‘A Budget to bury the poor,’ says Action on Poverty

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, QC


‘The Budget Speech on Tuesday was nothing short of brazen,’ an Action on Poverty (AOP) spokesman was quoted as saying in reaction to the Chief Minister’s interventions in parliament. ‘It didn’t work. It didn’t pull the wool over people’s eyes this time.’

‘From the outset, it’s been clear to AOP that the Chief Minister’s attitude is nothing short of hostile towards those at the most vulnerable end of our financial and economic landscape. After a number of close formal meetings over time, it is clear to us that there is no interest or empathy there with the poor,’ the organisation, which campaigns for the reform of the social security system, has said.

‘And the big concern now is that hardship will come knocking more and more on the doors of the up-till-now middle-income workers in our community. Indeed, Community Care is only the first layer to feel it. Unless government deals with the need for social security and welfare reform, the problems will pile up towards the middle.

‘Government may feel the people of Gibraltar are unable to see beyond the four hours of self-praise and wool-pulling in the Chief Minister’s parliamentary interventions, yet it is obvious to the rapidly increasing numbers of ‘malcontents’ of this society that something is very wrong indeed, and it is not all down to Brexit or to Covid-19.

‘Were it not so laughable, for the head of government to say the average wage in this community is thirty-two thousand pounds per year is offensive and seriously out-of-touch, implying the reflection of a situation that too many will recognise as wholly unreal in their every day. Indeed, to inhabit a Never-Never Land of ample Ministerial comfort and to inflict a significant price hike for many households on essentials such as electricity is to know little about the lives of ordinary people who need to work to put food on the table every week of every month of every year. The Chief Minister needs to get a grip on the realities, though we regret that the signs are meagre.

‘Unhappiness in this community is increasing by the day, and AOP and countless others working to alleviate the steady destruction of people’s living standards is testament to a shift that Mr. Picardo appears blissfully unwilling to contemplate. Whether in dealing with private sector workers and pensioners, the unemployed, the disabled, those who work full-time in the home looking after the ill and elderly with no recognition or recompense, Government ignores them in this Budget and rides roughshod over their interests and concerns.

‘It is clear in which direction Mr. Picardo is travelling; and it is not in that of the elderly or, oftentimes, the young, increasing numbers of whom are surviving on the precipice of this society. And yet, given the scenario the Chief Minister is laying down, more and more ordinary, middle-to-working class people need to be prepared; because they may find themselves caught in a situation that only a government willing to distribute wealth fairly can begin to rectify. Austerity is Mr. Picardo’s pet elephant in the room.

‘Action on Poverty will continue to stand up for those Mr. Picardo and his government have chosen to abandon. And the moment he is willing to pay attention, we will sit down to talk. But we are not holding our breath’ the statement ends.