11th June 2019, 17:07
The Shadow Public Finance Minister has described the estimate book presented by the Government for 2019/2020 as an “optical illusion” of plenty when - he said - the opposite is true.
Roy Clinton also criticised Fabian Picardo for the sale of the Government’s 50% equity in six affordable housing estates, arguing it was not included in the GSLP-Liberal manifesto at the last election and people will be upset.
Mr Clinton has repeated the point that the Government is running two sets of accounts, and the full picture is not being brought to Parliament. His example: the new schools, for which the estimate book only has £1000 set aside, despite Mr Picardo stating in a letter to Gibraltar NASUWT that they would cost “in excess of £100 million”.
The GSD MP said if £100 million has been spent on the new schools, the Government would not have a record surplus of £83 million but a deficit of £17 million. And the highest ever net debt: £414 million.
He said there is no meaningful provision in the estimate book for the Grand Parade Car Park or the £20 million waste water treatment plant.
He said the Budget Process is not fit for purpose. The Shadow Minister for Public Finance said the GSLP-Liberals are diverting their spending on capital projects through Government companies, meaning it’s not reflected in the estimates book. Mr Clinton said this is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which assumes Parliament will approve all major recurrent and capital expenditure, as well as borrowing.
He said that Government should not use corporate structures to avoid the scrutiny of Parliament. Of the 37 companies the Government incorporated or acquired ownership of, Mr Clinton said only 12 have filed any financial information at Companies House, while there is no financial information on the other 25. There are major government companies, he said, like GBJS and Gibraltar Car Parks, about which no current financial information is available.
The GSD MP said it would be irresponsible to approve any appropriation bill without full information. Parliament needs to be responsible and manage taxpayers’ money in an open, honest and transparent manner, said Mr Clinton, “words this GSLP/Liberal Government does not seem to understand”.
Mr Clinton said Fabian Picardo has breached at least two of Sir Joe Bossano’s principles for managing the economy: money in Rainy Day funds is not available on demand, and; borrowed funds are not being invested in capital projects that are self-sustaining.
He said Sir Joe had previously expressed misgivings about the cost of running the government when it was £50 million a month, asking if the projected £56.4 million a month for the coming year is sustainable.
The Shadow Public Finance Minister said he hopes the Government’s Brexit planning has included the effects on this budget should there be a negative shock to the economy come October, when the UK and Gibraltar are set to leave the EU. He endorsed Sir Joe’s call for caution in public finances and said the 80-year-old should have been appointed Finance Minister, calling Mr Picardo an “unworthy former apprentice”.