To have, at least, a rudimentary concept of local contemporary political history is essential to be able to understand our society, any society in fact. The sociological arrangements of a society, i.e. its stratification or divisions. The psychology of each stratum of society, their expectations and relationship between the different strata etc, is something which, like a LEGO structure, has many components parts that combine to make the whole that we perceive.
The sociological and cultural structure of a society may be brought about, naturally, by historical events and social interaction or intentionally, by political manipulation.
Society can indeed be manipulated by those who have both the power and the ability to construct an environment that is of benefit to them in a variety of ways. The political scenario that came in to play in 1996, or rather the change from one administration to another, when the GSD came to power, was contrived both by Palacio de Santa Cruz and the British Foreign Office, both intent on debilitating a GSLP administration that was always an encumbrance to their designs.
The GSD, because of its cultural composition and perceived political inclination, as well as the success of the GSLP administration, witness the 1992 election results, was a party that would have never achieved power in a million years, left to their own political devices. Yet the pressure put on the GSLP administration made them fall into a trap and take decisions that were detrimental to their popularity in the eyes of the floating voters but never to their 40% base support which never dwindled. Their landslide victory in 1992, as a result of their policies, a hugely successful endeavour of the first ever land reclamation, home ownership, the digitalisation of our telephony system and a very successful change from an MOD based economy to what we have today, that made all the above possible, should have sufficed to keep them in office for a long time, if there had been no external interference.
We can never underestimate the power two major European countries can exert when intent on replacing a small dependent administration by a seemingly more amenable some such other as the GSD was seen then.
When the GSD administration took over, they were still very apprehensive of a possible GSLP comeback. They were fully aware of the GSLP’s popularity, their ability and resilience. Especially their resilience. Yet they were resolved not to be solely a one term Government.
Both the unceasing denigration campaign against Joe Bossano, that started almost immediately they took over the reins of Government, and doing away with the parity with UK principle in order to divert workers attention away from, what was seen as Joe’s parity with UK system and directing this towards him, was the cornerstone of Caruana and the GSD’s manipulation of our society.
Caruana felt that the right was always on his side and needed no convincing, but they still needed to be assured and fed. Bland’s always known to be a GSD supporting firm was very apprehensive at the possible change of Government in the December 2011 general election. Caruana soon allayed its fear by conceding to Bland’s, unethically, the airport cargo handling contract [we believe it is called] during the election campaign!
The workers though were a different kettle of fish, specifically the GSLP’s 40% power base. Mentalities had to be changed, hence forth workers would look to him and be grateful for benefits and pay increases and so much more.
Brought up around a commercial environment, Caruana soon learned that everything had a price and could be bought, not least people. This was always his guiding principle. Without any knowledge of workers mentality or industrial relations, he suddenly became the only valid arbiter in pay awards and the industrial relations officer par excellence.
We no longer looked to the UK to find out how much we were due that year but to Caruana. But what was what we were entitled to, based on? Based simply on Caruana’s momentary whim and his endeavour to destroy the GSLP power base.
El Patio Chico, strong supporters of the GSLP, was one such. From it he created the Housing Works Agency and a brand-new CEO who appeared to spend his time reading comics because he could not manage anything more complex than that! This is just one example and there are myriads more.
As “El Tio Del Capote” said last week that barely two months before the 2011 general election he gave GJBS a 12 or 14% pay award across the board. This was clearly intended to get people to vote for the GSD. A veritable poisoned chalice. At a stroke he priced GJBS out of the market.
To continue in business GJBS was forced to rely on subcontractors for labour, much cheaper than its own employees, employees they had stopped engaging because they were now unaffordable!
A two tier pay system was immediately created, the exceedingly well remunerated GJBS workforce and the less well remunerated workforces of the subcontractor that had to keep wages as low as possible in order to be contracted.
The chunk of the money spent on construction that could have stayed behind and be spread in our economy, made its way to Portugal. Not only did GJBS lose out, but suppliers to the industry too.
From time to time, different authorities cropped up here and there, and people soon discovered that flattery and cajolery was worth much more than merit. It soon became a symbiotic relationship.
But doing away with parity with the UK was an extremely important LEGO piece for Caruana in his scheme of creating the right mentality, easily manipulated where he could be guaranteed he would be returned again and again.
Prior to 2003 the opposition leader was very much part and parcel of the environment and mentality manipulation endeavour, albeit with clipped wings. He went out of his way to praise Caruana’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) arrangement for the hospital - that’s another horrendous milestone around our necks people tend to forget - and some made a lot of money on the deal.
The entitlement and expectation culture soon started laying roots. We have living evidence to this just outside No 6 every day, where we can sometimes see retired Chief Police Inspectors, high ranking customs officers and high-ranking firemen too, pleading for alms. People who sometimes enjoy pensions above £3,000 a month and there is even one on £10,000 a month or £122,000 yearly who under the old scheme, could also be entitled to COA! We have recently learned that Capurro now openly a GSD member and seeking election to its executive could be using the demonstrators as a disguised GSD political campaign. The demonstration outside No 6 is now a GSD chiringuito. That’s why we see Pardi parading with them.
But Caruana has not been totally infallible in his manipulation of the political scene to suit his electability, far from it. He laid many LEGO pieces he later on had to retract or alter.
The great victims in all this have been the tax payers, especially in the private sector both bosses and employees who were never at the receiving end of the gift he was liberally giving out to the public sector.
Feetham’s arrival on the political scene rarefied the atmosphere somewhat from Caruana’s perspective. He saw that Danny was a real danger to his design of continuing to be CM if he managed the leadership of the left.
Feetham’s rush to get to the top soonest, undid him and he proved quite an easy prey for Caruana to handle. The decision to try to rush things and fall into Caruana’s hands, thereby embargoing any chance he may have had to ever becoming Chief Minister, must haunt him to this day.
He was flabbergasted to see a much more sedate, equanimous and tempered Fabian Picardo joining the GSLP and getting to where he wanted to get without stress.
How many times has he dreamed that it could have been him if he had not rushed matters and made the egregious mistake of taking the glitter offered by the GSD leader? Another poisoned chalice, one he is still drinking from.
Soon he was to exempt pensions from paying tax. It did not take him long to realise that paying massive occupational pensions without taxing them, was unsustainable, but rather than go back on the tax-exempt deal, that would have cost him votes, he decided, in 2010, to stop occupational pensions for all newcomers to the public service and, the very same people who are now crying blue murder because they have been excluded from COA, acquiesced to this through their unions. We clearly see the selfishness of these very people. They did not care provided it did not affect them. By now he had managed to make greed the fabric that held Gibraltar together and its guiding principle.
Capurro was nowhere on the scene then. He had taken a thirty-two-year sabbatical from Gibraltar after a frustrated trip on a cruise liner sometime around 1984, I am told.
In 2009 yet again he tried his hand at influencing people to vote for him and the GSD. He opened the floodgates to Community Care payment without taking into account pensions. This unleashed a tsunami of greed that overwhelmed him tha had even an acting Chief Secretary and medical consultants and company directors applying for a fund that had been established to aid the needy and unfortunate.
The decision to reverse this was the right decision by the Trustees of Community Care and should have been done even earlier.
We now learn that our deficit £51,000,000 per annum is precisely the sum we are paying to the many greedy and selfish individuals who have not contributed a penny either to the Charity or their pensions, yet feel entitled to everything without any obligation to our society.
We now know that we are paying our public servants 40% above the public servants in the UK. Because occupational pensions are tied to earnings, if the early GSD had maintained the link to parity with the UK and Caruana had not decided to make pension tax exempt, our deficit would perhaps be around £20,000,000. The excess £31,000,000 is what the tax payer, especially the private sector, had to contribute for the luxury of having the GSD as Government for sixteen years.
The sense of expectation and entitlement has sometime destroyed the sense of dignity and reality of a swathe of people who, in the words of Sir Joe, are the wealthiest pensioners in Gibraltar whose massive pensions are precisely creating our annual deficit, pensions towards which they have not contribute a single penny, all on the back of the tax payer claiming a right over a Charity they have never contributed to.