The recent announcement by the GSD Government that there will be a "free" bus service to the beaches during the official summer bathing season, no doubt, will be seen as good. A popular move by a governing party that is facing elections within 18 or so months but fast losing popularity. This perk comes after so much criticism has been leveled against it recently on the subject of beaches.
That there may be a need for an additional bus service to the beaches is not in issue but, a slightly deeper consideration of the move to make this service "free", does raise a few questions. First, nothing is free. The buses cost money. Their added use causes them to deteriorate and lose value for which no reward is being received. They need to be maintained and repaired. They need fuel. They need drivers and support by other manpower. All of these cost a substantial amount of money. This cost has to be met from government revenues, which in turn, in the main, is raised from us by direct and indirect taxation.
This all means that a few are being benefited by the many for that few to enjoy what is a leisure pursuit. Those few will be over the moon. Others will ask why should anyone complain? Well, aside from the suspicion that this move may be one more desperate ploy to gain electoral popularity, should public moneys really be used for this purpose whilst there is such a call for it for more worthy social causes?
Please do not compare free bus trips commonly described as park and free bus rides into a busy town centre. First these provide savings on roads, traffic management, congestion and other indirect cash benefits. Secondly the parking attached to such schemes usually costs enough to cover the free bus service and parking charges.
For example, Gibraltar's social services, whilst better resourced and funded by the GSD Government than ever before, are still under-resourced and in need of money. Gibraltar has its social cases and issues. It is a small territory with a smaller problem (in numbers) than other larger countries. It should be possible to provide more fully, not to say fully, for the less adequate members of society. It should be possible to have a more targeted and tailor-made social care system that gives specific help to specific cases, rather than a system that fits all sizes. Money provided by all (and visitors to Gibraltar who pay indirect taxes) could be better deployed to help those in need than used for non-essential benefits for a minority.
Fewer "free" bus rides (save for the elderly who have paid their dues but should be paying taxes on their pensions); our governments should concentrate on making better the lives of the more needy and less fortunate amongst us. We all know that we Gibraltarians are renowned for charitable giving and for having a generous spirit. Application of tax moneys for such social purposes has the added benefit that, if it is explained properly, people will understand the good to which their money is being put to. This will help to convince electors to vote for a government that has applied money to this end in greater numbers than one that spends money on unnecessary perks for a few: such an administration would be demonstrating a greater social conscience.
And guess what, if people walked a little more in Gibraltar it would solve many a traffic problem and we would all be healthier.