Following the tabling of the Fishing Report commissioned by the Government in Parliament yesterday, the Opposition has had an opportunity of reviewing its contents. It intends, however, to carry out a more thorough review over the coming days.
Whilst the report appears to represent a detailed analysis of matters as wide ranging as, for example, fishing stocks, information relating to these, the relevant history and EU and international conventions, the important and ‘elephant in the room’ issue for the public is whether there will be a solution found to the current uncertainty.
The party’s views that the most recent crisis in our waters was of the Government’s own making has been fully aired in public. The GSD’s main and immediate concern now, as Gibraltar’s elected Opposition, however is that Gibraltar’s interests are fully safeguarded. In this connection it is imperative that a quick solution to the uncertainty which currently prevails is resolved without further delay. There is nothing in the report, the Government’s statements or the Minister for the Environment’s GBC interview in the immediate aftermath of the publishing of the report that leads the Opposition to believe that a permanent solution is to be found soon.
This matter requires a prompt solution because, as previously stated by the GSD, there are issues much wider than the environment at stake. We have no fishing industry but what we do have, which is worth protecting, is a stable political environment which will allow our community to prosper economically for the benefit of our citizens. The GSD therefore takes this opportunity to restate its position that the Government will therefore count on the Opposition’s full support if it makes sensible proposals to resolve this matter once and for all.
In the Chronicle report on the La Linea mayor’s visit to number 6 on 19th March, 2013, she was quoted as saying that Mr Picardo had advised her that he had received the technical reports from the experts which “could form the basis of a satisfactory solution for both sides”. The question in the Opposition’s and in many people’s mind is where is the solution?
The report is dated December 2012, i.e. some seven months ago, which should have given the Government sufficient time to prepare plans and the new legislative framework which they promised. The Government is now telling us that it is still preparing a marine strategy for Gibraltar and that its full effects will be seen in ‘months to come’ or ‘sometime in the autumn’.
The planned strategy will make allowance for changes to laws to ‘allow sustainable fishing methods’. It is not clear whether the effect of this is that Spanish fishermen will be allowed to fish. Despite repeated questioning by GBC yesterday on the simple question as to whether Spanish fishermen will be allowed to fish, Minister Cortes was not willing to provide a clear answer. People seek leadership on this issue and are therefore demanding a clear and unequivocal answer which has not been forthcoming from the Government.
The Opposition calls on the Government to come clean on whether the Floating Hotel is a done deal (May 6th 2013)
Following the last meeting of the Development and Planning Commission (‘DPC’), the GSD Opposition is concerned at the extent to which the proposed Floating Hotel in the Marina Bay complex appears to be a done deal.
A Shadow Inter-Ministerial Committee made up of Opposition spokesmen for planning, environment and tourism, (Selwyn Figueras, Jaime Netto and Damon Bossino, respectively) has been formed to review all relevant issues being raised with the Opposition in respect of this particular Government project.
The Opposition notes that the matter has recently been listed and discussed in an open meeting of the DPC, (though it was not originally listed as a Government project) and that it appears that the establishment of the floating hotel in Gibraltar is a matter which, in a manner reminiscent of the Government’s handling of Grand Battery, is a foregone conclusion. The Opposition would certainly be surprised if the owner/operator of the vessel had set about deploying the vessel to Gibraltar without any kind of guarantee that its installation here would face a challenge any greater than those of the logistical and infrastructural variety.
The Opposition is therefore asking the Government to confirm whether it has signed any agreements with the owner/operator in respect of the provision of the floating hotel in Gibraltar, whether any agreement whatsoever had been reached with the operators before the planning process had been set in motion in respect of it and, further, the Opposition is asking the Government to confirm whether it has incurred any financial liabilities in this respect. As matters stand, many people are of the view that there is little, if any, prospect whatsoever of this project not going ahead.
The Opposition spokesman for the Environment has also remarked that ‘it is peculiar that no Environmental Impact Assessment is ongoing or even guaranteed in relation to this project, despite an assertion to the contrary in the Government’s own application to the DPC, a copy of which can be found online on the Government’s website. It is all very well for Mr Cortes to dismissively explain that the soil that would need to be dredged is already contaminated, but should he not be concerned to understand what effect this soil disturbance and the project generally could have on two endangered species (the patella limpets and spider crabs) which, wearing an environmentalist’s hat, he has shown concern for in the past?’
Not only are these species listed for protection under the Nature Protection Act, but GOHNS has also stated publicly that the area of the Ocean Village Marina is an important spawning ground for sea bass and other fish species which had experienced a decline in other areas around Gibraltar.
Whilst the Opposition is aware that the DPC has opted for an initial screening to determine the type of Environmental Impact Assessment to be followed, the GSD Opposition concurs with the views expressed by the Environmental Safety Group to the effect that, given the scale of the project and its likely impact on the marine environment, as well as the visual impact the presence of such a large vessel in the Marina complex might have, that this application should be subject to the rigours of a full Environmental Impact Assessment. The absence of such an assessment may otherwise lead people to inevitably, and perhaps justifiably, conclude that the deal to bring the Floating Hotel over is, and always has been, a done deal.
Finally, concern has been expressed about the impact this initiative may have on the local hotel industry and questions are being asked about whether there has been any consultation with the very businesses the Government’s initiative will create competition with, some say unfairly, for our local hoteliers. The GSD is calling upon the Government to set out its vision in respect of the impact this initiative may have on the local hotel industry and to set out what measures, if any, it has taken to consult with the relevant stakeholders and/or mitigate/allay concerns raised by them.
Damon Bossino MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, May Day Message
We are in this together
Even our opponents must recognise, on an objective basis, that no Government has done more to advance and improve the standard of living of workers in Gibraltar than the GSD during its sixteen years in office. However to view the interests of workers in isolation to the economic interests of the community as a whole is, in my view, mistaken as a matter of general application but particularly in the case of Gibraltar.
We as a community have always been entrepreneurial, imaginative and “go getters” in nature. This is one feature of our identity as Gibraltarians which I have always been particularly proud of. As a collective we have shown to be a hard working society which by dint of pure grit, tenacity, imagination and business like mentality, have taken advantage of Gibraltar’s unique position and made it work. Those of us who work in the private sector experience this almost on a daily basis. The almost accepted truism as far as Gibraltar is concerned now is that whatever challenges may come to us by way of external threat, whether from Spain or elsewhere, we know that somehow, somewhere we will find a way out and probably take positive advantage from it.
Providing secure and real jobs
In this context it is important not to lose sight of the important focus that a healthy, vibrant and successful small and medium size business community in Gibraltar, is what will provide good, secure and real jobs to members of our community both young and old.
Whilst Government intervention is necessary in certain respects in order to provide the necessary assistance and incentive for the creation of good value jobs, it is quite another to proceed down the dangerous route which the Government is embarked upon of providing unstructured and unrecognised training for the sole reason of, in a forced and contrived way, reducing the unemployment statistics.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Future Job Strategy but I would urge the Government to refocus their strategy. I would urge them to implement measures which ensure that young people have the skills they need for our job market, that there be properly structured vocational skills training which end up in real jobs.
I sincerely hope that this Government soon appreciates that its labour policies have no place in Gibraltar in 2013. They should be suppressed in favour of a policy which secures the wellbeing of the workforce and those out of work. More should be done to secure what Unite’s Mr Coyne described in the context of the construction industry base but I would apply across the board – a ‘highly-skilled and highly-motivated’ workforce in Gibraltar.
Had we been re-elected into office in 2011, we would have increased the number of apprenticeships for which there is an industry demand. This was particularly successful in the context of the private/public partnership apprenticeships in areas such as Health and Care Services, Gaming, Construction, Telecommunications, Electrical Services, Business and Administration. This would have, in a proper and measured way, given local candidates the opportunity to acquire the skills and qualifications necessary to access the jobs that arise in our economy and public services.
In his last year’s message, Mr. Feetham warned that the Union should not become the cheerleaders of the Government. He expressed sadness at Unite’s decision to exclude all political parties from the public rally except for the GSLP/Liberals and highlighted the message that the ability of trade unions to ensure continuing improvement for workers in the long run, depends on their independence from the Government of the day. The recent developments resulting in the withdrawal of the invitation made to the Leader of the Opposition to speak at the rally can only augur very badly for union independence. Independent unions are what will best represent and protect its members’ interests.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and restful May Day.
GSD releases statement on Leadership Election process
At its last Party Executive Meeting held on the 9th January 2013, the GSD discussed and tentatively agreed the time table and an outline programme for the process of electing a successor to replace Peter Caruana as Leader of the Party should the election for such a successor be contested by more than one person.
In accordance with this timetable the closing date for receipt of formal Applications at GSD Party HQ was at noon yesterday, Monday 21st January 2013. Two such Applications were received and accepted as valid by the Party Chairman on behalf of the Executive. These Applications are from the Hon Damon Bossino MP and the Hon Daniel Feetham MP; both elected members of the Gibraltar Parliament and both members of the GSD Executive.
At its next meeting, scheduled to be held on Monday 28th January, these applications will be formally tabled for acceptance by the Party Executive. The Executive will also adopt the procedure by which the election will take place. The Executive has scheduled a further meeting for the 4th February at which it will begin the process of selection of the new leader.
Damon Bossino issues Leadership statement on Monday 21 January 2013
‘I will today be putting myself forward as a candidate for the position of leader of the Gibraltar Social Democrats.
I am conscious that as a party and as a community we are seeing history in the making today.
To my knowledge this is the first time that a major political party in Gibraltar will be undergoing a leadership election process. We are witnessing a defining moment in our history where a political party will be choosing its next leader in a democratic process. To our detractors who say that we are divided, I say that these internal elections will show the democratic credentials and strength of the Gibraltar Social Democrats as a party. This is something to celebrate. I am of the firm view that the position of party leader is not for anyone to give and that the office holder should exercise the role enjoying a democratic mandate. Anointments are not for this party.
I am also very conscious and alive to the fact that I stand against a formidable political colleague in Daniel Feetham. I am confident that we will conduct ourselves in a manner which will strengthen and unify the party whatever the outcome. I am a firm believer that we have started the transition on a firm, sure and confident footing by not being shy to have a democratic debate of ideas.
As the only elected Opposition party we have a duty to the electorate and future generations of Gibraltarians to ensure that we are there to represent them and win the next general election. I am committed to that cause.
I am excited and encouraged by the words of support that I have received both from inside and outside the party. The community want political discourse to change and I strongly believe that this should be the case. The challenges we face are too great for there to be political division in every sphere over every issue. People are tired of confrontation for the sake of it.
Whilst I support the parliamentary system and the adversarial style that comes with it as being a system which has served Gibraltar well, we have an obligation to debate ideas and issues with respect and civility. We have the opportunity to carry out the sea change in politics which Gibraltar needs where there’s a more respectful use of language and an emphasis on presentation of new ideas and less attack and friction for the sake of it. This is one of the contributions that I want to make to politics.
There is a lot of hard work to be done. We have to engage with all of the community and listen to people of all walks of life, with all views and debate with them as to what kind of Gibraltar they want to see after the next general election.
Finally I want to say that I do this with the support of my work colleagues and more importantly that of my wife. This is the right thing to do.”