Thank you very much indeed for being here today.
Although a day to celebrate Gibraltar in London and indeed, this
lunch for financial services providers has become a fixture of the London calendar, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I am involved as Chief Minister with my colleague Mr Gilbert Licudi QC here as minister for Financial Services.
Last year, I attended this lunch as a professional in the sector myself and as Leader of the Opposition.
I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition now, Mr Caruana QC who was Chief Minister last year, has not been able to accept my invitation to be with us today.
I saw last year that it is important for Gibraltar to engage with those of you in London who are already familiar with what we have to offer as a jurisdiction and to keep you up to date with developments in our economy.
In fact, it is as important for us also to engage with those of you who are here to hear for the first time what opportunities Gibraltar can provide.
Let me then first of all update you on what is happening at a macro economic level and in political terms, while Gilbert will after lunch take you through an update of what is happening in the financial services industry.
We won the General Election in Gibraltar on 9th December of last year.
That change of Government will not result in any changes of any consequence to our corporate tax regime.
In fact, the principal of the new Income Tax Act – setting out a rate of tax of 10% – enjoyed the support of my party when we were in Opposition.
The model of low and competitive corporate tax is not only one which we will respect now that we are the Government;
It is one we were advocating from Opposition when the no tax model linked to a payroll tax was floated.
But one innovation you will have already have appreciated is that I recommended to the Governor of Gibraltar the appointment of a Minister for Financial Services.
That allows the industry to have easier access to its relevant minister than if they need to access the Chief Minister for every eventuality.
Gilbert, who took Silk some weeks after we were elected into Government, is also Minister for gambling.
As you will be aware, Gibraltar is the pre-eminent jurisdiction in the establishment and regulation of remote gaming.
We are well poised to remain so; enjoying the highest standards of regulation as well as an open and accessible labour market to facilitate the operators need to recruit specialist skilled employees from outside Gibraltar – either from within or outside the EU.
That has all made possible, of course, by the establishment in Gibraltar of some of the most advanced telecoms infrastructure in Europe.
During the last period of administration by my party, we were responsible for the attraction to Gibraltar of Nynex of New York who, in the late 80s, laid a fibre network in Gibraltar before fibre had arrived in much of the rest of Europe.
Today communications is vitally important to Gibraltar’s business community – as it is throughout the world.
Gibtelecom – the largest of our local communications companies is a founder shareholder and participant in the Europe India Gateway – a new 15,000 km submarine cable from London to Mumbai.
This link, amongst a number of other telecommunication routes, plays an important part in positioning Gibraltar as an international communications hub as evidenced by the growing ecommerce and related business now being done on the Rock.
But perhaps more importantly, it puts us within striking distance of ensuring that in Gibraltar business and citizens should soon be able to enjoy the fastest broadband speeds in Europe.
And the challenge, which we pursue as a Government vigourously, is to also seek to ensure that such services are provided at a cost that is affordable to consumers and DRIVES DOWN the cost of doing business in Gibraltar.
Undoubtedly, we will face other challenges in the coming months and years.
Suggestions from Europe of a Financial Transaction Tax are a challenge not just for Gibraltar but also for you in the City of London.
Ideas about a tax on services, whether they affect pure financial services, gaming or other services will face stiff opposition from all of us who believe in open markets throughout the EU at least.
But in partnership with friends in the City, we know that Gibraltar can remain an ever more attractive destination from which to do business with Europe and the world.
In facing up to new challenges and new opportunities, what we ask you as a Government is that you share your concerns and your ideas with us so that we can become the facilitators of new business to the mutual benefit of London and the Rock.
In a modern, highly regulated world, Gibraltar has shown itself the equal of others in the establishment of the pre-eminent jurisdiction for online gaming.
Our financial services offering is equally modern in its offering, highly and efficiently regulated and innovative in outlook.
So welcome this opportunity to stay in touch, renew old contacts and establish new ones – and to remember that despite being a Rock, Gibraltar is not a hard place to do business.