The Government has today published the Appropriation Bill 2021.
Mr Speaker the House will have a chance to debate the Bill in Budget Session which will be held in July this year.
The Bill published today provides for an estimated consolidated fund expenditure in this financial year of £ 665m (£ 664,692,000) and capital expenditure of £ 68m (£ 67,640,000).
These are now published figures.
The heads on which the spending is provided for are set out in the Bill in detail.
Honourable Members have also already received the Draft Estimates of Expenditure.
That book contains all details of the estimate for Government spending for the year already gone, which was an exceptional 24 month year as approved by this House unanimously.
The book also contains the estimated spending for the year to come.
Honourable Members are bound not to disclose the figures in that Estimates Book until the debate commence.
I would therefore not usually say any more at this stage.
But, Mr Speaker, this year is an exceptional year.
And it is an exceptional year for every country in the world.
Let us not kid ourselves.
COVID did not just come to Gibraltar.
The pandemic did not just happen to us.
And the public finances of EVERY nation on the planet are in a deplorable state as a result.
Because the public finances of EVERY nation have been decimated by the COVID Pandemic.
And let us not forget, Mr Speaker, that, in our case, the pandemic has coincided also with the run up to a potential hard Brexit, something which undoubtedly hit business confidence in some sectors.
And so, as the Bill is published today, I consider, Mr Speaker that it is my duty to immediately inform our people today of what the effect has been on Gibraltar’s public finances of the published details of the COVID fund and the COVID borrowing which all member of the House supported.
I will limit myself to setting out the deficit position.
Mr Speaker, the Bill that will come before the House for our Budget Debate in July will provide a forecast financial outturn that will estimate a DEFICIT of £138,000,000.00.
The Bill will provide for spending, as more particularly set out in its various schedules, that will see us deliver a DEFICIT again next year of £51,000,000.00 if we stick to the spending we are predicting and if we have the revenue that we are predicting.
Mr Speaker, we will be able to debate the whys and wherefores – and look at the detail of every figure – when we debate the Estimates.
But given the publication of the Bill today, and the numbers which are included in it for spending in the next 12 months, I believe it is my duty to advise the nation and our people today, as all Honourable Members are already aware, that we are in deficit.
We are in the company, good, bad and indifferent, of just about every other nation on the planet.
But we have secured, with the unanimous support of the House, the necessary borrowing at historically low interest rates, that enables us to continue to provide services, ensure all our salary and pension commitments are fully provided for and paid.
We are and we will continue to pay our way.
So, Mr Speaker, we know what COVID has been.
We have not just paid for ventilators and for medicines.
We have not just paid for PPE and other equipment.
Every single detail of COVID spending is provided for in the published details of the COVID fund.
We have also paid for the salary of every single civil servant and public servant without deduction in this period – even when they were not working.
And we have paid for the salary of every person in the private sector who was not permitted to work under the COVID Regulations.
And so a deficit was the obvious result that every person should have expected was coming.
I now confirm it, as will be the case in every other major economy in the world.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I should just set out that our objective is to be back in the black in the next 24 months.
We have grown this economy before.
I HAVE FULL CONFIDENCE THAT WE WILL REVERSE THIS DEFICIT.
We will get it back on its feet and in the process there will be a lot of hard work to be done, but no hardship will be suffered.
No austerity will be imposed.
But no abuses will be tolerated either.
Mr Speaker, I believe it would be reckless and unfair not to have advised our people immediately today of this outcome, at the first available opportunity, on the publication of the Appropriation Bill.
We cannot disclose more numbers at this stage until the debate on the Estimates, but this result is one that our people must know today.
And it is my duty to tell them.
Finally, Mr Speaker, the Joint Coordination Committee established under Article 5 of the International Agreement on Taxation and the Protection of Financial Interests between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland regarding Gibraltar, met today for the first time.
The meeting was virtual and was held by video conference as a result of the as yet not entirely easy travel picture for all parties.
The meeting also hosted the Liaison Bodies established under Article 4 of the
International Tax Agreement, who also met for the first time.
The attendees include officials from the Governments of Gibraltar, the United
Kingdom and the different national and regional authorities of Spain.
I sincerely hope that travel will be easier soon and that the Committees can meet in person very soon.
The Joint Coordination Committee and Liaison Bodies are purely technical and meet at official level without politicians.
The report I have received from the Financial Secretary and the Commissioner for
Income Tax suggest that the atmosphere throughout was positive and constructive with a genuine desire to move forward in a spirit of cooperation on the different areas under discussion.