Balban confirms decision not to stand in general election
The GSLP’s Paul Balban confirmed on Friday that he would not offering himself as a candidate for the October 12 election and would be leaving frontline politics after 12 years as a government minister.
Mr Balban has held different portfolios during that time but is best known for the policies on traffic and transport which he led and commenced the process of shifting to a more sustainable model for a growing community with finite space.
Initiatives such as parking zones and cycle lanes proved divisive and drew flak from many quarters, something Mr Balban acknowledged in a personal statement on Friday.
“It is fair to say that the work that I have done in traffic and transport has often been radical,” he said.
“It has tried to challenge the way that we live and move and that can only be contentious, but I am passionate, and I believe in the work that I do.”
“From Residential Parking Schemes all the way to bicycle lanes, the people have been divided and I have strived at times against much adversity and criticism, simply because I strongly believed in the bigger picture.”
“I saw a cleaner, better, greener Gibraltar, a better quality of life, I saw streets alive with people, children playing, people moving in different ways, better air quality, a healthier community, and these are the seeds that I have sowed today, and it will take time to reap the rewards of this work.”
“Alternatively, we can choose as a community to rid ourselves of this work, abolish the zone parking scheme and remove the bicycle lanes, restoring on-street parking as we had.”
“This is the beauty of a democracy; we collectively decide our future and how we live.”
“I am confident however and hope that at some point in the future we may look back and perhaps understand the work that I may have played a small part in bringing about change to our community and that all that hard work was for a reason.”
Mr Balban said parts of the private sector had begun to embrace the initiatives for sustainable transport but acknowledged too that it was work in progress.
“The work I have done recently with regards to the Active Travel Strategy was always going to bigger than me, my political party, and our political system itself,” he said.
“Our democracy gives us the collective right to determine our own future, hence I successfully sought the cross-party support, critical for such a transformational environmental project of urban mobility.”
“Regardless of differing opinions, I did what I set out to do, my sights remained fixed throughout, I did what I felt was the right thing to do, and I am happy to be judged now and again in 20 years’ time.”
And he had this to say to prospective candidates at the election: “You only get one chance, everyone does their best, everyone wants the best for Gibraltar and by all means strive to be popular not least because popularity keeps you there, but above all do what you think is right.”
“We need to be brave as leaders if we are to bring about change, we need to be brave if we believe that there really is a climate emergency, if we want to live a healthier life and if we believe that we can do better. We can always do better.”
“I apologise if my vision for a better Gibraltar was not mainstream, if it was a vision with less pollution, cleaner air, if I wanted to give more street space to people, especially families and children, if I wanted to create green areas and see a better quality of life at street level.”
“This was my remit as Minister for Transport and our 2019 manifesto commitment but I wanted to have done so much more, not least concentrate on our buses, the backbone of transport within any city and another looming priority in the next four years.”
Mr Balban thanked people he had worked with over the past 12 years and his detractors too, who he said had provided “a reality check” that made him “braver and more determined to push on”.
And he thanked his family too, reflecting on the personal impact and the “especially tough” pressures of politics on family life.
Mr Balban said he would be supporting the GSLP/Liberals at the election.
“Fabian has been a tour de force internationally and my trust in his ability to achieve the best deal for Gibraltar is unquestionable,” he said.
“Sir Joe, the reason I entered politics, is for me the epitome of the father figure in Gibraltar politics always available and wise beyond his years.”
“They are the only option to keep us safe, to deliver the best possible outcome in treaty negotiations and to ensure that Gibraltar continues to thrive and be greener and even better.”