26th June 2020, 20:49
The Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said he welcomed the clarity the Chief Minister’s speech gives businesses but also expressed concerns and said he was not in a position to pledge the GSD’s support at this stage.
The Chief Minister said the measures in his speech have not yet elevated to legislation, expressing the hope the Opposition can again contribute to the details to produce the best possible law.
The Leader of the Opposition said the Chief Minister’s announcement comes just days before the current BEAT measures expire. Unlike those, Keith Azopardi expressed concern that BEAT 2.0 would see money going to businesses rather than to employees, who could now be dismissed. He said he was concerned about the potential for a significant loss of jobs.
Dr Azopardi questioned whether sector specific measures could be looked at instead of a blanket approach.
And he had concerns about fairness. He said those who asked for money originally will receive more now. But some businesses may have not have asked for assistance originally out of a sense of civic duty, he said.
The Leader of the Opposition did welcome the announcements regarding rates and rents, as well as the desire to expedite tax refunds. However, given the concerns, Dr Azopardi said the GSD was not in a position to support the measures at this stage.
For her part, the Together Gibraltar Leader Marlene Hassan Nahon said she hoped the measures would live up to the gravity of situation, that they would have an environmental focus and would help those who need them the most. She said she would take time to review the details before responding more fully.
In response, the Chief Minister said the BEAT 2.0 measures in his speech have just been decided and the details will need to be elaborated as new legislation is drafted. He said he hoped the Opposition would again contribute to that process, saying if they worked together they would be able to produce a better piece of legislation.
Fabian Picardo said the choice was to either pump public money to salaries, or use it to help businesses - the engines of our economy - to get going again.
Yes, businesses will again have the right to hire and fire, he said, but reinstating a marketplace would be one of the best ways to protect workers and businesses.
Parliament would not normally be considering such measures, said the Chief Minister, but we are still in extraordinary times. The Government does not want to see a significant loss of jobs, Mr Picardo told the House, expressing the hope that Gibraltar’s economy would soon return to prosperous heights.