Every four years or so Gibraltar is gripped by election fever, and the business community is not immune to it! Far from it, we are in a position where we can help shape the future for our economy over the next term of government by lobbying all the parties to include items from our manifesto ‘wish list’.
Over the last decade and more, Gibraltar has seen many tangible and intangible developments in all spheres of our economic, social and political life under the stewardship of the current administration. The economy, in particular, has grown appreciably, which in turn has allowed improvements in our social development across many areas of Gibraltar. The economy can also boast of a low corporate tax regime, at 10% since January of this year, as well as progressively reduced personal taxation.
Politically, we have also taken significant steps forward, with the new constitution and improved relationships with the UK Government and that of Spain. While relationships with the latter are never easy, the current waters dispute being a case in point, the Córdoba Agreement was nevertheless a significant achievement, with Gibraltar for the first time sharing a forum with the UK and Spanish Governments with its own voice and representation. The achievement of this agreement has always been supported by the Chamber. The founding of the ‘Instituto Cervantes’ locally is also significant, in that these are only established outside Spain and is therefore a de facto recognition (by Spain) that Gibraltar is not Spanish. This is a small gain in the ‘eternal issue’ but, nevertheless, a gain.
This period of relative political stability has allowed Gibraltar to progress economically and it’s standing in the world has also been enhanced. In late 2011, with much of the western world in economic turmoil from the as yet unresolved issues (essentially these have their roots in uncontrolled and reckless sovereign debt) which led to the 2008 crisis, Gibraltar continues to do well.
Given the above, what do we, as a Chamber, want from the next administration? The short answer is more of the same! The next Government has to deliver the climate for Gibraltar to be able to carry on advancing.
For Gibraltar to continue to prosper, we need political stability and good economic conditions. We of course leave it to the politicians to deliver the political stability; all we need say is that it is essential.
On the economic front, and as the Chief Minister has said, although Gibraltar has weathered the recessionary storm quite well, it is not immune to its effects. One of the features of Gibraltar’s success has been the major public works program, either completed, in progress or in the pipeline. While it is impossible to achieve agreement on all of these (the airport, for example, could have conceivably been cheaper and smaller) by and large the projects have achieved the dual goals of improving our social infrastructure and contributing to our economy.
These projects are, of course, not for free and Gibraltar has rung up considerable debt which needs to be serviced, now and for some time well into the future. This is a fact that the next administration needs to take into account. At present Gibraltar has no problem in meeting these commitments but, as has been seen recently in most of the rest of the world, things can change quite quickly, public surpluses can convert into deficits and problems start rearing their ugly heads.
The watchword is clearly prudence going forward. It is much easier to act when things are going well. Any incoming administration needs to ensure good economic and financial management is in place to ensure our well being. Among other issues, this will require control on recurrent expenditure, encouraging office development to address the lack of quality accommodation and putting resources into other revenue producing industries such as tourism. Also, apart from consolidating on the existing pillars of the economy, alternative and additional revenue generators need to be explored so that the economic base can be diversified and widened going forward. This will allow our economy to better shield itself against future shocks.
So with this and much more in mind your Chamber looks forward to engaging all political parties to ensure the “voice of the private sector” is heard “loud and clear” so that Gibraltar will continue to prosper and punch above our weight for many years.”