Fighting heart and soul for Gibraltar every day
by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo
In his recent Opinion Piece, the Leader of the GSD Opposition, Keith Azopardi, suggested that the truth no longer mattered to me. He is completely wrong about that and so much else. The truth matters to me today as Chief Minister as much as it ever did to me as a young, idealistic lawyer and as Leader of the Opposition.
What is definitely true, however, is that these days, Mr Azopardi’s every word and step are cynical manipulations transparently designed to advance his political ambitions.
He is always saying and doing things to beat me and to become Chief Minister.
As your actual Chief Minister, I am always working with my teams to do things to protect Gibraltar and our way of life and to improve our community and nation.
These days Mr Azopardi is using language designed to imitate the style of other populist politicians from countries far larger than our own.
He is acting just like Pablo Casado in Spain who argues that everything the PSOE do is wrong, whatever the measure may be.
Luckily, in our politics, I believe that the Gibraltarian is not easily fooled.
Some of our louder elements may be more fickle and easier led, but the vast majority can see through political bluster.
In fact, it is actually Mr Azopardi who is uninterested in the truth and who is treating our community with contempt by trying to mislead our citizens.
Mr Azopardi’s most recent tactic is to try to turn everything that is good into a negative.
Every virtue is portrayed as a sin and every obvious sin the GSD perpetrated in Government is presented as a virtue, even though as the former leader of the PDP Mr Azopardi was highly critical of many of the things he now praises of his current party’s time in office.
In recent weeks, he pretends to persuade Gibraltarians that the announcements of intended foreign direct investments in Gibraltar are somehow a bad thing.
A huge and positive virtue is presented as if it were a terrible vice.
The transparent truth is that the tender and expressions of interests process is designed to ensure we get the best deal for the taxpayer – and that is what we have done in every tender process since we were elected.
In fact, the deal we have done is the deal that produces the largest premium per square metre of land in our history.
That is in your best interests as a taxpayer.
That is how we have found the best, most advantageous commercial arrangements in respect of the Eastside and Bayside projects for you, the taxpayer.
We, on the other hand, have not done what Mr Azopardi’s party did with Midtown – which was a direct allocation for LESS than the market value.
That was a good old GSD scandal.
Two wrongs do not make a right – and that is why we have not followed their improper path.
Mr Azopardi’s position on these investments is just one more variation on the theme of his politics.
He is determined to run a Trump-like campaign where every truth is turned into a lie and his every lie is presented as an unimpeachable truth.
Keith Azopardi has left aside his long avowed ‘reasonableness’ and is now determined to rubbish good news or to introduce his toxicity into the narrative of every issue facing our community.
This does Gibraltar no favours.
In the long term, it will do the GSD no good either.
People can see that Mr Azopardi is relishing rubbishing everything.
He seeks to criticise so aggressively that his actions can actively threaten and jeopardise positive developments that are good for Gibraltar.
The fact of the matter is that to fight for the heart and soul of a community you must be willing to put the community first, to give everything.
Before self interest.
Before party political interest.
That is how I have done the job of Chief Minister since the day I was elected.
I will continue to do so for another term if my party and you wish me to.
The past five years have been really hard.
Since the result of the Brexit referendum and especially so since March 2020 when COVID hit us, running Government in Gibraltar has been the most difficult job I have ever done and am ever likely to do.
I dare say even my political opponents preferred to see me having to shoulder the burdens of governing these past 20 months.
The pandemic has seen us bury almost 100 of our people and has made us lose two precious years on our projects.
Covid has also decimated our public finances as a result of the payments the GSD urged and agreed we should make to ensure workers had enough to feed their families.
Even the GSD (specifically Daniel Feetham) has agreed that, whatever the point of arrival of our public finances at the time of the start of the pandemic, the final result would have been the same in the end.
So housing projects are delayed, not because of inactivity, but because of the logistics of this horrific pandemic and its financial effects.
Inquiries and other requirements are not yet on foot because barely six months ago we were still counting the numbers of deaths of our fellow Gibraltarians in the tens each week. How quickly Mr Azopardi would have you forget those seminal moments of unprecedented challenge from which we are just emerging…
Through it all, my government colleagues and I have continued to work hard on the issues that matter to us all as a community.
We have worked 16 to 18-hour days, day after day.
The Opposition have issued a couple of press releases a week.
We have focused on the big-ticket items of politics in Gibraltar today.
Recovering from the pandemic.
Getting the right EU deal for our future.
Delivering on the big schooling and housing projects, all of which I am confident we will see come to fruition.
The Opposition have perniciously tried to pick holes in one or two of the many hundreds of things we are working on.
The gulf of difference in effort and delivery from full time, fully committed Government to part-time, cynical Opposition has been huge.
We in Government have also been working hard to bring solutions to problems we all face every day; problems of the kind that require hard decisions and hard work, but which matter to members of this community.
I met demonstrators last Monday who were expressing views on issues that passionately matter to them and some of which the Government is already committed to addressing.
Already, I have acted, as Chairman of Gibtelecom on the issue of the cost of calling to make an appointment to see a GP.
As from today, the relevant phone number 200 52441, will be a freephone.
Additional measures are on foot to make booking to see a GP even easier.
The GHA will soon be going through a complete, formal recasting and restarting to shake off the problems that the pandemic has created for our national health services, as it has for health services around the whole world.
This will deal with many of the issues that have recently been in the press and which relate to the standards of care we all expect from the GHA.
I acknowledge that there are many issues on which we need to make improvements.
Yet we must also remind ourselves that with every step we take on the many projects now back on foot in the wake of Covid, we are taking important steps in the direction of building that better, greener, child friendly city that we believe we can be.
Let’s not pretend we have not been blown off course by Covid or that we could have avoided that.
Let’s be clear that we are getting back on track.
Let’s be excited and not cynical about what the future holds.
That’s why next two years will not just be about a run up to another General Election.
They are about rebuilding our home on a stronger, more sustainable environmental and financial model.
In getting through these difficult twenty months, I have always believed in the heart and soul of my fellow Gibraltarians and that’s why I believe – in my own heart and soul – that we will flourish once more and with us all will flourish the heart and soul of the nation we all love.
Let no ambitious cynic convince you otherwise.