Friday, January 28, 2005

Gibraltar's economy "has never been better"

Chief Minister’s address to the Gibraltar Federation of Small Business (GFSB)

The economy of Gibraltar has never, in the entire history of Gibraltar, been more prosperous and successful than it is today.

That was the message delivered by Peter Caruana, Chief Minister, to the GFSB annual dinner last night at the International Casino.

Mr Caruana told guests that the economy (GDP) has grown overall in size by more than half, that is by 55% since 1996, from £327 million to £507 million as at March 2003. And he says that the number of jobs in the economy is at an all-time high, and still growing; the unemployment rate is at a record low at less than 2 %, technically “full employment”. According to Mr Caruana average earnings have risen by more than 30% since 1996 and take-home pay by even more, since cuts in personal taxation. The gaming sector alone is now employs about 1000 people.

Mr Caruana also reported that Government revenue is at an all time record level and that in excess of £150 million over 8 years in publicly funded capital projects. Health spending, as one example, has doubled in 8 years on such things as a dedicated ambulance service, many more doctors and nurses, new medical services, he said. But Government has nonetheless reduced personal taxation in Gibraltar by more than 36%. “These are the true measures of our economic performance,” Mr Caruana told traders.

“It has become fashionable for the Opposition to say that Government is short of money. If Government decides not to throw away a motorbike just because it suffers a breakdown and needs a repair, and instead chooses to repair it rather than buy a new one, this is presented as evidence of shortage of money!” said Mr Caruana rejecting Opposition criticism. He jibed further at them with the announcement on the Eastside project:

This directionless Government with no economic policy has just signed an agreement for Gibraltar’s largest ever inward investment project. Clearly those willing to invest in excess of £1 billion in Gibraltar do not share the Opposition’s assessment of the Government’s handling of our economy, or of Gibraltar’s future prospects!

He added:

People will have to judge for themselves whether this statement is justified by what they see going on around them or whether it is the somewhat ”tongue in check” political wishful thinking of my political rival.”

EU State Aid

On the deal over exempt companies Mr Caruana stated that while not containing everything that the Government wanted it does deliver sufficient certainty and stability to avoid the worst consequences for Gibraltar.

“Compared to what the economic position would have been if we had not reached an agreement, this is an excellent agreement.”

He said that no one who understands the issues involved and the consequences for our economy of the position that Gibraltar faced, could possibly believe that Government exaggerated the threat.

Mr Caruana also touched on the funicular project, the La Linea Mayors claims that the Eastside project will have a negative environmental impact and collection of arrears.

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