[Live-blog] Simon Busuttil: 'Citizens deserve a government with a social conscience'

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivers the Nationalist Party’s take on Budget 2017, presented last week

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivering his reply to Budget 2017 (Photo: Chris Mangion/MediaToday)
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivering his reply to Budget 2017 (Photo: Chris Mangion/MediaToday)
21:35 Thank you for joining us this evening, we will be back tomorrow as the Prime Minister delivers his address to parliament at 6.30pm. Miriam Dalli
21:34 A press conference by Simon Busuttil is currently underway: a separate report will be uploaded. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave a brief comment to the press.
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21:12 Miriam Dalli
20:53 Bringing his address to an end, Busuttil said that the people deserve a government with a social conscience and which improves people’s quality of life. Miriam Dalli
20:51 “Under a PN government, an independent inquiry will be ordered on every contract and project that was led by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.”

Once again, Busuttil claimed that every time that the spotlight is turned on the government “stories appear in the media” to divert attention.

The government has appointed an inquiry following MaltaToday’s report into the CapitalOne police investigation – a story that was revealed by the newspaper along with a UK journalist. Busuttil once again stated that Beppe Fenech Adami had denied all.

Busuttil said the government should have opened inquiries to investigate all the scandals that underwent under these three years.

He then went on to raise a number of questions: “Is it true that the file passed on to MaltaToday was a police file? If true, how did it end up in the newspaper’s hands? Is it true that the file was requested in April? Is true that it was requested by an assistant police commissioner? The state’s tools are being used to intimidate the Opposition … to shut it up: this is a fascist act of a dangerous government which is not good for a democratic country.”

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20:42 “How is it even acceptable to have the Prime Minister’s chief of staff who keeps, one event after the other, getting caught up in conflict of interests? How is the chief of staff even essential in the sale of a private bank?” he said, referring to the sale of Banif Bank and the Prime Minister’s declaration when he thanked Keith Schembri.

On Panama: “This scandal will not go away, no matter how hard to try. The only way is to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. This is now stuck in people’s minds … a man told me that every time he sees Konrad Mizzi he imagines him wearing a Panama hat.”

Busuttil says that Joseph Muscat himself should resign after Mizzi and Schembri were caught with companies in Panama: “The problem is no longer called ‘Konrad Mizzi’ and ‘Keith Schembri’, but ‘Joseph Muscat’ – his failure to take action means that he is now an accomplice. Even Mizzi told the court that questions on the independent audit should be diverted to the Prime Minister.

“We don’t even know to whom E-grant belongs … but I know that we will get to know this in due time.”

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20:37 “If you disagree with this government, you will be targeted: they will remove your programmes from PBS; they will transfer you … they will be cruel with you. I promise that a government which I would lead will reverse these injustices and will make sure to punish those who are creating these injustices.” Miriam Dalli
20:35 “This government has introduced a mentality of corruption at all levels, in all sectors.”

He says that a resident of Family Minister Michael Farrugia’s district received a phone call asking whether they had “any recommendations”: “This is a corrupt mentality … it’s not a matter of laughter; In health? People waiting for medical imaging appointment receive phone calls from Castille informing them that their appointment has been pushed forward.”

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20:31 He says that a PN government would not take any unnecessary risks and would be ready to remove the gas tanker. Miriam Dalli
20:30 Busuttil hits out at the 40-day period the Environment and Resources Authority allocated for the public consultation on the new power station. The PN has engaged a team of experts to study the 15,000-page report “so at least, the residents’ voice is heard”.

“I’m now in a position to reveal that, in case of an emergency, entitled ‘external emergency plan’, the report mentions evacuation of workers and residents, but we do not know what the procedures are.

“We do not know which residents would be evacuated or what the plan is. There is a section that should focus on an emergency plan that is meant to be sent to residents, in case of an emergency. Instead, this plan that should be sent to residents is just an empty page.”

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20:24 On Maghtab landfill, Busuttil said that complaints on foul smells have been on the rise: “The smells are insufferable, after years where finally the Maghtab landfill was being properly managed. Just listen to the residents’ complaints.”

Busuttil said the PN would also publish an updated political vision on the environment.

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20:21 Busuttil once again urges the government to start working on tramways and says the two political parties should sit around a table and discuss the proposal. Miriam Dalli
20:20 The PN leader proposed that medicines for the elderly should be given for free; he also argued that qualify of life was not just about money but also on issues such as education: “There is no new vision for MCAST and the University.” He urged the American University of Malta not to take land from the people and said that he was hopeful that that the land could still be saved.

He criticised government’s partnership with Vitals Global Healthcare saying that public hospitals would belong to a company whose owners are unknown.

”We are the best in Europe, in obesity. This is becoming a serious problem for those suffering with obesity but also for the country. Why hasn’t the fight against obesity been made a priority?”

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20:17 Busuttil says “the Transport Minister has tried it all: encourages people to use the ferry, remove roads and so on … he also stopped the direct service of merchandise from Gozo to Sa Maison; instead now this has to go to Cirkewwa increasing vehicles on the road … the situation is worse: from 10 deliveries to five deliveries.”

He elicits laughter from the government benches after saying that “several salesmen are doing less deliveries” – the joke is based on his description of Muscat as “a salesman, selling passports”; he adds: “I don’t know how many deliveries our prime minister is doing.”

He says students are suffering too, many missing lectures because they arrive late.

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20:02 Backbencher Joe Debono Grech could be heard commenting “weren’t they the ones to introduce it?”: Busuttil has welcomed the government’s decision to reverse recent increases in social housing rent; the government blamed it on a a law introduced by the previous PN administration; tenants will be fully refunded for the increased costs they have paid as from 2013.

“A mother of three has contacted me, expressing her concern that the landlord has informed her that he wants to increase the rent; The family lives on her husband’s earnings, who earns €1,100.”

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19:54 “The government has failed the Caritas test: can you tell me whether a poor person will live better with just an annual €170 increase? Let’s agree on the red line, as legislators, to ensure that no Maltese citizen falls below that line.” Miriam Dalli
19:48 “It was also a lie to say that the government needed a new power station to reduce energy tariffs because it is now evident that the reductions are possible – and it is cheaper – to procure electricity through the interconnector.”

Busuttil says while government is bound to buy electricity from Electrogas at 9c6, the interconnector would cost between 3c and 6c.

“Isn’t it obvious that questions and suspicions are raised when one tries to understand why the government would bind itself to buy from a more expensive source, whilst switching off the interconnector?

“A Nationalist government would commit itself to buy electricity from the cheapest source.”

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19:43 Busuttil says that the price of oil has regularly gone down, meaning that further reductions should have been announced. “The government claims it was to give us stability … it is indeed giving us stability in high prices.”

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19:40 “Everyone was expecting the government to lower energy bills … it was such a big lie to say that the BWSC plant was a cancer factory – a lie proved by the fact that they sold it to the Chinese. Did you tell them that it was a cancer factory? Why is it still running on heavy fuel oil?” Miriam Dalli
19:37 Busuttil announces the publication of a new document by the Nationalist Party, focusing on shops: “This document will show how the Nationalist government would support retail outlets.” Miriam Dalli
19:36 The Opposition leader say a PN in government would “revoke” the €360 million Electrogas loan guarantee “and instead create guarantees to those who have ideas” Miriam Dalli
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19:31 Statistics show that there is an increase in the number of full-timers who are seeking a part-time job to keep up with the cost of living, Busuttil says. He lambasted the government for failing to reveal its position on minimum wage, and instead calling for a discussion days after the budget is presented. Miriam Dalli
19:28 Busuttil argues that the real wages of thousands of workers – mostly in manufacturing – is not enough to keep up with the cost of living. Miriam Dalli
19:26 “Panama scandals has forced companies to relocate away from Malta; others have refused to come here. Muscat’s hard-headedness is creating undue pressure on the financial services sector,” Busuttil said, keeping the firms unnamed. Miriam Dalli
19:25 The PN leader encourages the government to tap into FinTech – an economic industry composed of companies that use technology to make financial services more efficient. “In light of Brexit, France is already eying this industry – what is the government doing?” Miriam Dalli
19:22 Busuttil said it was “a total lie” to say that the PN in government would lay off public workers” “It’s the same lie the Malta Labour Party had come up with in 1987.”

“The government is also flirting with excise duty … a method which reminds us a lot of Alfred Sant … It has also taxed us more to shower … there must be some waste problem; trust me, that problem is not coming from this end.”

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19:19 In absolute terms, Malta’s debt has “increased drastically, almost €7,000 per family” – Busuttil forces Muscat and a number of ministers to shake their head in disbelief after he commented that the government “used percentages instead of numbers” to portray “an untrue picture of Malta’s debt”. Miriam Dalli
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19:13 Busuttil says it is “untrue” to say that Malta’s credit rating was raised for the first time in 20 years, and goes on to include Fitch amongst two credit rating agencies who had revised upwards the country’s rating. What the government had said was that Malta received its first upgrade, from Standard & Poor’s. Miriam Dalli
19:11 The PN leader says that the leadership of the budget should be built on four pillars: an economy for the people; social justice; a better quality of living and good governance. Miriam Dalli
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19:07 Busuttil insisted that the budget lacks a long-term vision: “Where is the roadmap that we have heard so much about? What possibilities are we giving to our students? How are we preparing for an increasing elderly population? It is a ‘here-and-now budget’ but not forward looking.”

He says that the Labour government was lucky, and the budget was possible because of “a good economic climate worldwide”.

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19:04 “Ideas should be shared … and that is what the opposition is doing. I am proud that we have managed to contribute from the opposition benches … just imagine what we can do from government.” Miriam Dalli
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19:01 Busuttil lists the ‘25%’ of measures from Budget 2016 that were not implemented; “This is a cosmetic budget which repeats several of last year’s budget … what’s new?” he says, to a strangers’ gallery full of PN supporters, candidates and officials. Miriam Dalli
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18:57 Taking the floor, the PN leader said that most people would be following his and Joseph Muscat’s session tomorrow, treating it as “a boxing match” and then assess who delivered the best blow.

It served as a preamble to the opening of his speech, explaining that his speech would be focusing on the people’s needs: “There is a pregnant mother who has written to the diabetes parliamentary committee, urging the government to provide her with a monitoring machine that helps her control her condition.”

Miriam Dalli
18:50 Good evening and welcome to our live-blog, where we will be following Opposition leader Simon Busuttil as he delivers his reaction to Budget 2017, presented last week by the Labour government.

Before the start of Busuttil’s address, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela briefed the House of Representatives on this morning’s plane crash at the Gudja airport. You can follow this in a separate report on maltatoday.com.mt

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