The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has signalled 2017 as a year that will define Gibraltar’s future for generations to come.
In a New Year’s message in which he reflected on what a “tumultuous” year 2016 has been around the world, Mr Picardo also pledged progress on his government’s manifesto commitments.
He said Brexit and the triggering of Article 50 would dominate the political agenda for the year, and called for unity across the community.
“Perhaps not since the campaign for the return of our evacuees or since the closure of the frontier have we been called upon to be as united as we must now be in common purpose,” he said.
Mr Picardo explained that along with the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, and Attorney General Michael Llamas, he will continue the work of navigating this “turbulent course for Gibraltar”.
“We are working with the whole Cabinet, the whole of the public sector and the civil service and with all those interested in the private sector to ensure that the Gibraltar position is accurately understood in London and in Brussels,” Mr Picardo said.
He added that in the coming weeks and months they will be involved in more private and public meetings and discussions on the future for Gibraltar after Brexit.
Meanwhile, Mr Picardo said, the government is working beyond Europe to attract investment to Gibraltar and to establish strong, mutually beneficial and friendly relationships in neighbouring and far flung nations.
A financial services delegation was in Casablanca late last year, and will be in China again next week, developing the work of the Rock’s Hong Kong office and networks in East Asia.
He vowed to continue the lobbying work in the United States and to work to build even stronger relationships with the United Kingdom, other Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and the nations of the Commonwealth.
“Because this is a seminal moment in our political history,” Mr Picardo said adding that 2017 will present the Rock with as many opportunities as it will challenges.
Elsewhere, Mr Picardo told viewers that they can have the confidence “that we have no doubt that we will meet the GDP growth targets we have estimated for the period to the financial year 2019/2020.”
In that vein he reported that the Gibraltar International Bank is exceeding expectations in its development as an independent financial services institution.
He added that there continues to be interest in investment in Gibraltar.
He said: “…we continue to negotiate the best terms for the taxpayer of a number of large developments in Gibraltar including Rooke and the Eastside.”
In just the first quarter of this year, for example, the Gibraltar World Trade Centre will be opened and new high end residential developments – alongside the Government’s own affordable home projects – are also breaking ground and progressing this year.
Mr Picardo added that he expects to see new reclamation projects getting underway soon.
“This is the economic activity which drives our growth and the relative prosperity of each one of our families.”
In the area of health, Mr Picardo announced that the Government considers that it should reintroduce the rank of Matron in the management of the Rock’s health services.
He explained: “This is a decision designed to ensure that the patient is the centre of attention in the provision of our health care.”
Mr Picardo further outlined the well-being and education of children as a top priority.
He reiterated that five new schools would be delivered during this second term of office and said the Government will shortly be launching the programme for hot lunches to be available in schools.