10 Lessons Gibraltar has learnt so far from the Coronavirus Crisis

In light of the current crisis, and to help us all get through these challenging times, we decided to bring back our ever popular newsletter – The Beneficiary- after 101 issues. Enjoy this special issue!

Here are 10 Lessons Gibraltar has learnt so far from the Coronavirus Crisis:

1. We have strong leadership and a responsible Government- no matter what side of the political spectrum you support, the Gibraltar Government and its Chief Minister have demonstrated that they can ‘get their act together’ and manage this emergency situation in a sensible, responsible and orderly manner. The decision to order lockdown of the elderly population at a relatively early stage has proven (so far) to be a key success factor in containing the spread of the virus and minimising the number of severe cases. Regular televised press conferences and updates have helped to keep the public calm and provided much needed confidence that there is an experienced team of Ministers and Officials that are able to navigate Gibraltar through this storm;

2. Our supply chain will work fine after Brexit- despite national borders severely restricting movement throughout the whole of Europe and beyond, including our own border with Spain, Gibraltar supermarkets have proved that they are able to continue to stock up with food items and other goods, and any temporary shortages were simply due to panic-buying. This will provide much comfort to those who feared that our supermarket shelves will remain empty once Brexit has been implemented. In fact, we couldn’t have asked for a better test-run to demonstrate the strength of our supply chains.

3. There is a listening ear on the Spanish side- we have seen support and open communication on the Spanish side, almost at any level of Government; from the Mayor of La-Linea to the Junta de Andalucía and the Spanish Foreign Minister- all willing to cooperate and fight the spread of the virus. The Frontier too has been operating fluidly and managed sensibly, allowing key workers into Gibraltar. Another evidence perhaps that Post-Brexit frontier fluidity will remain…?

4. The importance of tourism and the retail sector to our economy is huge- for a long time tourism and retail businesses have been feeling inferior compared to the finance and online gaming sectors, in the way Government is allocating its resources. The depressing and sad images of Gibraltar empty from visitors this week, the empty shops and restaurants, and half empty roads, even before the stricter self-isolation measures were put in place, showed us that without tourism many businesses and shops in Gibraltar will not survive. Tourism and retail is the cheerful soul of Gibraltar. Without it Gibraltar is just another small town at the periphery of Europe, not even sufficient to justify the flights to it. Hence, going forward, this sector should be prioritised in any post-Corona economic plans.

5. It is vital to have contingency plans and saving for a rainy day – both businesses and individuals have witnessed the importance of maintaining sufficient cash reserves to be able to keep their heads above water. Putting aside some funds for a rainy day, having a pension plan or other form of savings plan allow you to survive longer at times of crisis. Those companies who have prepared contingency plans and business continuity plans were the first ones to adapt to these challenging times and were able to continue to operate almost seamlessly.

6. We depend too much on Gibraltar’s 3 retail banks – even if the local banks are showing willingness to help businesses and individuals with emergency loans, they still have to go through their normal risk assessment processes and have various concentration risk ratios they need to adhere to. Hence, any lending will be slow and may not be sufficient to cater for all who will need it. It is important for Gibraltar as a whole, and for businesses and households particularly, to be able to access other sources of finance, and for Government to provide a regular loan guarantee scheme for businesses.

7. Gibraltar still has the Volunteering spirit – Gibraltarians are known for being charitable people and within days of the crisis we have already seen over 900 volunteers signing up, be it to assist GHA staff, deliver food to those in isolation, bring back unused medical equipment and raising money for various local causes. So nice to see this great spirit of volunteering!

8. e-Gov in Gibraltar exists! – Whether you believe in the saying “Where there is a will there is a Way” or “Necessity is the mother of Innovation”, the fact is that after years of promises from the Government that e-Gov is coming, finally it is possible to pay taxes and SI online, employment registration and other ETB certificates can be applied for electronically, parking permits are dealt with online, education is delivered via e-Learning sites and teacher-parent applications, and even some healthcare checks can be done online. While some will say this is basic e-Gov, we still say- Hallelujah!

9. We can be proud of our public sector workers- be it the GHA staff working round the clock at the forefront of the battle against COVID19, the Police, teachers and other Dept of Education staff, Gibtelecom, AquaGib and GibElec, GBC and many other public sector staff; they have all demonstrated that they are fully capable to operate effectively and quickly at a time of crisis and work shoulder to shoulder to keep Gibraltar going. They all deserve a big thank you and much appreciation.

10. Living in a small country has its advantages- the ability to be in close proximity to all amenities and work places even at a time when public transport is shut down is a great advantage. Being in a community where you know that every life matters is comforting. Living in a small country that is nimble and can rapidly adapt to new situations is advantageous. It is at time of crisis when we begin to realise how lucky we are to be living in Gibraltar, and not take everything for granted.

Wishing you all lots of health and keep safe!