Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, with Small Businesses Minister Jason Azzopardi and PN candidates Therese Comodini Cachia and Gejtu Vella
Additional reporting by Jurgen Balzan
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi this morning invited journalists to look into the Opposition's claims it was making about the deficit in the past years and warnings that the government would fail to reach its financial targets.
Addressing the press at the Handaq Industrial area in occasion of the Independence festivities, Gonzi gave assurances that the government would reach its financial targets despite the deficit having spiralled out of control.
Official data released on Friday by the National Statistics Office showed Malta's structural deficit has reached an unprecedented €333.3 million in the first seven months of this year, €95.1 million more over the first seven months of 2011.
Additionally, the Central Bank's recent Quarterly Review lowered the 2012 GDP projections, saying that "additional fiscal consolidation measures may need to be taken" to reach the targets.
"Every year is a repetition of the same story: in March and June the Opposition accuses government of failing to reach its deficit target, then at the end of the year the Opposition is proven wrong," he said.
Gonzi added that if it was true that government had lost control of its targets, the first to intervene would be the European Union: "We are not only accountable to our country but also to the EU."
He said that the most important thing was to reach the deficit targets at the end of the year and not throughout the year: "I'm amazed by the Opposition's superficiality... isn't it obvious that the domestic economy has its cycles?"
The Prime Minister visited a number of workshops at Handaq together with small business minister Jason Azzopardi. As they toured the workshops, Gonzi and Azzopardi spoke briefly to the owners and workers and discussed the economic prospective in their respective fields.
However, the Prime Minister did not have much time for the journalists present. Gonzi only answered three questions and as journalists attempted to ask further questions, security personnel and his assistants whisked him into his car.
In a moment of pure hilarity, as Gonzi walked in a stone mason's workshop, he was greeted by the owner with Mary Spiteri's Tema 79 from the rock opera Gensna being played in the background. The song is often sung during Labour Party events as it commemorates Freedom Day.
Gonzi, who this morning was accompanied by new PN candidates Gejtu Vella and Therese Comodini Cachia, also accused Nationalist MPFranco Debono of lying after he reiterated that no negotiations had taken place days before the MP voted in favour of an Opposition motion that led to the resignation of home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici. He said it had been "unacceptable" for Debono to vote against government.
"Franco Debono must now face the consequences of his actions," he said, referring to the Nationalist Party's decision to ban the maverick MP from contesting the elections on a PN ticket. The MP now claims he was offered a chauffeured car and a staff of four lawyers as perks for his chairmanship of a parliamentary commitee, in the days leading up to the Opposition motion on Mifsud Bonnici.
Asked whether he was ready to accept Debono's "challenge", who is insisting he is in possession of a document which proves his claims, Gonzi said: "I have already answered Debono even though I was abroad."
Breaking the general political lull, Debono this week also filed a motion in parliament calling for the cessation of the use of heavy fuel oil firing the Delimara power station extension's turbines. Gonzi rubbished suggestions that this would create further instability, when asked whether Debono's motion will create further instability.
"This wording has been bandied around for the past four years, during a time where we managed to create jobs and our economy moved forward. Claims of 'instability' are emanated by the Opposition, who is wrong about this because my government is stable," Gonzi said.
He added that government's credentials were confirmed by international institutions.
"I don't want to run away from the fact that we faced internal problems within our party. However, like always, we will deal with these problems internally, in a democratic and free way."
Gonzi said the PN was addressing its problems without "any theatrics", "teaching others how serious politics should be done".