Keith Azopardi has spoken on behalf of the opposition saying he wants Mr Picardo to respond to the new GSD that he is leading for the future.
A statement from the GSD reads:
Last week we were treated to the Government spin machine in overdrive. A budget that was a fairy tale of the state of our economy. Talk of huge surpluses when it is obvious that tens of millions of pounds that have been spent are not accounted for and you are systematically kept in the dark as to how your money is being used. Housing estates have been mortgaged and public property interests are now being sold by a Government in a rush to sustain their reckless spending. All this leads to the fiction that we are better off than we are and the pretence that Mr Picardo is an economic guru. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And it is that truth that we want to discuss today as well as setting out how we would handle public finances.
But first I also want to deal with the tired argument that constantly surfaces from the Government. Everytime the GSD say anything Mr Picardo or his Ministers will point to the past when the GSD was in Government. While that may have been understandable when they were in post for three months it is inexcusable for a Government that has been around 8 years. It is see-through to blame the past when you have had the chance to change things over the last 8 years. People who have real problems want solutions. They don’t want Ministers to point to a time before 2011 as a defence to their failures. And presumably not even Mr Picardo believes that? If he does then he would be saying that his GSLP Government
also need to accept all the blame for the Gibraltar that we encountered before 1996. That comparison would not treat him or the GSLP kindly. In fact Mr Picardo should be judged on his successes and failures in Government after 2011.
I am happy to be judged on my track record in Government but the reality is that I was last in Government in 2003 – sixteen years ago. The vast majority of the GSD team that will face the next election have never been in Government. This is a new GSD team that should be judged on its ideas and on how we say we will tackle present problems.
Mr Picardo needs to respond to the new GSD that I lead and our ideas for the future. He needs to stop boxing ghosts of the past or raising smokescreens to mask his inabilities. He needs to stop running scared from facing the new ideas of the GSD. People want politicians to concentrate on what they would positively do in Government.
How your money was spent and how the Government intends to spend it in the future is what the Budget debate was all about.
Those of you who have followed the Debate closely will have heard the concerns expressed by me on transparency, and by Sir Joe Bossano on the future of our economy.
Today I want to talk to you about the reason why transparency is so important in our public finances and how it affects you personally.
Without a clear picture of the state of the public pursue it is impossible to make informed decisions on spending priorities and what we can afford. Let me explain with some examples.
I have now for the last three years been asking the Government for an explanation as to what they have done with the £300 million they borrowed by mortgaging six of our housing estates. So far all they have said of the £275 million net they received is that £30 million was injected into the Gibraltar International Bank and they intend to use £50 million to provide a loan to the developers of Victoria Keys.
What about the remaining £195 million what has been done with that? Is any money left? In three years we will have paid £33 million in interest with nothing to show for it! Is that right?
The Chief Minister would have you believe he had a record surplus and net borrowing is down ..but he doesn’t include the £300 million in his calculations and doesn’t say that the £100 million he is spending on the new schools isn’t shown in the Government’s books or
Nor indeed are the mounting costs of the Lathbury Sports complex £18 million, New Rifle Shooting Range £7 million or the University Residential Block £ 9 million being added that’s over £134 million of capital projects that are not included in the Government’s books or numbers. There would be no surplus if these were to be included in the Government’s numbers.
We have no transparency on the capital costs being incurred nor how they are being funded. At the time, the cost of the construction of the new Airport Terminal by the GSD was fully disclosed in the books during construction for all to see.
If the Government is awash with money and registering record surpluses why has it just announced a further multi-million borrowing using the Government’s share of the 50:50 affordable housing schemes in another six estates being Beach View Terraces, Mons Calpe Mews, Waterport Terraces, Cumberland Terraces, Nelson’s View and Bayview Terraces. Again none of this will go through the Government’s books. None of this borrowing was set out in the 2015 GSLP/Liberal manifesto as being required.
It’s very easy to spend when you borrow, but ultimately it has to be repaid which is why we as a community need to have financial transparency and not lots of clever legal structures through companies to hide debt and capital spending away and flatter the numbers.
Public Finance is all about transparency and accountability not the manufacture of an illusion for political electoral purposes.
Why is this important to you ?,..... Because simply put if we over borrow or overspend there will be less for you and future generations to enjoy.
Our excess today will be their burden tomorrow which is not right. We rightly thank the evacuation generation for their hard work and sacrifice, how will our grandchildren judge us I wonder?
Will we be able to hold our heads up high to future generations confident in the knowledge that we looked after their needs and not just ours today or are we to hang our heads in shame? Are we mortgaging their tomorrow for our today?
Always remember that what the Government spends is ultimately your money and when they set out a Budget it is about what they intend to do with your money and what they might borrow in your name and your children’s name.
As we approach the election it is right that you should ask – what would you do in Government? I want to be clear because what we offer is not just a criticism of how Mr Picardo is managing your money but a set of promises of how we would responsibly deal with public finances. So I can confirm that we would:
1. Fully explain how we use taxpayers monies. We will not hide how your money is used. If publicly owned companies are used – you will know about it;
2. We will have a clear programme aimed at the management and reduction of public debt. This is at historic levels of 1.2B gross debt and we need to bring it down;
3. We will be prudent – no-one should spend more than they earn. Managing your money is no different. It is not responsible – especially in the uncertain Brexit climate for the Government to be on a wild spending spree;
4. We need to end waste in the public sector –because, for example, construction contracts are not supervised properly or because Ministers are wasting public monies just to get re-elected. There needs to be a sense of responsibility on providing for next generations
5. We will invite and welcome public scrutiny. We will establish a Public Accounts Committee to hold the Government to account;
6. We will properly award and supervise Government contracts and establish revised conflict of interests rules to ensure that any possibility for abuse is curbed.
If we do all that then there will be more money for nurses, for teachers, for social workers, for mental health and to tackle drugs and housing issues. We believe in the strength and potential of Gibraltar to navigate these challenging times. But a change of Government is necessary to drive us away from the current economic recklessness. We are ready for that challenge and would embrace that opportunity positively for your benefit.