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30th June 2022, 18:16

Budget 'a missed opportunity to rebalance Govt finances' says Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce has described the budget as a missed opportunity to plan for the future and to rebalance the Government’s finances.

It says as usual it will be the hammered and already struggling private sector which will have to pay more than most, and accuses the Government of making no attempt to rein in its recurrent expenditure despite the sharp fall in revenue and increase in debt.

The Chamber says it was prepared to work with Government had it been consulted.

However, it believes the Government has sought to lumber the taxpayer and local business with additional costs with very little attempt to return Government to a balanced budget whilst its recurrent spending continues unabated.

The Chamber says the Government is prepared to borrow to keep giving pay rises to civil servants when they are paid on average 40 per cent more than their UK counterparts, in sharp contrast to some employees in the private sector who will continue to have to face wage freezes.

It says there is little transparency about the real state of Government finances or how much it owes directly or when Government-owned companies are included.

The Chamber believes an annual Covid recovery tax of £1,300 on every company is unreasonable and disproportionate, and asks why a small company with one or two employees should pay the same amount as a company which employs several hundred. It says burdening only local trading companies with this charge while those that benefit from being incorporated in this jurisdiction but do not trade locally are exempted would be an inequity of the highest order.

It says increases in electricity and water are understandable, but describes many of the other increases as stealth taxes under other guises, such as licence and registration fees

The Chamber says there was little in the budget which indicated any semblance of a future financial plan for Gibraltar.

It believes if the Government’s finances are in such a dire state then more drastic measures such as means testing and inflationary rent increases for Government housing should have been considered.

Finally, the Chamber says in his budget address just after the EU referendum in 2016, the Chief Minister appealed to civil servants “to be ready to do more, go further, work harder, be more efficient and wield greater influence than ever in building our common future”.

It says there is little evidence that this plea has been heeded since then.