The President’s introductory addresses at the dinners held before the elections for the leader of the GSD and GSLP respectively called for stability and continuity. The return of the GSD for an historic fourth term gives this stability and continuity sought by the business community at this moment. The finance centre in particular can continue to operate as before, safe in the knowledge that the new government’s policy is unlikely to alter much from previous GSD administrations.
The new government announced soon after it was re-elected that it hopes to introduce lower airport landing fees before Christmas. Quality air links to Gibraltar are essential to our continued economic development. When GB Airways announced its sale to easyJet in October, BA said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that it will initiate its own service to and from the Rock from the beginning of April next year. easyJet has also committed to continue operating the services that it acquired from GB Airways until at least October next year.
The Chamber would like to see a formula set for landing fees which favours the carrier continuing air services throughout the year and not just during the lucrative summer months. For example, this could be based on the number of flights into and out of Gibraltar, whereby the more flights operated per annum, the lower the landing fees per flight.
Having four operators offering flights to and from Gibraltar – Monarch and Iberia are the two others – is a sign of increased confidence in Gibraltar, both as a business centre and as tourist hub. There may be other operators waiting in the wings. With the completion of the new air terminal, which is essential to Gibraltar’s aspirations, and associated link road, it is hoped that these and possibly other operators will reinitiate fuller services to Madrid and possibly to other destinations as well, but with suitable flight schedules which are of benefit predominantly to the business community as well as to tourists.
The Chamber is convinced that had the two flights to Madrid in the summer been scheduled at more suitable times i.e. one in the morning and the other in the evening, that the uptake would have been much higher and these services could have been maintained through the winter perhaps with smaller aircraft.
In our last edition, this column commented on, among things, border fluidity. Responses to the article received by the Chamber have been at both ends of the spectrum: we were being unreasonably critical and, by contrast, that we were only voicing what many had felt. All, however, agreed on the need to build trust on both sides of the frontier whether at the local, regional or national level. The Chamber supports this wholeheartedly and has always done so.
Cross border issues always risk puncturing the development of good neighbourly relations. Indeed some of the protruding bolts and deep potholes that one has to navigate in the increasingly maze-like frontier crossing into Spain, could be seen as an apt metaphor for the state of the cross-border relationship: the hazards exist but with care they can be avoided and damage mitigated. The main thing though is to keep talking and the Chamber, we repeat, welcomes this at all times and sincerely hopes that we can have border crossings which are dignified and meet the aspirations of all concerned.