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Opinion & Analysis

‘We play by the rules: why don’t the GSD?’

by Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar

If there is one thing I hate in a politician, it’s that they should try to mislead the public. That is what Roy Clinton did in his opinion piece last week.
I am very happy to see Roy Clinton reluctantly admit at last that the Government is playing by the rules in the structuring of the public finances of Gibraltar. It has taken just over a year for him to recognise that.
Finally in his opinion piece in this newspaper he states that we are correct in our treatment of what is and what is not public debt. At last.
The issue now seems to be that Mr Clinton does not like the rules. But these are EXACTLY the same rules that he defended when the GSD was in power.
These are the rules that the GSD was using to borrow about £100m for the new power station from Natwest. That transaction was secretly agreed before the 2011 election by the GSD and stopped by me because I did not agree that your electricity bill should go up by 5% a year for 20 years to pay for that transaction. We only found out about it after the election. It was not disclosed to Parliament or to you by the GSD.
The rules Mr Clinton does not like are also the ones Sir Peter used to borrow £20m from Barclays (at 6.8%) by mortgaging the Treasury and other public buildings in order to invest “our money” in the Midtown Development without reference to Parliament.
Again, the public only found out about that because I asked about it at one of the two or three questions times a year the GSD used to hold.
The rules are the same rules under which the GSD raised £24.5m on the car parks at an “eye watering” interest rate of 7.5% per annum. That money was used by the GSD to deliver their manifesto commitments.
Again, you only found out through our questioning in Parliament.
These are the same rules which allowed the GSD to do a deal for £54m also with Natwest at an average rate of about 5% for the financing of the Europort Hospital.
So you see, under the GSD by 2012 (five years ago) Gibraltar would have had £200m of company borrowing. Then Roy Clinton would have been waving his blue and yellow flag saying how great things were because it was the GSD doing the borrowing. Yet none of that would have been borrowing which was subject to the scrutiny of Parliament which Roy now seems to care so much about.
In relation to the £300m investment in Gibraltar and which we have secured, you and Roy found out because I told the Parliament at the first meeting after the transaction had completed.
So much for the idea of a lack of accountability on my part! I have been the one who has told you and Parliament about this excellent structure.
I have also made clear that we will be making statements to show how we are spending the money.
This money is a post-Brexit “war chest” that will give Gibraltar the firepower to invest in projects that produce a return to grow Gibraltar and grow that fund.
So with the advice of Financial Secretary Albert Mena and lawyer and former Deputy Chief Minister Peter Montegriffo, and under the stewardship of Joe Bossano as Minister for Economic Development, it is clear that we have done an excellent deal for Gibraltar. The right deal to ensure the prosperity of future generations of Gibraltarians.
Mr Clinton is left to say that different rules should apply to me and the GSLP-Liberals and not those that he was happy to see applied under Sir Peter and the GSD. “Do as I say, not as I do” has never been clearer. The public won’t be fooled. You are too clever for that.
You are also clever enough to see that having your Chief Minister called a ‘cheat’ and suggestions that we don't play by the rules are not good for Gibraltar, especially at this sensitive time. They bring your Government into disrepute internationally and they affect our credibility at the time when we most need it. Roy needs to think less of his cheap jibes and more of the effect on Gibraltar; especially when he then accepts, as he did on GBC Viewpoint, that he thinks this transaction is a good one that he too would have done. A greater sense of responsibility is essential from our opposition.
Finally, it’s clear to me that playing by the rules isn’t cheating. Pretending to change the rules when they no longer suit you, now that takes cheating to another level. Typical GSD. It's a good thing that cheats never prosper!

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