GSLP Political Responsibility for Unrealistic Figures

In an article yesterday the Minister for Financial Stability, Sir Joe Bossano again used Treasury officials as a shield suggesting it was absurd for the GSD to describe the proposed £2.5M budget surplus by March 2024 as built on a “hopeless fiction” because those estimates were prepared by “professionals with long experience in the Treasury.” A couple of weeks ago he was even more pointed in his criticism of the Opposition which he said was suggesting that the Treasury were “cooking” the books. In doing so he has tried to pretend that somehow the figures presented to Parliament by the Government have nothing to do with Ministers and are all the work of officials.

That is simply untrue given what Sir Joe has said in the recent past. The problem is that Sir Joe cannot even remember what he owned up to last year when he admitted publicly in relation to the 2021/22 budget that the Government had given officials an instruction to shave off £75 Million from the estimates they had presented Ministers. In effect he accepted they had taken a budget to Parliament with figures that went against the advice of officials. He also accepted at the same time that departments had not been able to keep to those figures imposed by Ministers and that accounted for the fact that departments needed an extra £40 Million of funding in 2022. He said then ”I can tell you that many departments haven’t been able to stick to the limits WE gave them…” That admission demonstrated that it was the Government that had given a political direction to officials on the estimates. It was therefore also the Government that was politically accountable for the lack of realism of some numbers.
The GSD criticised the lack of realism of the budget figures for the 2022/23 budget and were proved right because there was an overspend directly where the GSD had said. Equally the GSD have criticised the lack of realism of some of the figures presented for the 2023/24 budget within the GHA in particular. Given what Sir Joe Bossano himself admitted in 2022 it can only be assumed that there is political direction and responsibility by Ministers for those numbers.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “As such and to be clear the GSD are not accusing Treasury officials of presenting unrealistic figures. We are accusing Ministers and the GSLP/Libs of presenting unrealistic figures in some respects. And we do so with justification given that Sir Joe Bossano has already admitted that this is precisely what the Government has done in the past. The reality is that the estimated surplus is built on unrealistic figures. It needs to stop hiding behind Treasury officials for its own handiwork and its own mismanagement and breach of promises on public finances over the last decade. The Government cannot have it both ways – they are very willing to take the credit when things go well but when the figures are unrealistic its got nothing to do with them. Except of course that we know out of their own mouths that they’ve set some of the limits in the past. This is why their assertions that they’ve magically restored financial stability are simply unbelievable. Combined with other factors that we have described it makes their prediction of a budget surplus by March 2024 nothing more than a hopeless fiction and a convenient narrative for the forthcoming election.”