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GSD slams Picardo’s ‘debt fantasy’

Opposition leader Daniel Feetham yesterday accused Chief Minister Fabian Picardo of putting political ambition above the interests of the community by saddling Gibraltar with massive debt despite the prospect of Brexit.

In the latest salvo of a bitter row over public debt, Mr Feetham said the Chief Minister’s claim that gross public debt had decreased since 2011 was a “Water Mitty” fantasy.

"Mr Picardo relies on the fact that people might not understand that when he talks about Government debt, he excludes the debts of Government owned companies,” Mr Feetham said.

“That debt is being used to pay for the huge public spending spree he has undertaken in the last four years in a ruthless quest to keep himself in power.”

“This was reckless in any event but more so in a situation where he knew that Brexit was a possibility.”

“It is Mr Picardo who has placed his political ambition above the long term well-being of Gibraltar.”

The GSD also dismissed government claims that its criticism of public debt could impact on Gibraltar’s credit rating.

“Mr Picardo says that our criticism of this level of public debt, might have a negative effect on Gibraltar's credit rating,” the Opposition said in a statement.

“Only Mr Picardo would attempt to place such a foolish spin on things.”

“If our credit rating is affected, it is because of the unprecedented high levels of public debt that he has saddled Gibraltar with and not because we criticise him for it.”

In the statement, the GSD said the Gibraltar Government’s public statements on debt omitted that government-owned companies owed £700m in debt, over and above the £446m owed by the government itself.

It said that ultimately, the public purse was responsible for the debts of government-owned companies and that this debt had been used to fund GSLP/Liberals manifesto promises.

“Does Mr. Picardo really expect people to believe that the Fairy God Mother is responsible for repaying the debts of Government owned companies?” the GSD asked.

The Opposition said it had been concerned about the “spectacular” increase in the debt of government companies since it discovered the existence of Credit Finance Company Limited.

It said Mr. Picardo was using these companies to borrow money to pay for manifesto promises in circumstances where the legal borrowing limits did not allow his Government to borrow such huge sums directly.

The public debt now exceeds £1.1bn, the GSD insisted.

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