THE Government could borrow up to 500 million pounds for Coronavirus aid if the community requires it in the coming months.

This sum equates to around 20% of Gibraltar’s total GDP, although this will be hit by the freeze in the economy.

This news came before parliament unanimously passed the emergency budget bill earlier today

The emergency budget will help cushion the negative economic effects the virus will have on the peninsula.

The Government also has access to a rainy day fund which amounts up to £150 million in cash which will be used if and when necessary.

The money that is borrowed will go to a specific Covid-19 special fund.

The bill, which was published two days before the parliamentary meeting, amends Gibraltar’s current Appropriation Act 2019.

The act lists all the spending, contributions and undertakings allowed during the financial year.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has extended the duration of the rest of this financial year by 6 months, with the next financial year starting from the October 1 2020.

The last time a financial year in Gibraltar was extended was in 1970, when Gibraltar wanted to mirror the UK with the financial year beginning on the March 31.

However, the Chief Minister stated that the start of the financial year may be extended further if the situation doesn’t improve.

Picardo warned that the community may need to be ready for the ‘eventuality’ of a complete lock-down, much to the extent to that which Spain has been facing since March 15.

“I’m very happy to read that numbers are as low as they are, but I don’t think we will be in a happy place for very long,” added Picardo.

Business issues

The fact that work at offices is mainly limited and most people are working from home means that there is a real problem going forward.

With restaurants, bars and cafes closed except for takeaways and no real clients with all tourism banned has left many companies uncertain about the future.

“Many businesses are experiencing a full-blown crisis with no clarity on how long this will last,” said the GFSB and Chamber of Commerce in one voice.

“Current projections are that the severity of the health crisis will worsen for the next three months.

“The subsequent economic one will last much longer.”

After the Chief Minister urged landlords to charge at least half of the rent for their properties in town, the response has been very positive.

“Many commercial landlords have been swift to act and heed the government’s appeal to reduce rents by at least 50% and be flexible with their commercial tenants,” said the two business organisations.

“Other landlords have even offered reductions in rent for those who operate in sectors which are not covered by the measures announced by the government.

“Some landlords have gone much further and offered rent-free periods for the next quarter to help their tenants weather the current crisis.

“This has been very welcome and demonstrates the strong bonds of solidarity which we have as a community.”

The Chamber and GFSB believe that everyone has to muck in for the good of the local economy on the long run.

“Now is the time for action,” they said in unison.

“Now is the time to assist those businesses to try to keep trading so at least they can continue to exist and hold on to their staff in the long term.”

For his part, Picardo has urged employers not to lay off employees in the private sector during these turbulent times.

“We are seeking to establish a mechanism in coming days, which we will finalise in consultation with CELAC to protect employment and employee income,” he said.

“This may include the establishment of a temporary lay off scheme linked to new benefits scheme payable to employees.”

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LIMITED: Businesses have tried to work around the ban and do takeaway services

Exam results

Gibraltarian students unhappy with exam cancellations might be able to take an exam in autumn to get another shot of getting the grades they desire.

This follows the news on Wednesday that GCSE, A Level and other exams will be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with confirmed cases steadily rising in the UK and skyrocketing in Spain.

Those who won’t be taking the examination later this year will get their grades determined by teachers who will be asked by the UK’s exam boards what grades the students deserve.

Teachers will be asked to present evidence to back up what they think students deserve with mock exam performance and non-assessment work.

The UK government wants to provide UK and Gibraltarian students the grades before the end of July.

Frontier access

The Gibraltar border has proved to be a sensitive topic since the Spanish government declared a state of emergency to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Spain is the third most infected country in the world with a total over 20,000 confirmed cases and over 1000 deaths.

Spain’s grip on the borders has left many Gibraltarians and cross frontier workers in a standstill, especially with the stricter enforcement held on everyone in Spain.

The Coronavirus is expected to peak this week until next Thursday, which is specifically why stricter measures against movement are being introduced by Spanish authorities.

“It’s not a frontier issue, it’s a movement issue,” explained Picardo.

“Cross border movement is subject to the same rules as the Spanish State of Emergency decree provides for once you enter Spain.”

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