The Chief Minister has been attending a conference hosted by the British Virgin Islands at which he was one of the key speakers. There are two aspects of this encounter which interest me which I shall return to in a moment.
However the first point I want to make is that traditionally Gibraltar has looked to the UK as being its main partner in the world. Although this relationship is still of major importance and the bed rock of Gibraltar the nation there is a much bigger world out there to which we have to relate.
Unlike the UK, an island nation, Gibraltar is an integral part of the continent of Europe. In many ways the importance of the EU in our daily lives is far greater than it is to Britons. If the UK was to withdraw from the EU then it would spell economic and political disaster for Gibraltar. As the Chief Minister has previously stated in Brussels: Gibraltar wants more Europe and not less.
However what his visit to the BVI demonstrates is that apart from the UK and Europe the British Overseas Territories are not just a club we belong to but a club in which we should be a major player. I do not believe an MP speaking for the British Overseas Territories at Westminster is a good idea because quite simply the interests are too diverse. In contrast I do believe the OTs should organize themselves in to a working union centred on themselves and not via the UK.
This brings me to the first aspect of the BVI meeting which interests me. It was when the OT Premiers first met in Gibraltar last year that our Chief Minister highlighted to them that each of the Territories are world leaders in diverse fields and should be seeking to leverage that together internationally. This is something he has carried through to the BVI conference. He again pointed out that Bermuda is the world leader in captive insurance business; the BVI is the top jurisdiction for company registrations in the world; the Cayman Islands are the main jurisdiction in the world for the incorporation of Hedge Funds; and the Falkland Islands enjoy potentially huge oil reserves and fishing grounds; with Gibraltar being the "online Las Vegas" in virtual gaming. Suddenly collectively they are transformed from being smaller players to world leaders and as a collective unit are a formidable group.
The second aspect is when the Chief Minister explained that, in Gibraltar, he is about to launch a platform of e-government through the use of information and communication technology. This will provide a more efficient and effective administration which will make Government services more accessible and will make more information available to citizens, thus intentionally making the Government more accountable. The Chief Minister also announced that his government will shortly introduce a new identity card which will be allow for even greater e-government applications to be accessible to citizens.
Well three cheers for that! In October I attended a Committee of the Regions Conference at the EU in Brussels where towns, cities, communities and small nations demonstrated how they were using information and communication technology to do exactly what the Chief Minister described. The point I have always made is given the relative small population in Gibraltar and the compact nature of the community then e-government and e-democracy should be relatively easy to introduce here. Not only that but once up and running Gibraltar should then become a reference point across Europe and the wider world of these very technologies.
What we are seeing is Gibraltar pushing itself out from its traditional border, promoting itself beyond its traditional alliances. Whilst these alliances remain important Gibraltar’s place amount the OT world leaders and at the forefront of the development of e-government is what marks the future.