I am British by birth, European by conviction, Gibraltarian by choice, and hungry for a fairer, more progressive and inclusive Gibraltar, a Gibraltar that is meritocratic, forward-thinking, enterprising, outward-looking, sustainable and confident.
What entitles a relative newcomer to represent the people of Gibraltar? Friends, colleagues and prospective constituents told me the same thing. Someone who has made Gibraltar her home, voted in its elections, contributed to its economic well-being and who fervently wants to make a difference to the lives of the people of Gibraltar has a duty to do so.
I have been involved in Gibraltar since 2014. My work at the Financial Services Commission, architecting Gibraltar’s pioneering legal and regulatory framework for distributed ledger technology, led to new technology businesses starting-up in Gibraltar and positioned it at the forefront of global standards in consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It also led me to move permanently to the place I now regard home. Gibraltar welcomed me with open arms. Now is the time for this soon-to-retire great-grandmother to give something back.
After a 48-year technology career working in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, my recent work has been in regulatory affairs, providing public policy advice to politicians and officials in the UK, EU and elsewhere. I sit as a technical expert on several international bodies and have represented Gibraltar at international meetings.
People who know me say I have an enquiring mind, that I think things through, and that I speak my mind and say it how it is. You must judge for yourself.
What struck me most as I assimilated into local life is how tenacious and resilient the people of Gibraltar are. But I was left with burning questions:
Why is there so much unrealised potential here?
Why is the divide across Gibraltar society growing?
How has a small elite consolidated its power at the expense of ordinary working people?
How can there be so little transparency in public life? Where are the usual checks and balances? How long can this last?
Motivated to provide answers and make a difference, I found a natural home at Together Gibraltar, a party grown out of civil society, a party whose core values I share: participation, democracy, pragmatism, progressiveness, inclusion and transparency.
Gibraltar faces imminent challenges. The development of Gibraltar’s financial services and online gambling sectors has served us well for a quarter of a century. Our low taxes have attracted wealth from abroad. But that business model is under threat. Brexit changes everything. A no-deal Brexit - now the most likely outcome - represents the very worst of all scenarios. Our financial services and gambling firms face being unable to do business in the EU. The new Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to slash UK corporation tax rates, effectively competing with us. We can no longer expect these vital sectors to remain the lifeblood of our economy.
The Bank of England expects the value of Sterling - already at a 31-month low - to decline further following a no-deal Brexit; UK inflation is on the rise, raising the prospect of higher interest rates; and there is a real prospect of the UK - our main market - going into recession. The purchasing power of the Pound in Gibraltarian purses and wallets is under threat and the prospect of rising prices looms.
Gibraltar needs a new economic strategy: a forward-looking 10-year plan that reduces financial dependency on the UK and enables us to stand on our own feet by building an economy that:
creates value rather than merely extracts it,
harnesses our exceptional heritage and natural resources,
brings much-needed foreign exchange,
results in prosperity for all rather than a few.
In a rapidly-changing world driven by software and globalisation, we need to start making stuff, not just providing services.
Here, then, are some of the policies I want to see introduced to make Gibraltar’s economy fit for the middle of the 21st century:
Identify strategically-important sectors capable of rapid, sustainable development. Use the tax system to incentivise enterprise.
Early investment in upgrading our tourism offering, focusing on improved visitor experience, is a quick win. Inward investment will follow value creation.
Incentivise investment in a greener, environmentally-sustainable Gibraltar, starting with public transport.
Identify the top ten strategically important overseas markets and redeploy resources from ineffective, expensive overseas representative offices. Open more, smaller trade development offices to promote Gibraltar’s goods and services.
Review the tax system, making it fairer for everyone.
Overseas property investment brings nothing to Gibraltar’s economy. Incentivise productive outward investment that generates revenue, foreign exchange, profits and tax for Gibraltar.
Incentivise overseas trade and investment, beginning with the Campo and Morocco.
Align higher education to our economic needs. Transform the underutilised University of Gibraltar and invest in delivering education outcomes that directly benefit Gibraltar and its economy.
Stop building luxury properties and non-essential, vanity infrastructure projects. Start building more affordable housing. Make renting out property more attractive than leaving it unoccupied. Enable young Gibraltarians to live where they work rather than having to cross the frontier every day.
Make government leaner - not necessarily smaller. Eliminate waste and continuously improve processes to deliver better customer service. Channel effort and resources into productive outcomes. Reward improvement and outstanding leadership.
Make public sector appointments on merit alone. Serving time in a job or knowing the right person are insufficient grounds for advancement. Consult staff on proposed promotions.
Improve transparency in public finances and procurement.
Introduce tough anti-corruption laws. Create an independent Anti-Corruption Commission, built for truth and reconciliation, to enable time-limited disclosure and forgiveness.
Create an independent Parliamentary system for financial auditing of public bodies including government-owned companies. Undertake value-for-money audits to measure effectiveness, economy and efficiency of government spending.
Change political discourse to a more consensual approach, focused on finding common ground in the interests of the people we serve. Make serving narrow interests the least attractive option.
If my policies touch you, vote for me as one of your Together Gibraltar candidates.
You can get in touch with Siân directly by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org