By Robert Vasquez
The resignation of Danny Feetham’s as leader of the GSD has led to speculation that ranges from those who forecast the doom of the GSD to those who debate the real issue, which is who will be its next leader.
One mission of the next leader will be to ensure the continued growth and strength of the GSD, so that it will be a continuing force for democracy and good in Gibraltar. In this way, the GSD will come through reinforced.
The membership will need to dwell on the leadership qualities of each candidate, as well as his or her other qualities. Members should direct their efforts at deciding who will improve the GSD.
For the good of Gibraltar and its democracy and economy, attention should turn to who will strengthen the GSD as a political force. They should, also, analyse what policies each candidate will encourage and develop to strengthen the GSD brand and in pursuing an election win. In this venture, candidates are bound to bear in mind the vision, values and aims adopted at the last General Meeting of the GSD. All these are important but there are two that require special attention.
The first is “…enhance democratic, open and accountable government and administration with consultation, reforms and measured decentralisation”. This requires the restoration of the supremacy of Parliament by proper oversight of the use by the executive and the administration of its power and increasing democracy by introducing the separation of powers between Parliament and Government and public servants and Ministers. This can be achieved by electoral and parliamentary reforms and management, guidance and training of the public service.
The second is to “manage public funds, all funds used for public ends and public spending prudently, openly and transparently.” This is connected to the first because it requires greater parliamentary and public administrative independence giving rise to greater scrutiny not just of direct Government finances but all indirect Government finances through the artificial devices, like using companies wholly owned by the Government.
The culture of entitlement that pervades in Gibraltar is fed, in part, by the desire of politicians to gain power: without promising and giving more than the other, there is little chance of winning an election. This thinking will continue to encourage Gibraltar into greater unaffordable recurring expenditure and public debt.
A reversal in this spiral of increasing public liability can be helped through appropriate and adequate electoral and parliamentary reform that, amongst other attributes, dilute the perception that those in power reward those who vote for them and punish those that are seen to be against them.
This perception discourages, also, some of the so-called “best brains” from entering politics: the perception of risk to one’s personal and financial wellbeing overcomes the selflessness required to give for the public good by putting oneself forward as a candidate for election.
Danny Feetham preached this message during his term as leader and, as Sir Peter Caruana said on GBC recently, it may not be a popular message but no self-respecting Leader of the Opposition should ignore it.
It is precisely because unpopular decisions need to be taken for the greater good, that reforms to the electoral and parliamentary system are needed as well as the separation between public administrators and Ministers.
Such reforms will work for the improvement of how democracy works and how the economy is managed and will favour the collective that is Gibraltar; today it is difficult to see that the current system is beneficial.