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Alliance pushes message on financial services

The GSLP/Liberals on Monday warned against putting Gibraltar’s financial services “at risk” with an “inexperienced” GSD government, insisting only the Alliance had plans to further grow a sector of the economy that generates half of the Rock’s GDP.

Nigel Feetham, who is tipped to become Gibraltar’s next Minister for Financial Services if the GSLP/Liberals are voted into office, said he will “start working within an hour of being sworn in” to implement the Alliance’s manifesto commitments.

“It's a program for growth, economic growth,” Mr Feetham said.

“It's a program to increase tax revenue in Gibraltar.”

“And also, let us not forget, an important part of the economic ecosystem in Gibraltar is to retain the business that we currently have.”

Mr Feetham was joined by Alliance leader, Fabian Picardo, and former Minister for Financial Services, Albert Isola, during the 11am press conference held at the party’s headquarters in Main Street.

Mr Picardo said Gibraltar would “suffer greatly” in the absence of Mr Isola or Mr Feetham at the helm of financial services in Gibraltar.

“I understand that it is proposed that for the GSD, the person who should take responsibility for financial services and gaming would be [Craig] Sacarello, potentially could also be [Roy] Clinton,” Mr Picardo said.

“Mr Clinton has said that this is not his field, that he's not an economist and that he does not really understand areas beyond banking, so if he's taking on responsibility for public finance, how can he also take responsibility for financial services, especially given what the GSD is proposing?”

“And even if it were Roy Clinton and not Craig Sacarello, would Roy Clinton do a better job than Nigel Feetham in taking Gibraltar's financial services forward?”

“Or is it the stark reality that if there isn't a GSLP/Liberal government on the morning of 13th, Friday the 13th actually, financial services in Gibraltar, insurance in Gibraltar, gaming in Gibraltar will suffer greatly from the absence of a talent like Albert Isola or Nigel Feetham to take it forward?”

“That could lead, if not to a failure, at least a stagnation or a reduction of this hugely important part of our economy, there is a risk that that would happen.”

For his part, Mr Isola underscored the work the GSLP/Liberal Government has done over the past 12 years.

When the Alliance was first elected in 2011, there were 2,000 jobs in the financial services sector, this has now increased to 3,500.

“Despite having lost all the European business as a result of Brexit, we had some 10 to 11 percent of the UK market,” Mr Isola said.

“Today we have over 30% of the UK market.”

“That's over 5 billion pounds in gross income premiums.”

“The numbers are staggering.”

“The job we've done has been quite incredible.”

“The sector has grown with us, and to put that in the hands, 50% of our GDP, of someone who has never done financial services, who has never done gaming, I find absolutely terrible.”

Mr Isola added that there was “no detail” in the GSD’s manifesto.

On the other hand, Mr Isola said he “100% gives [his] entire commitment, support and confidence” in Mr Feetham who will “do a sterling job … not just in keeping Gibraltar safe… but taking us to the next level”.

“I have also articulated a vision for Gibraltar,” Mr Feetham said.

“I think that we are the only party - this is indisputable - that has set out a vision in this election for the financial services sector, which includes gaming.”

“And I have said repeatedly, because I believe passionately that we can deliver, we can work on the excellent work that Albert has done over the last 11 years.”

“I am passionate about the need to grow the economy, and I'm passionate about the need to create educational employment opportunities for our young people.”

“So far, I've heard the GSD say that they will carry out audits and reviews.”

“That is the sum of the policy commitments that they seem to be making.”

He also underscored the importance of retaining the big gaming and insurance companies on the Rock.

Drawing on his previous academic work, he described this as “herd instinct”, where if Gibraltar attracts one big company in the financial sector, others will follow suit.

He said the reverse is also true if one of the key companies were to leave, adding that the Rock will see “an exodus of companies”.

The GSD, Mr Feetham said, have “nothing” to say on the financial services sector, or what they have proposed has already been done.

On the future of the gaming industry in Gibraltar, Mr Isola told reporters the modernised gaming legislation is ready and would “enable the gaming sector to grow to another level”.

On the question of Gibraltar being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force, Mr Isola said the next plenary session will be held on October 27.

“I fully expect the plenary session to approve an onsite inspection, which is the last step of the process to be delisted and come off the grey list,” Mr Isola said.

“So I would hope that that would happen end of October and on site in December and very early next year, we'll be off the grey list.”

For his part, Mr Feetham said he is “extremely confident” Gibraltar will be removed from that list.

“I'm confident because I know the hard work and commitment that Albert, as the Minister responsible, has put into it,” Mr Feetham said.

“And I know the huge amount of work that the industry has put into this - law enforcement, Customs, Police, the Gibraltar Financial Intelligence Unit, the financial services regulator, the gaming regulator, the Courts of Gibraltar.”

“Given my knowledge of the hard work and commitment, I know that the only result is that we will come off that list.”

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