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GSD will not back budget over concerns about ‘opaque debt’

GSD will not back budget over concerns about ‘opaque debt’

The Gibraltar Government is “parking most of its debt off balance sheet” and maintaining a “fundamentally opaque” approach to public finances that shields it from proper parliamentary scrutiny, Elliott Phillips, the Leader of the Opposition, said yesterday as he told Parliament that the GSD would not be supporting this year’s budget.

Responding to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Mr Phillips accused him of being “a consummate spin doctor” and insisted that “people have stopped trusting him”.

“This is not a Brexit budget, this is the big lie budget,” he said.

Mr Phillips described the Chief Minister as “a big spender” and said future generations of Gibraltarians would be “saddled with debt” as a result.

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He accused the government of “intentionally hiding” the true scale of public debt from the community, highlighting, for example, that there was no provision in the budget for the £52m contract for construction of the new schools.

“We will not vote in favour of this budget because it fails to present a clear, transparent, accurate and unambiguous reflection of the state of our public finances,” he said.

“We consider it a gross dereliction of our duty as representatives of this community to condone and support a budget which is fundamentally opaque and which handcuffs elected representatives from properly and effectively scrutinising the public finances of this community.”

Mr Phillips said the cost of running Gibraltar was increasing as was public debt, while the money coming in was down and cash reserves were lower.

He said the government over seven years had “consistently denigrated and destroyed” any form of oversight of Gibraltar’s public finances, accusing it of hiding debt and evading detailed questions on government spending.

According to the Leader of the Opposition, 65% of Gibraltar’s indirect debt was now “hidden from public scrutiny”, creating a situation where the snapshot offered by the Gibraltar Government as to the true level of public debt was “entirely false and misleading”.

According to the GSD’s analysis, gross public debt stood at nearly £1.25 billion, meaning every person in the community had “a £37,000 Reefy-style millstone round the necks of our children and grandchildren”.

While the GSD said it would not back the budget, Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon told the Chronicle last night that she would support the Bill.

FULL STORY IN TODAY’S PRINT AND E-EDITION

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