Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Improved relations with Spain good for economy - Caruana

Airport and telecommunications raised at Gibraltar Day in London * By Alice Mascarenhas from London

“There has been a significant thawing in relations between Gibraltar and Spain where it is likely that an early fruit of this process will be agreements that will allow more extensive useful and international air services connections with the Gibraltar Airport, and also the resolution of some current difficulties in telecommunications,” Chief Minister Peter Caruana announced to businessmen, accountants, lawyers, property developers and finance centre players, at the start of Gibraltar Day in London yesterday.

Mr Caruana also stated that the Gibraltar Government expected these agreements to be positive for the economy of the Rock.

The setting for his speech was the now traditional Finance Centre lunch hosted by the Chief Minister at the Royal Automobile Club, where many of Gibraltar’s top businessmen and professionals were also present.

Mr Caruana made clear Gibraltar continued to be engaged in negotiations with the UK to further modernise the Rock’s constitution, eliminating from it the last vestiges of colonialism, but at the same time reassuringly stating that Gibraltar would retain its British sovereignty and close constitutional links with Britain, as an overseas British territory enjoying the maximum degree of self government.

Earlier he had spoken of how Gibraltar enjoyed a highly developed and much respected professional infrastructure, where he asserted that the Rock’s lawyers, bankers and accountants “think and create globally” whilst being constantly innovate with new services and opportunities tailor-made for different industries and different purposes in different countries.

Mr Caruana assured that despite the challenges posed by the EU Taxation of Savings Directive, the banking sector continued to grow and to diversify.

“It now employs some 700 people and we continue to welcome important newcomers.”

Mr Caruana said that insurance and insurance intermediation was the fastest growing sector – enjoying EU single market passporting rights. Locally licensed insurance companies have grown from 13 to 45 in just four years.

A new sector too is the pan-European Pension, where the government expects a golden opportunity. The Chief Minister pointed to new legislation which would allow Gibraltar to become an efficient jurisdiction of choice to establish corporate pan-European corporate pension schemes. He also briefly mentioned the intended establishment of a stock exchange, which he said would be backed by important EU financial institutions.

These diversifications, away from the traditional brass plates and simple depositing business, to all of these much more sophisticated, and creative skills based financial services, according to Mr Caruana, have been instrumental in the huge and successful repositioning of Gibraltar’s finance centre over the last 10 years, into what he described as “a truly on-shore off-shore international and European finance centre.”

Mr Caruana was confident that as world markets had increasingly globalised, the Gibraltar government had also ensured that the Rock remained at the forefront of EU and international standards of legislation, anti-money laundering and serious crime. Gibraltar he insisted valued its good working partnership with multilateral bodies such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but at the same time, he added, remained committed to fiscal competitiveness and to respect for bona fide privacy and confidentiality.

IMF To Visit

Meanwhile he announced that Gibraltar had agreed to a further IMF assessment in March next year.

Mr Caruana then spoke of the deficiency in drafting which had raised some doubt among some EU member states as to whether Gibraltar companies were intended to -benefit from three EU directives in relation to - Parents and Subsiduaries, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Internet and Royalties, which the EU has now confirmed would also apply fully to Gibraltar. Mr Caruana concluded that Gibraltar would continue to welcome financial services providers.

“Those who share our vision of the importance of high standards and reputation; we will continue to be innovative in the legislative framework that provides new opportunities for our finance centre; we will remain committed to the principle of No or Low tax, and with the help of so many leading financial services institutions provide an environment, for the safe and prosperous provision of financial services throughout the EU and the world,” he reiterated.

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