asked to believe in the realms of financial fantasy and fiction.

If we took into account the Chief Minister’s number of say £100 million spent on the schools so far he wouldn’t have a record surplus of £82.8 million in 2018/19 but a deficit of £17.2 million and we would only have £20.7 million left in the consolidated fund and the net direct debt would then be the highest ever at £414 million.

That is the plain truth not the fantasy that the Chief Minister is trying to peddle. This fantasy Budget we are presented with are the delusions of a Finance Minister who behaves like a Roman Emperor with a fiddle.

As this financial mirage evaporates in the glaring light of truth let me set out a deeper analysis as to what I believe has gone wrong and why I cannot vote for this Budget which in my view makes a mockery of both this Parliament and our Constitution.