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You ask the questions

We gave readers the opportunity to put a question to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Here are the 23 questions we chose from readers who have won a free subscription to MaltaToday’s digital edition for a year

17 March 2014, 9:49am
Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat
How can someone who is not in politics but who has specialised know-how in certain areas – such as health – contribute their ideas to government?  – Joseph Brincat

We are always open to new ideas and ways on how to improve things in various ministries and departments. Admittedly, there no formal structure which is able to receive such ideas in place as of yet. We should consider using social media better to build a forum of ideas.

How do the Grievance Boards around all Ministries decide on the cases submitted? Is this government determined to work on prevention of substance abuse rather than tackle only care services? How would this government assure all taxpayers that all social benefits are being paid to those who genuinely need them? – Jareth Grima

1. Grievances Boards are expected to be cautious and expedient in the way they deal with cases.

2. It is our aim to tackle substance abuse in a more proactive way.

3. In our first Budget for 2014 we have taken serious steps to this effect to ensure that people are less dependent on social benefits, and making it more worthwhile to pursue work rather than rely on benefits. We want more people working and less people sitting down waiting for social benefits and hand-outs.

If you could change anything about your first year as Prime Minister, what would it be? – Dennis Apap

The citizenship by investment scheme should have been handled better.

When will we see some solid improvements on our roads’ infrastructure? – Nicolas Magro

The Transport Ministry has done considerable work on our roads and is working swiftly on long overdue projects such as Triq Diċembru 13, which will be opened for traffic in the coming days.

To improve the traffic situation, government has already launched its projects to have new junctions in Kappara and Marsa – both sites being two of the worst traffic bottlenecks on the island.

Stating concrete measures, what do you intend to do to implement transparent choices in the many nominations currently under your direct discretion (commitments on total disclosure for candidates, reform of the selection process based on publicly accessible CVs, independent grilling councils with political and non-political representation)? – Paul Salnitro

I would like to see a situation where choices of chairmen and other nominations are less at the discretion of politicians. It takes some time to change a culture and an inherited system of how persons are appointed in important positions for the executive to operate efficiently. But that is where I want to be in few years’ time.

Will you be able to implement the Pension Reform early, during this legislature? – Raymond Debattista

We have a commitment to continue with the Pension Reform, while not increasing retirement age. We believe that with more measures targeted at encouraging people to work, pensions can be sustainable. In our first Budget, we announced that Third Pillar pensions will be incentivised and €1.5 million have been allocated for this purpose.

Prime Minister, you have spoken of your wish to see Malta as being the best in Europe. What outcomes would lead you to determining that Malta is indeed the best in Europe? – Matthew Bugeja

Recent economic forecasts from the European Union show that we are the best in Europe with regards to job creation, among the countries with least unemployment, among the top ten economic performers and on steady grounds when it comes to deficit targets. Are we there yet? Of course not, we have to improve standards and introduce steady long-term reforms in our political and social systems. Such things take time, but we are on course with reforms in our judicial system and working on a Constitutional reform, which should modernise and improve the way our country operates.

Could you please consider restricting learners practising for their driving license from having their lessons at inconvenient times like traffic rush hours? – Duncan Pace           

It is a proposal worth considering after serious consideration by Transport Malta and only after proper consultation with practitioners.

Could you please consider legalising prostitution, which would render it a service effected only be clean women who would undergo regular health check-ups?

This service would also have to be provided against a VAT receipt.

It would reduce the amount declared unemployed, as well as the risk of transmitted illnesses, do away with money laundering, and remove the need for sex workers to loiter on the street. – Duncan Pace

We have no plans to legalise prostitution.

When will the current PL government – and specifically Joseph Muscat as the current PM – address the undemocratic electoral law, so that the overdue national threshold of 2% to 5% may be enacted – or is it in the Prime Minister’s vested interest to retain the PL/PN duopoly? – Dion Borg

It is a matter for the Constitutional Convention to discuss. 

When are we going to see the first politician go to jail for corruption? – Jason Gatt

This government has certainly taken steps to eradicate political corruption from the island. One of the first measures which were taken by my government was to remove time-barring on politicians. This means that any political caught in an act of political corruption is liable to prosecution. In few months we also introduced the Whistleblower’s Act. Both were electoral pledges which we delivered swiftly and are part of our plans to fight corruption at all levels.

Do you still have time to play with your kids and/or go to the gym? – Ian Farrugia  

I still go to the gym as often as I can during the week, while ensuring that I get to spend time with Etoile and Soleil every day. Michelle and I wake the children up in the morning and have our usual routine: I dress them up for school and spend some time with them during breakfast. Saturday mornings are generally dedicated to the girls as I make time to accompany them for their extra-curricular activities.

Who gave you the advice that berthing the ship inside the harbour is better than berthing it outside of it? – Paul Mangion

It was not an advice. We have studies from top EU experts which clearly show that there are very limited risks with a floating LNG storage facilities.

Many young couples, some married and others who are living in rented accommodation, would like to buy their first home. However, they are struggling to save for the enormous deposits that the banks require them to have, before they will consider granting them a mortgage. My question is: will the Labour government set up a fund to help these young couples become first time buyers? Does he think this will not only help them but also give impetus to a much-maligned property market? – Angela Rickett

We have launched schemes for first-time buyers and are considering further schemes which would help first-time buyers to own their property. We have to be innovative in housing, while finding ways of making better use of unused property.

Retail business was very slow in these past three months. What are your comments? – Bernard Cauchi

The economy is growing at double the pace when compared to 2011 and 2012, while the 2014 Budget is aimed at improving people’s purchasing power. I am positive that the retail sector will be reaping the benefits of our incentives. However there are other realities which may be having an impact on retail and this could be the internet trade.

All elections have had a theme and a focus. As an example, the last election was focused on either a change in direction, while the PN sang of greener pastures after a lot of stormy weather. In four years’ time, what do you expect it to be? – David Agius  

Twenty-four hours are a long time in politics. Though I expect that we will be campaigning on government’s achievements, particularly after we would have completed our roadmap.

What will happen to those who have testified in the oil scandal? Will justice be dealt? – Mary Grace Agius

This government is committed to get to the bottom of this biggest political corruption scandal ever. We are leaving no stone unturned.

Why do you never wear red neckties? – Matthew Buttigieg

I am colour-blind. I do not choose my ties.

These past three years I have never received any Inc. Tax to pay now all of a sudden they send me a bill of €4,000 with €650 interest that I have to pay. I went to Income Tax (IRD) to arrange as regards payment and when I asked why they did not send them yearly, I was told that they had instructions not to send them. Now I am a pensioner with €650 a month to my name, and I have to pay €300 a month as a rent. – Alfred Zarb

I will follow-up your case with the relevant authorities.      

If an unlikely accident in Marsaxlokk takes place in the future, how would you live with yourself? – John Caruana   

I am relying on top experts, not politicians who are using scaremongering tactics to score political points.

Do you believe that enough is being done to create jobs? – Johan Tanti

I am never one to rest on my laurels and I am surely aware that more needs to be done to make ensure that we have more people working. We have taken measures to attract investment through expression of interest in various sectors and expect the country to reap the results in the coming months.

Would it be possible to view parliamentary debates on National TV in the near future? – Charlie Flask

I believe that there are alternative ways which should be set up for everyone to follow Parliament Debates, such as live streaming on the Internet. Measures have been taken by Parliament to stream committees such as the Public Accounts Committee. This positive experience should be replicated for plenary sessions.

Since the introduction of free childcare how many women started registering for work? – Dennis Axisa

Free childcare will start in April.