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BUDGET: GSD hit out at ‘hidden’ public debt

BUDGET: GSD hit out at ‘hidden’ public debt

THE Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham, accused the Government of using a legal loophole to hide the true state of Gibraltar’s public finances.

Mr Feetham dismissed the official debt figures provided, arguing that the administration had borrowed at least £772million through Government-owned companies which had not been included in the public debt figure.

The Opposition Leader said he believed that the true level of public debt was £1.2billion labelling the budget speech as “a dangerous farce”.

Mr Feetham said: “This book, these estimates of revenue and expenditure, is only half of the picture of what the Government has directly or indirectly spent, at what cost, and how much it has directly or indirectly borrowed to pay for it all.”

He then turned on the Chief Minister, saying: “Only he can stand up in this Parliament and maintain a poker face when he says the things he has said today about public debt.

“It is not an answer to say that the debts of Government owned companies are not the debts of the Government. That may or may not be so from a purely technical legal stand point, but it is still the overall debt of Gibraltar plc.”

Referring to the Gibraltar Savings Bank, Mr Feetham said that the Government was using savers money for public expenditure without the requirement to increase the public debt limits.

He questioned how the Government intended to finance £23.3million capital and interest payments accruing from the £300million mortgaging of the government’s housing estates, mocking the administrations decision.

He said: “If a GSD Government had done that, members opposite led by the Father of the House (Joe Bossano) would be calling for our collective political heads, they would be incandescent.
“I can just see it: ‘Poor working class tenants having their homes hocked by a wicked right wing Government’.
“Instead, we have a Socialist government borrowing yet more money on the security of people’s homes and to boot saying to the people we do not owe that money because it’s owed by a Government-owned company.”

Mr Feetham repeated his claims that Government ministers continue to refuse to answer questions on public finances and were therefore guilty of  blocking both parliament’s and the public’s ability to properly scrutinise finances that was made even more critical with Brexit approaching.

Mr Feetham added: “Our spending has to be carefully targeted. No more pharaonic projects; no more suspension bridges; no more building palaces at No. 6 Convent Place; less and less travelling around with hordes of officials and politicians; and let’s invest in what really matters, training, education and the creation of jobs for our people.”

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