New deal with MOD affects costs of running the airport
|In his budget speech yesterday, the chief minister Peter Caruana painted a rosy economic picture, saying that a new all-time record overall budget surplus had been achieved in the year just ended. He also spoke of record reserves.
Earlier, he noted that following the introduction of the new Constitution this was the first time that the estimates of revenue and expenditure were laid by the Minister for Finance (himself) and not by the Financial and Development Secretary, as had been the case constitutionally until now.
Furthermore, he added, this is also the first time that the Governor's consent is not required to proceed upon the Appropriation Bill.
He spoke of economic growth that benefits every Gibraltarian. The aim was to improve the standard of living of every Gibraltarian and to make every Gibraltarian financially better off.
Under the heading of 'Balanced Property Development', Mr Caruana said that "some of the government's political detractors have taken to inaccurate criticism of the government's policy in this respect." The government was proud of its record.
On the MOD deal, he said that contrary to what some of the government's well known critics have said, these agreements do not make it easier for the MOD to leave in the future...the opposite is true.
NEW AIRPORT ARRANGEMENT
Meanwhile, he announced that the government and the MOD have agreed the terms of an agreement whereby the Gibraltar government will assume responsibility for commercial relations with civil users of the airport, and for the economic aspects of civilian use.
Accordingly, the government will assume the conduct of all commercial interface with airlines and other civilian users.
In return for control over the commercial aspects of ciilian use of the airfied, and the government retaining landing and parking fees (which previously have been paid to MOD), the government and MOD will share on a 50/50 basis the cost to the MOD of providing airfield services used by both civilian and military aircraft.
The government will pay the whole of any other costs caused exclusively by civilian aircraft useage, for example, extension of airfield opening hours.
The MOD retains ownership of and operational responsibility for the civilian aspects of the airfield and will continue to provide all the aerodome and air traffic control services that it now provides to commercial and other civilian aircraft.
On housing, the government says it is convinced that Gibraltar's present and future housing needs are best met by a combination of affordable home ownership and new government rental estates.
The tax exempt company has been the backbone of the development and growth of the finance centre and the online gambling industry - it continues to underpin thousands of jobs in Gibraltar and large amounts of government revenue.
However, in order to comply with EU law , the tax exempt company must be phased out in 2010. Since it is no longer possible to have one tax model for local companies and a different one for others it is necessary to have a low tax system for all companies.
While not every sector of the economy is in the same boat, overall the economy, insofar as concerns the private sector, has continued to grow handsomely, he said. He contratulated the Chamber of Commerce.
Opposition leader Joe Bossano looked back to go forward, and without losing much time he said he "wondered if the chief minister has a clue."
He went on to congratulate the Principal Auditor on the contents and promptness of his report, making it more relevant.
The Opposition leader went on to speak of the trouble Mr Caruana gets himself into when dealing with what he does not understand.
The chief minister had said that we had full employment last year, at 97%, but by his latest argument it would have been over 100% this year!
He spoke of the 'ridiculous argument' used by the chief minister, later adding that his analysis last year was "utter and complete rubbish."
The increase in jobs in the private sector had been in many cases at the expense of Gibraltarians who have not been able to compete with those who come across the border. It was a matter for concern for many Gibraltarians.
Mr Caruana wants us to believe that the business community is very prosperous, he added.
Mr Bossano concentrated largely on figures, and kept comparing the present with previous years to try to prove his points. Information given last year did not tally.
At one stage he accused ministers of cherry-picking from the Opposition manifesto.