The sudden announcement that the Financial Secretary is standing down at the end of the summer raises more questions than answers. We are told that he has worked hand in glove with the Government and the Chief Minister in particular not just on public finances but on the BREXIT negotiations. On previous occasions the Chief Minister has lauded his work on both. However the contradictions are striking. We are still without a BREXIT deal, are told we are in the delicate final stages of those negotiations and that the Financial Secretary’s work has been crucial to those. We are neck-high in debt at a time of our worst financial crisis ever, a huge financial deficit and on the cusp of a potential global recession and worsening state of public finances. And yet we are led to believe that it is a convenient time for the Financial Secretary to leave?
Is this more smoke and mirrors from a Government that has made spin the default move in its playbook? Given all the above it begs the question whether it is actually because the financial plans are going wrong and the Financial Secretary despite his best efforts has been unable to instil financial discipline among the political Government that continues its reckless management of our public finances. Is it that the Financial Secretary is, in effect, abandoning the sinking ship of this Government?
Compounding the strange timing of the decision Gibraltar is being told by the Chief Minister that the departing Financial Secretary who will return to legal practice will continue advising the Government.
To have also had the departing Financial Secretary sign up to a statement where he talks up how Gibraltar is poised on its recovery as “we maintain the discipline on spending and revenue raising” and how he looks forward to working with the Chief Minister in future is self-serving and inappropriate for someone occupying a seconded civil service post and contemplating a potential future professional client. It clearly crosses the lines of neutrality and impartiality which the civil service should maintain and demonstrate with the political Government of the day. Additionally, talk of great discipline on spending will be understandably galling to all those people who will have seen precisely the reverse of discipline in spending from the Government and will be financially worse off because of the mishandling of public finances by this Government over the last 11 years. The Financial Secretary has been in post for 8 of those years. During many of those years and as we have repeatedly pointed out there has been recklessness by the Government, ill- discipline and an inability to address issues of waste and abuse which are impacting on our state of public finances today. We are clear that the responsibility for that lies with the political Government and not the Financial Secretary.