Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce responds to 2017 budget
The Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce welcomes the Chief Minister’s 2017 budget speech as it clearly illustrates, once again, that the private sector is the engine of the economy and is driving Gibraltar’s growth, success and prosperity.
The continued confidence which has been shown by investors and companies in Gibraltar, particularly since last year’s EU referendum result gives some reassurance although many uncertainties remain.
The announcement of a record surplus is good news, and the Chamber urges the government not to increase recurrent expenditure, but to invest these additional revenues prudently instead.
The reductions in import duty will be welcomed by a number of our members but as with duty reductions announced in previous years, it is hard to assess the policy on which some of these reductions have been made.
As expected, there were no increases in water or electricity as this was a manifesto commitment of the government, but nevertheless this will be for the benefit of Gibraltar as a whole.
The Chamber is disappointed that government has not implemented measures for a self-funding post office as we have suggested on repeated occasions. The Gibraltar Post Office is a loss making venture for government and contributes to the £25 million loss generated by government-owned companies which the Chief Minister identified in his budget speech.
At a time when many post offices around the world are reporting strong profits there is no justification for the Gibraltar Post Office to be, at least, self-funding rather than have to rely on government pay-outs at a significant cost to the tax payer.
The 2.75% pay rise for public sector workers is in line with inflation, but it is notable that the number of people employed in the public sector has risen by 21 per cent since 2011 (from 4,574 to 5,547 in 2016). With such an expansion, Gibraltar is entitled to a higher level of service from the public sector, with or without e-government.
The reduction in arrears owing to government which the Chamber has long been advocating is also welcome and the Chamber expects this work to continue until the debt is cleared in full.
Modern trade unions, as with all other representative bodies in Gibraltar, are based on principles of voluntary membership. They should not be given any preferential or special status or have to rely on government to recruit members and should have the confidence to sell the benefits of unionisation to employees and employers.
Any attempt to impose unions on a company or on a sector in the private sector might be viewed negatively by investors and business owners and in turn could lead to job losses. Such a move would create additional and unwelcome uncertainty for businesses at a time when we must do everything to increase investor confidence in Gibraltar.