My background is anything but ordinary. I moved to Gibraltar from the USA before my second birthday. My parents have lived in Gibraltar from the 1960s, with a brief hiatus in the USA, which is where I was born. Like many in the Hindu community, my parents work in the family business. I have a sister that works for the Gibraltar Health Authority and is studying for her PhD in Dementia Care.
After University, I felt that I was not ready to return to Gibraltar and join the family business. I started my career in London – working as a consultant for a small technology firm in finance. We developed solutions to ease the challenges complex derivative products would cause banks.
This role provided me the opportunity to work in banks around Europe – gaining extensive experience in banking and technology in Brussels, Stockholm, London and Edinburgh. At every institution, I found that where diversity is welcomed and valued, the organisation would benefit from greater profit, innovation and increased creativity. I often thought about how much our political system could learn from this.
It was also evident to me that the quality of our air was less than ideal. After having lived in bustling Manhattan, and in Central London – I was finding that I was coughing more after returning to Gibraltar. I realised that something is not right with the air we breathe – and it was immediately obvious what was wrong. I was shocked to learn that in Gibraltar we have the highest rate of respiratory disease in Europe. Unless something is done, this has little hope of improving. Today we continue to see increases in motor vehicles on our streets. Our unfiltered diesel buses continue to wind their way through our narrow streets, and our energy strategy doesn’t move us away from burning fossil fuels.
While we can’t immediately do a great deal to tackle the emissions of our neighbour to the north; we can do plenty when it comes to our own affairs. We can reduce our reliance on our private vehicles by improving our public transport system. We can have a bicycle / car / moped sharing scheme that works. We can have infrastructure to support electric vehicles. We can ensure motor vehicle emissions that exceed limits will fail their MOT and we can reduce the vehicular traffic from our visitors by having a real park-and-ride system.
The climate emergency must have been the last thing in their minds when the current administration announced the building of Victoria Keys.
Under our leadership, vanity projects will give way to regeneration. The much-neglected Upper Town will see a resurgence. Community spaces will be renewed or created. Legislation will be written and implemented to ensure that derelict buildings will be maintained. We will ensure that our open spaces are protected. Our plans to place a moratorium on non-priority unapproved build until the DPC is reviewed and a new Strategic Development Plan is in place. We will shift the agenda to find a middle ground, where we will prioritise maintenance and regeneration, but welcome new development if it is necessary and of value to Gibraltar, and never at the expense of our community’s well-being.