23rd June 2015, 18:56
In his response, the Leader of the Opposition said Fabian Picardo is leading a Government that does not deserve the trust of the people. Describing him as the "False Dawn" Chief Minister, Daniel Feetham accused Mr Picardo of hiding half the Government's expenditure and debt in Government-owned companies, and of heading the most opaque Government in Gibraltar's history. He condemned the GSLP/Liberals' spending priorities, and their handling of the new power station issue.
As expected, Daniel Feetham's address centred on the state of public finances, a constant in the Opposition's armoury since it first highlighted the creation of Credit Finance Company Limited, which it sees as a vehicle for disguising the true levels of debt.
Before the barrage of statistics, however, Mr Feetham made an overrall observation: the Government's lack of openness and transparency goes to the heart of whether Fabian Picardo deserves the trust of the community. What we have witnessed over the last four years, he asserted, is the systematic destruction of parliamentary governance in Gibraltar. The use of the Gibraltar Savings Bank to fund Government expenditure and projects through Credit Finance Company and Gibraltar Investment Holdings Limited has, in his view, made a complete nonsense of the Budget. Rather than being open and transparent, as he pledged, the Chief Minister has done everything he possibly could to keep from taxpayers what he's spending their money on, and not played it straight with them at all.
On the figures, the Opposition Leader claimed that, at £375.4 million, the net public debt is the second highest ever, beaten only by the £400 million reached barely four months ago. And gross public debt, he argued, is an eye-watering £847.7 million. The reason according to him is that the Government is spending at an unprecedented rate. In 2014 it overspent by £50 million across all departments and this year it's done so by nearly £28 million. 23 out of 41 Government departments have spent more than their allocated budgets and £1.2 million was spent by Number Six on travel and entertainment, more than on books and equipment in all our schools combined. No wonder, Mr. Feetham quipped, that the Father of the House Joe Bossano is having sleepless nights.
Daniel Feetham defended the GSD's initiative of commissioning a report from Lloyds Register on the safety risks of an LNG-fuelled power station. He said this was in the interests of the people, but had not been paid for using the people's money - unlike some of the unnecessary expenses incurred by the Government, such as the $110,000 it paid for Mr Picardo to have his photograph taken with President Obama, which was paid for by the taxpayer.
Mr. Feetham accused the Chief Minister of breaking his election promise to honour binding agreements entered into by the GSD Government, because the GSD had entered into an agreement for the Lathbury Barracks Power Station. He said if the GSLP/Liberals had kept its word power cuts would be a thing of the past, because the power station would have been built by now. He challenged Mr Picardo to publish the expert reports he claimed to have had before awarding the power station tender and which, Mr Feetham asserted, he didn't have even now.
The Leader of the Opposition concluded his address returning to the theme of Trust.