Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Caruana’s credibility is “absolutely zero”, says Picardo

F Oliva reports

HoA Budget Session * Gibraltar vulnerable to osmosis, says Opposition

Opposition spokesman Fabian Picardo set out to destroy the Chief Minister's political credibility at the House of Assembly on Friday, and ended his bruising speech by urging him to resign from office.

After scrutinising “key commitments” made by Mr Caruana since 2001 to see if he could be taken in his word, came to the conclusion that if the Chief Minister were a witness of fact in court proceedings and not a politician in parliament, “he would be facing prosecution for perjury.”

Mr Picardo did not mince his words and in a forthright intervention chastised Mr Caruana for his repeated failure to provide low cost and rental housing, for referring to the millions of pounds in taxpayers money wasted in the Harbour Views repairs, when in fact the money came from a £24.5m court settlement with the Spanish builders, for failing to construct a youth leisure centre at King’s Bastion, and for the Theatre Royal affair which Mr Picardo said now lies “frozen in splendid Baghdad crater style.”

He also denied Mr Caruana’s assertion that he had reduced people’s taxes by 40%.
The GSLP/Liberals spokesman whose sharp parliamentary performances appear to have an unsettling effect on the Government benches, said the Chief Minister had been “caught out” on all the above, and stated that it would “not be prudent to regard him as an interlocutor of truth in any matter on which he addresses.”

And in a tongue-in-cheek reference to a habitual accusation levelled at him by Mr Caruana, Mr Picardo said that even “a barrack-room lawyer could persuade a jury to convict him [Mr Caruana].”

Deploying a systematic battery of arguments, Mr Picardo sought to portray Mr Caruana in a negative light, as a “helmsman with no route map for the future.” In Mr Picardo’s eyes, the Chief Minister was a man who does not tolerate dissent, who runs a centralised administration, and makes statements that are then seen to be unreliable or misleading, who has a seriously flawed economic vision, and antagonises others.

Housing and tax reform, he said, were two failures of a failed Chief Minister.
“It seems to me that the economic illiterate, the voodoo economist and the man who cannot be believed is the man who presently leads the GSD,” he continued.

Mr Picardo also reiterated his party’s commitment to the policy of self-sufficiency and political self-determination which went hand in hand.

He said the Chief Minister’s political legacy would be one of unfulfilled promises, of painting a picture of economic and physical development but then by his actions leaving the economy “bereft of real progress, people without affordable homes and Gibraltar vulnerable to osmosis.”

The GSLP/Liberal spokesman then juxtaposed the increase in water and electricity charges with the “lavish parties and the flash events in London and elsewhere,” criticising revenue raising measures that would hit the elderly and less well off, and for which the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) Government had “not obtained a mandate” at the last election.

Mr Picardo referred to the Chief Minister’s inelegance and antagonistic attitude in the Gibraltar Government’s role as employer, giving the example of the recent industrial dispute at the City Fire Brigade. He said “a change of style would go a long way.”

He also said Mr Caruana may have “misled the House in his contradictory answers,” on the question of the Financial Services ombudsman.

The Opposition spokesman then highlighted the treatment meted out to those who dare criticise the government, “even to journalists, by the Chief Minister himself.”

Mr Picardo recalled an interview on GBC “that was widely criticised in town for the manner in which he dealt with Ms Clifton Psaila recently,” and where Mr Caruana “showed himself not to be a gentleman in his approach,” and had come out “at his worst” in front of the television screens.

Mr Picardo also said Mr Caruana was running a one-man, centralised control administration which moves slowly and inefficiently, because he was the only person that could take a decision.

He also mockingly referred to Mr Caruana as “President Caruana,” whose powers of decision included “the equivalent of the Royal Assent in the modern republic of Gibraltar.”

“Getting a decision from the GSD Government is now as difficult as connection to Gibtelecom’s broadband service. Very difficult indeed,” he exclaimed.

Legal Aid Over £1M

The Government estimate for legal aid has grown from £500,000 to £1m, as a direct charge on the consolidated fund. Last year the estimate was half a million pounds although actual expenditure was over £1m. Mr Picardo said this is an area where there is abuse and expenditure must be restrained.

Cammell Laird Controversy still rages

Mr Picardo questioned the commercial fairness of the Gibraltar Government footing the half million pound bill for the removal of Cammell Laird's “infamous” and environmentally toxic grit mountain.

He also asked whether the company should pay back the money it has received for this purpose, and whether other companies who cannot meet their commitments will also benefit from such financial assistance.

Theatre Royal Stand-up Comedy

The Theatre Royal has produced much banter in the House of Assembly in recent months. Fabian Picardo to laughter from his colleagues, said the Chief Minister could have done his comedy stand-up routine in the theatre and delivered his next speech if it had been ready.

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