December the 8th saw the voters flocking to the ballot box.
One thing is certain; our democratic process is alive and well: over 82% of registered voters cast their ballot. This in itself is an achievement in today’s modern western world where voter apathy normally push turnouts well below 50%.
For the second time in recent history the voters have delivered a minority government, which did not gain 50% of the electorates’ support. A meagre 2% separated the two main parties: it was very, very close. All said and done your Board congratulates and welcomes the new GSLP / Liberal Alliance government, and looks forward to working closely with them over the coming four years.
The Chamber also wishes to thank Peter Caruana and the outgoing GSD Government for the past 16 years of secure and dedicated service to Gibraltar; no one should underestimate what has been achieved.
The new Chief Minister Fabian Picardo takes the helm with huge challenges ahead of him. As well as having to win the confidence of the other 50% of the electorate, there are many areas which affect our private sector “economic engine” which are crucial to our future economic prosperity. These require very careful care and attention.
Mr. Picardo comes to power at a time when many of the world’s economies are suffering from low GDP growth and high inflation. The Euro zone is in turmoil, and our closest neighbours are set to deliver negative GDP in 2012, along with the Euro zone as a whole.
With that backdrop the new administration needs to be quick to address local business concerns if they are to deliver the growth forecast set out in their manifesto, which is an ambitious 50% + over a four year period.
All the above said, there are clear signs, that after only just over a month, (with a big lull over the Christmas break) the new team are bedding down and already starting to deliver on certain manifesto commitments.
However, there are already diktats that the Chamber takes issue with. Changing the May Day holiday from the first Monday in May, to the 1st of May is one thing; adding another bank holiday on the nearest Monday to April 28th is difficult to justify. These changes are not good for business in Gibraltar, and just when our neighbour is ridding herself of “puentes” Gibraltar is introducing them! Similarly, we now have more bank holidays than almost all countries in Europe. How can we possibly hope to meet our GDP targets by reducing the number of working days in the year? We urge the new Government to relook at this manifesto commitment to better benefit the business needs of the economy.
For the GSLP / Alliance to succeed a key point is the need for continual dialogue with the business community – and so to that end your Board has arranged a lunch with Mr. Costa at the Chamber, and Mr. Picardo will be our host at the a dinner to measure the first 100 days in office of the GSLP / Liberals. This will be held at the Rock Hotel on Wednesday the 7th of March.