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GSD slams Govt's 'economic recklessness', sets out pledges on public finance

The GSD yesterday said it was committed to transparency of public finances, setting out a series of pledges to voters at the forthcoming general election and lambasting the Gibraltar Government for keeping the community "in the dark" about its spending.

In a party political broadcast, GSD Leader Keith Azopardi and Roy Clinton, who shadows the finance portfolio, repeated concerns raised during the budget debate about the government's use of publicly-owned companies to handle major capital projects.

The GSD believes that the snapshot of the economy presented by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in his budget address masked massive debt channelled through public companies.

It accuses the government of being "economically reckless".

"Talk of huge surpluses when it is obvious that tens of millions of pounds that have been spent are not accounted for and you are systematically kept in the dark as to how your money is being used," Mr Azopardi said.

"Housing estates have been mortgaged and public property interests are now being sold by a Government in a rush to sustain their reckless spending."

"All this leads to the fiction that we are better off than we are and the pretence that Mr Picardo is an economic guru. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The GSD said that in government, it would:
- Fully explain how it uses taxpayers monies, including through publicly owned companies;
- Provide a clear programme aimed at the management and reduction of public debt;
- Be prudent, working on the basis that no-one should spend more than they earn;
- End waste in the public sector.
- Invite and welcome public scrutiny, including establishing a Public Accounts Committee to hold the Government to account;
- Properly award and supervise Government contracts and establish revised conflict of interests rules to ensure that any possibility for abuse is curbed.

Mr Clinton said the government was not being transparent on the capital costs it was incurring through publicly owned companies, or how these were being funded.

"It’s very easy to spend when you borrow, but ultimately it has to be repaid which is why we as a community need to have financial transparency and not lots of clever legal structures through companies to hide debt and capital spending away and flatter the numbers," he said.

"Public finance is all about transparency and accountability not the manufacture of an illusion for political electoral purposes."

And he added that Gibraltar needed greater restraint in public spending against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, particularly with an eye on future generations.

"Our excess today will be their burden tomorrow, which is not right," he said.

"We rightly thank the evacuation generation for their hard work and sacrifice, how will our grandchildren judge us I wonder?"

"Will we be able to hold our heads up high to future generations confident in the knowledge that we looked after their needs and not just ours today or are we to hang our heads in shame?"

"Are we mortgaging their tomorrow for our today?"