Government does not really intend to go for gas - Muscat
MEPA and oil scandal dominate Labour’s campaign meeting at Pieta.
30 January 2013, 12:00am
Echoes of the ongoing commissions-for-oil scandal spilt over into this evening's Labour campaign event at Guardamangia, which was otherwise dominated by the PL's proposals for MEPA reform.
Asked how MaltaToday's revelations of commissions paid on oil procurement by Enemalta may reflect on government, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said that he would rather not comment politically at this stage, but leave the police conduct their investigations in peace "because that's what seriousness demands".
However, he admitted being concerned to discover that government was paying €360 million a year on oil - equivalent of roughly €1 million a day - and that there were allegations of kickbacks on regular payments of such proportions.
All this took place within a context, Muscat added: elaborating how government had passed up three separate opportunities (including one to lay a gas pipeline for free) to convert Malta's energy regime to one that runs on natural gas. Instead, it opted to retain an oil-powered system throughout.
Quoting a recent article by former Enemalta manager Joe Pace, Muscat also raised the possibility that government's energy policy choices had been influenced by a powerful lobby of oil importers.
More controversially, he questioned government's present commitment to a pipeline - arguing that the recently launched PN manifesto, despite being costed, made no mention of any funds allocated for this project.
Assuming that the cost of a pipeline would run into hundreds of millions - Muscat specified a figure of €700m - he added that even if €500 million were fronted by the EU, government would still have to fork out the remaining €200 million. Yet no such allocation appeared anywhere in its programme.
It is clear, he said, that government does not really intend to go for gas after all.
Nor was this the only omission from the manifesto, he said. Air Malta was likewise absent - and referring directly to newly elected PL deputy leader Louis Grech (the former Air Malta chairman was sitting right behind him) he addressed the airline's employees directly, claiming that the PL's "roadmap" featured clear proposals to place Air Malta back on its feet.
However, he reserved his strongest criticism of government to its handling of the MEPA reform, which Muscat described as "the most sensational failure" of Gonzi's administration to date.
Repeatedly stressing the need for 'checks and balances' throughout the planning stage, Muscat reiterated his pledge to split the planning and environment departments between two separate authorities, and to involve direct representation for nominees submitted by a conglomerate of environmental NGOs.
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