GSD says business growth is central to its policies
The GSD on Thursday said it would put business growth “at the heart” of its policies if elected to govern Gibraltar, as the Rock’s business community faces uncertainty brought by Brexit.
At a press conference held at its headquarters, the message from GSD candidates, Craig Sacarello, Roy Clinton and Joelle Ladislaus, was: “We are open for business, to better business.”
“We will use our policies to establish the best possible platform on which businesses can reliably operate and thrive,” Mr Sacarello said.
“We will stabilise our economy and provide the best opportunities for growth.”
On Brexit, Mr Sacarello said the GSD will “press for a permanent deal, one that does not relinquish any sovereignty, jurisdiction or control”.
“We've been in a state of limbo for seven years and Sir Joe Bossano said [on Wednesday] night that all we can expect is a four-year deal,” Mr Sacarello added.
“We need certainty in business.”
To navigate the uncharted waters of doing business with or without a treaty in place, the GSD said it would set up a Standing Committee to help liaise with businesses through Brexit, but there will also be an availability of funds “through the transitional period that is extremely important”.
The UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar's future relations with the bloc has not been finalised, but caretaker Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has previously said a deal is close.
“I think it is fair to say that there will be a transitional period where some businesses will benefit in the short term, but the likelihood is that a lot of perhaps retail would suffer and we would help people reorient their business to make sure that they take advantage,” Mr Sacarello said.
“What we want is to create a position of certainty within the economy, and uncertainty is the worst platform on which businesses can operate.”
“And so with that comes a fund of money to help businesses through that transition period.”
“And that fund of money will be targeted at those business who are struggling most and helping them repoint their business to whatever the deal allows them to do.”
Mr Sacarello said that, on a positive note, a GSD Government might be in a position to help local retailers open its online market from 30,000 people “to a market of 300 million where there are opportunities”.
For Mr Clinton, the open border under a Schengen Agreement is not as much of a concern as doing business in Gibraltar under the Customs Union angle of the Treaty.
“We are completely blind as to what is actually being discussed,” Mr Clinton said.
“But there have been rumours about VAT, and then not VAT and then the equivalent type of Customs Duty which would equate to the VAT rate in Europe.”
“But of course, all these things would make potentially would have an impact on the business sector and how that would affect different sectors.”
“Unfortunately, we don't have data to look at.”
“I'm sure the Government must have run a model saying, if this happens, what will happen to sector X to Z, and some sectors may suffer more than others.”
“We have no visibility, and the problem is, without visibility, it is very hard then to say, well, we're going to do this because we don't know what it is you're trying to treat.”
“It's very difficult for us to give you a policy prescription without knowing what the problem is.”
“It may sound like a cop out, but that is the honest truth.”
Mr Sacarello addressed other areas of Gibraltar where a GSD Government may be able to increase growth, ease doing business and lower the cost of doing business while encouraging fiscal stimulus.
Mrs Ladislaus addressed the legislation side of things, adding there “needs to be a shift and a focus on simplifying things”.
Addressing the issue of commercial premises, the GSD is looking at the premium on assignments of leases and looking at reducing this to one year.
There is also a policy to introduce the establishment of a commercial rent tribunal.
On the Business Improvement Scheme, which was aimed at helping overhaul Main Street and its surrounding areas, Mr Sacarello said a GSD Government will conduct a study on the diversification of Main Street.
“The bid in its current form proved a failure,” Mr Sacarello said.
“The Government had just left it to die.”
“They legislated for something, they did it in a rush, it wasn't done properly and it died.”
“It made businesses very angry.”
He said this came at a time when the cost of doing business went up, and just after the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that “all of a sudden there was another fee whacked on”.
“People didn't like the way it was done as one flat rate,” Mr Sacarello said.
“People on the back streets were paying the same as those on a prime position on Main Street and also, with the ballot papers didn't even reach some people, so they couldn't even vote.”
“So it was done in a rushed way, it wasn't done properly, but nonetheless, we recognise the importance of it.”