24th July 2021, 11:42
Albert Isola has told Parliament that the Gibraltar International Bank’s deposits grew by £500 million last year, that an eServices Office has been opened on Main Street and that GBC will start some live broadcasts from its new home in August.
The Minister for Digital, Financial Services and Public Utilities also covered financial services, utilities, town planning, gaming and gambling.
Digital services, eAdministration & eServices
Mr Isola said the Government remains firmly committed to realising its ambition to become a fully digital Government.
He said Counter Reduction Services - comprising a virtual office, a payment gateway and a customer support portal - processed over 20,000 applications with fee payments in excess of £760,000 in just under a year.
Mr Isola said: “The Government recognises that change takes time to implement. Not everybody finds it easy to interact with Government departments online. We have therefore opened a “Gov.gi eServices Office” at 323 Main Street, opposite the John Mackintosh Hall, where people can seek face to face assistance from the Government in attaining whichever eService they may require assistance with.” This support office is solely for eServices and it will not be possible to support Government Departments that do not have an online presence or which still deal with paper driven processes and files.
In his Budget address, he told Parliament an “incredible amount of work” is being put into the configuration of HR, Expenses and Payroll, which will “manage shifts, request annual leave, calculate rolling sick leave, etc. It will enable the Government to capture employee information and the operational needs of the workforce like time and attendance, demand-driven scheduling and absence. These systems are being integrated, not only with each other, but with the financial system as well. Ultimately, it will produce the Enterprise Resource Planning system that spans across all Government administrative systems... This transformation is likely to be the most significant change the Public Service has faced in a generation.”
Gibraltar International Bank
Despite 2020 being a very difficult year because of the Covid pandemic, Mr Isola said the Gibraltar International Bank performed well. Deposits grew by £500 million over the past year and now stand at a “remarkable” £1.3 billion. The GIB currently has around 18,500 clients who hold 28,000 accounts. Its loans and mortgages book has continued to grow and currently stands at £468 million.
Mr Isola said the GIB has recently been subjected to a number of cyber attacks which have placed the bank and its staff under some strain “leading to staff extensively reviewing transactions manually in order to protect its clients”.
Gaming & gambling
He said there are 3400 jobs in gaming companies in Gibraltar at the moment. In the face of Covid, these firms told Government they didn’t require BEAT, Mr Isola said they adjusted their working practices and just carried on.
He announced the establishment of an independent Gambling Care Foundation in Gibraltar, funded by the industry. One of its objectives will be to support the Centre of Excellence for Responsible Gambling, a research and training institution at the University of Gibraltar. The Government Minister said that, with the support of its firms, he expects Gibraltar will become the only jurisdiction in the world in which all its employees will have attend a certified university course focusing on responsible gambling.
In the second half of 2020 the Financial Services Commission had the highest number of applications in its history, with “the numbers of Cat 2’s (a special tax status for High Net Worth Individuals) and HEPSS (Higher Executive Possessing Specialist Skills) in Q1 of 2021 are also at record levels”.
Mr Isola said DLT firms are punching well above their weight globally, giving the examples including BITSO, “the first Unicorn in South America with a recent raise of $250M and a valuation of $2.2BN”, and LMAX, “a large London Group who’s Gibraltar firm LMAX Digital recently raised $300M with a valuation in excess of $1BN”.
He said professional services firm PwC had recently placed Gibraltar in third spot in a report on the jurisdictions most favoured by Crypto Hedge Funds, after the United States and the Cayman Islands.
Mr Isola said the Government has agreed a short term extension to the existing AquaGib contract covering the provision of potable, seawater and sewerage services. He said both parties would focus on negotiating a new contract, “once relieved of the extreme pressures of Covid and Treaty negotiations”.
He said at present 88% (193 million units Kwh) of Gibraltar’s electiricy is generated by the North Mole Power Station and around 12% from the Energyst rental plant. “Once the initial teething problems, (which are normal for a new power plant) are resolved, we envisage no further running from the Energyst rental plant”.
The CO2 emissions last year decreased by about 9%, he said, from 136,468 tonnes in 2019 to 123,869 tonnes in 2020. Mr Isola said in 2016, before the LNG power station was in use, the CO2 emissions from power generation in Gibraltar were close to 25% higher than what is emitted today.
Mr Isola said power failures are “few and infrequent, and as we get through the normal teething problems will decrease still further”. He said a lot of work is going in to maintaining the grid, dealing with the complex systems of power generation, upgrading old infrastructure and “attending to contractors interfering with our cabling network”, thanking the Gibraltar Electricity Authority “for their good work in keeping the lights on, especially when we suffer a failure”.
GBC will start live broadcasts from its new home in South Jumpers Bastion with a soft launch on Monday the 9th of August. Mr Isola said a transitionary period of a few weeks will follow while existing electronic systems are migrated from the old building to the new one. Full programming from the new studio complex is set to begin in early October.
The Minister - who also has government responsibility for broadcasting - said the new premises were technically-advanced, providing two television studios and four radio studios, as well as a variety of technical and production areas and office spaces. He said the design combined the heritage aspects of the bastion with the new build above it, saying “it’s been well worth the wait”.
Town planning & building control
Planning and Building Control applications are increasingly been made online, with the proportion of them submitted online climbing from 63% in 2019 to 86% in 2020. Mr Isola told Parliament the total number of applications processed also increased, from 594 in 2020 to 665 in 2020.