2010 left many unanswered questions
|Through the Looking Glass
By Leo Olivero
2011 could very easily provide Gibraltar with a new compass setting and renewed direction, although this could largely depend on how a certain small matter of a general election turns out! Other issues waiting in the wings could also have an influence on the rocks future and our general well-being as a community.
There's that important 'tax case' waiting judgment in the European courts which our friends in Madrid have done their best to overturn in their favour, this alone is one major' unanswered' matter that will have carried over from last year to this new one.
Significantly many consider our general relationship with the UK and Spain as vitally important factors in any political recipe affecting our future, although it must be said there are different schools of thought to this theory!
There were some aspects regarding several issues or events during the course of 2010 that were disturbing if not worrying, all this in my view left 2010 with some gaping holes or if you like 'unanswered questions'. There are a number of important elements that have an effect and direct influence on our future as a people; this is an important point in which generations of Gibraltarians have always been steadfast about, as it's all related to our identity.
It's impossible to stuff 12 months' worth of events in a column like this, however there were some issues during the course of last year that many feel has the potential to threaten our integrity as a community to flourish as a 21st century society.
Although sadly some other matters and events last year also left a bad taste in the mouth with more unanswered questions, particularly regarding the true 'Gibraltaralism of some' (remember the world cup?)
The chief minister also took centre stage towards the end of 2010 with his ill-fated comments on andorra; this statement alone posed a string of unaswered questions.
Gibraltar on political alert
I felt Gibraltar for a good period of 2010 was on 'political alert' some may say there's nothing new in that? Because as a community we're well accustomed to living in a political cauldron. Even with that being the case, I thought last year for a variety of different reasons there was a sustained heighten tension that built up generally, certain issues lingered on and others as I said brought a bad and disappointing taste to the mouth.
World cup: take last years world cup tournament which turned out to be a bit of a watershed for us as a community, not because Spain won the competition, but the open and unwavering support from many hundreds of locals for the Spanish national team!
Some people say it's only sport and we should not read too much into it, but personally I'm old school on this. And if certain locals now want to start prancing around waving the Spanish flag they can! What these people can't do is mask it all by saying 'it's only sport' because that's 'total rubbish'
The incursions into territorial waters by the Guardia Civil also provided a great deal of political activity which transcended throughout the community.
I was very critical last year in the manner the police were tackling this matter. Obviously one cannot put the blame entirely on the police for the ineffective way they have been dealing with this high profile issue out in the bay, mainly because of the political influence which is clearly behind the policing of this problem. Although as far as I am concerned there's only one rule that should be applied to this issue that is 'if we don't want the Spaniards to enter our waters, we simple have to keep them out!
Relationship with Spain
Which ever way anyone wants to describe it, our relationship with Spain took 'quite a bit of a nose dive in 2010' there was clearly a more notable and harder stance from the Madrid parliament, and this without making reference to the pp opposition. The tripartite talks appeared to be on a constant stutter throughout last year, eventually coming to a complete stop. The territorial waters problem one presumes being the main culprit to all this, although I suspect other issues may have also influenced these talks ending the year on a flat note.
Of course la linea's 'mad mayor' Alejandro sanchez must be in line for some political 'naff-prize for astute stupidity' with his threats of a congestion charge at the frontier. Although I honestly think we took to much notice of this simple individual-come-mayor, and gave him all the personal publicity he was craving. Sanchez has dug himself a political hole and wanted to use Gibraltar to divert attention; this has largely backfired and I presume his days are now numbered as head of the messy political minefield he has created next-door.
Drug related crime up
Many people were also surprised last year when it eventually sank-in that crime in Gibraltar was reaching new heights. This is an issue that we in Panorama have covered extensively over the years. Last year in fact Panorama issued an astonishing fact concerning the direct relationship between drugs and crime and our assessment that over 70% of crime is related to drugs or alcohol or both, these figures have not been disputed by the authorities which have led us to believe it could be higher!
But 2010 was a particularly bad year for crime, not only because of the volume, but the nature of some very serious crimes committed. Clearly this is not only an indication of today's society, but importantly, how substance abuse can enter and affect the everyday lives of many people and in the long run effect society as a whole. Gibraltar has changed in this respect, there are those who do not agree with this theory and have their own reasons for thinking otherwise, reasons I suspect that have nothing to do with the serious spiraling crime figures recorded.
But when one talks of the high incidence of recorded crime and its causes, the safety and fear factor of the community must also be a concern, certainly a consideration.
I suppose one than has to look at what action has been taken to combat this, and this is where the political factor comes into it and what if anything has been done!
When it comes to political alertness I doubt if many politicians have been alert to any of the underlying problems or effects that drugs in its many forms has on crime and people in general, particularly the most vulnerable age group where the young are concerned.
Alcohol is one of the most lethal drugs that has a close and intertwined relationship with young people. This substance has generally become socially acceptable and is consumed in large quantities, all this without really taking in or understanding the many serious negative and social consequences associated with this legally obtainable drug.
Failed and unanswered
This government I have said many times has failed miserable with their 'dead in the water drug strategy' not only with the alcohol aspect, but with the marked increase in the consumption of illegal drugs such as cocaine, which has now become Gibraltar's drug of choice. The tackling of drug misuse must be the one important 'social policy that has miserably failed and left many unanswered questions' something this administration will be leaving behind after its term of office expires sometime this year!
There are many other issues and events which during the course of last year had a major bearing on society, which themselves are also influencing factors in the manner this community moves forward. There are other important issues such as 'youth unemployment', another important matter is 'public services' this is a vitally important issue, 'don't you think its about time we had a 'public service commission' of sort to regulate public utilities and all other public services. The health service particularly the daily operational running of the 'primary care centre' which also needs a complete re-think, it's not half as effective as it should be or as some people think.
Although one of the issues I have brought up before is the 'disengagement of politics from the public' local politics is as far removed from the ordinary man as it as ever been, even with the new constitution, which has changed nothing in this respect.
Than there are the other related matters in the way 'parliament functions' which is also waiting change, this has not come! It's really all about transparency and accountability.
Take the 'planning commission' who are as transparent as a brick wall. There is really a general need to improve all round transparency in Gibraltar so as to elevate the voice of the people that matter most - the electorate!
2010 budget rocked cost of living
Last year's budget rocked a few, if it didn't, it certainly raised the cost of living for most of us or more to the point, the cost of most things that gets us and our society moving - petrol, water, electricity and food - has risen stratospherically during the last 12 months or so. These increases believe or not coupled with the present economic climate has crippled many and is sure to have an affect on many more families!
Gibraltar in some ways has been fortunate not to have felt the full force of the financial tsunami that has had a hold on world economies for a couple of years now. We watched from afar last year some historical events, the imf/eu bailout of EU countries, severe budget cuts and some drastic austerity measures that kicked-in all over europe.
It would be wrong to assume that a calendar change will avert the course, causes or depth of these ongoing problems, but make no mistake we are not immune to any of this in Gibraltar. Many businesses and households locally have suffered, are suffering and will continue to feel the effects of the global financial crises, particularly those coping classes of families with rising child care costs, who are arguably the most likely to carry the burden of the current global financial crises on the local front.
But one thing really hit me about 2010 'the way this society has changed' with twitter, facebook and google displacing our previous sense of community!
Identity and interaction has moved from the small close town network most of us know well and grew up with, to the now monstrous online social networks. This I suspect will fundamentally shift behavioral patterns of society as a whole, particularly as technology develops and continues to overwhelm and engulf our lives.
2010 was certainly a strange one for me with many unanswered questions, may be the elections whenever they are called, will answer some of them?
We can only hope that 2011 will be an 'annus mirabilis' - a year of wonders. Sometimes all we can do is hold on to hope and look forward to the new year with optimism.
Happy new year to all!