Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon this week called for new approach to politics that reflected the needs of a new generation of voters and delivered “a progressive vision that is representative of the people, not the elites”.
In a rallying call during her budget address, she said a revamp was needed to address growing disenfranchisement with the way politics was done.
“Politics can be frustrating, it can be terrible,” she said of her own experiences.
“But if it was not terrible, I wouldn’t spend my time here trying to offer a new path.”
“Our people are clamouring for it. They are the new path.”
“Politics is currently terrible because it is tired. It has not represented the people in any deep way for a long time now.”
“It is terrible because it is the establishment. It is not us. It is not we, the people. It is them, the elite, them the barristocracy, them the men.”
“When politics is we the people, it is progressive, it is moving forward with a bold march into the future, unafraid of fighting corruption, unafraid of tackling the housing crisis, unafraid of a Gibraltar fit for the interests of the people.
And she added: “Out there, we are seeing the beginning of a change that will give Gibraltar progress in here, and in turn will progress Gibraltar out there.”
During her budget address, Ms Hassan Nahon raised concerns about inequality in Gibraltar, and called for transparency on the “reality of what is truly happening in Gibraltar’s so-called robust economy”.
She said many individuals and businesses believed areas in the economy had been “forgotten” and there are issues within the economy that needed addressing.
Ms Hassan Nahon said Gibraltar needed a review of its economy over the last 20 years, as it changed from MOD-based to finance and gaming.
Speaking about inequality in income, she said: “We have in Gibraltar one of the highest GDP per capita, but we need to balance out that most Gibraltarian citizens do not currently fit into that higher level.”
Ms Hassan Nahon said the government’s budget did not acknowledge this reality.
In addition, she questioned whether the increase in social insurance costs by 10% in two consecutive budgets was justified in contrast to the inflation rate.
Ms Hassan Nahon also questioned whether the two-tiered tax system worked in creating more wealth in the economy, and where those benefits had been felt.
In a wide-ranging address, Ms Hassan Nahon said more information was needed on how the government was dealing with prisoners, “not just on a financial level but on a human and compassionate level”.
She noted that the prison costs £3.2million to run a year, an average of £53,000 per prisoner per year.
With regards to housing, Ms Hassan Nahon talked about how Gibraltar was being “transformed physically” and how the upper and mid-price hosing industry was booming. The rental market in Gibraltar was closer to London prices than before, she added.
She described this as a “crisis” and called for more social housing. The waiting list for government housing for one bedroom flats was now over 600 people, she said.
She also said more should be done for health and safety in government estates. She was concerned, for example, to hear a dog had died in a fire in an upper town housing estate and no fire retardants were kept in communal areas.
The government should also do more to support the local economy, with local businesses sharing concerns about the impact Brexit will have on their livelihood, she said.
Ms Hassan Nahon spoke about Together Gibraltar, a political movement based on the premise that more engagement is needed from the general public in political affairs.
She previously brought concerns about the environment to parliament and asked for a cross-party platform “to supervise the overhaul of the environmental agenda” over the next 20 to 30 years.
The Independent MP also defended her questioning of Calpe House, for which she was heavily criticised by other MPs.
“People must know – and must not be manipulated into thinking otherwise – that public inquiry, political checks and balances, or any form of lawful and well-intentioned attempts to audit and scrutinise public institutions, should always be welcomed and encouraged,” she said.
“It is the rot that plagues institutions in the absence of this scrutiny that threatens not only to destroy people ́s faith in that particular institution, but also their belief in the entire system.”
Ms Hassan-Nahon said she would back the government’s budget and that although she had reservations, she “cannot vote with the cynicism of the GSD opposition”.