[WATCH] Simon Busuttil: 'Here and now budget' that ignores future needs

Leader of the Opposition says that the government lacks vision and is not doing enough for the country's future needs

Opposition leader insists 'no contradiction' in energy price reduction demands
Opposition leader insists 'no contradiction' in energy price reduction demands
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses press conference following his address to parliament (Photo: Chris Mangion/MediaToday)
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses press conference following his address to parliament (Photo: Chris Mangion/MediaToday)

In a press conference held outside parliament following the opposition’s budget reaction, Simon Busuttil said that the PN had presented its vision for the country. A vision of a country where everyone can succeed and one of a country that is able to be there for its citizens when most needed.

Busuttil outlined what he said were the most important points of his budget reaction, and the PN’s plan for the country. He said that a PN government would revoke the €360m bank guarantee given to Electrogas, and promised to instead offer a guarantee to start-ups that have good ideas. Busuttil also said that in the coming weeks the PN would be publishing a policy document on retail outlets and would also be launching a consultation process on a policy document about the environment.

A PN government, he said, would carry out an investigation into all contracts negotiated by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi and would also have no choice but to remove the LNG tanker, if in the coming weeks, the government does not do enough to allay people’s fears regarding its safety. He added that a PN government would adopt the method used by Caritas to determine the line below which people are considered to be living in poverty and would ensure that no person is allowed to fall below this line. Moreover, he said that the PN would commit itself to purchasing electricity at the cheapest possible rate, even if this meant using only the interconnector.

Asked by this newspaper whether the PN will be publishing any studies or reports that can back up the opposition’s claim that electricity purchased through the interconnector is the cheapest option, Busuttil said that the information was already easily available and that from next year, if the government were to only buy electricity from the interconnector, it would save €95 million when compared to the cost of using natural gas.

On whether he would commit himself to increasing the minimum wage, Busuttil said that he would keep an open mind and that it was not as simply a matter of deciding to implement an increase, adding that studies and discussions needed to take place before this could happen.

Earlier Busuttil gave his reaction to last week’s budget in Parliament and reiterated his assertion that the budget was a cosmetic one that lacked a long-term vision. He said that a Nationalist government would have based its budget on four pillars: an economy for the people, social justice, better quality of life and good governance.

He criticised the government for not creating enough opportunities for those who were still studying and not preparing for an increasingly old population. He said it was a ‘here-and-now budget’ that did not look towards the country’s future needs.

Busuttil also said that it was not true that a PN government would lay off public sector workers adding that the Labour Party was using the same lie it had come up with back in 1987. He also criticised the government for “once again flirting with excise duty” and "making it more expensive to have a shower" – referring to duty placed on certain personal care and cosmetic products.

The leader of the opposition also criticised the government for not positioning Malta as an alternative to Britain in the wake of its impending exit from the EU and for not doing enough to establish new industries that would generate economic growth.

On employment, he said that many people, especially those working in the manufacturing industry, were not managing to make ends meet and that statistics have shown that an increase in full-time workers seeking a part-time job. He also criticised the government for bringing up the minimum wage a few days after it had the opportunity to do something about it.

Shifting to energy, Busuttil said that a PN government would “revoke” the €360 million Electrogas loan guarantee and would instead “create guarantees for those who have ideas.”  He also said that the government had disappointed everyone by refusing to reduce electricity tariffs despite the fact that the price of oil has fallen regularly over the past years. 

Busuttil said it was also a lie that the government needed a new power station to reduce energy tariffs because it was now evident that the reductions in tariffs would come from the interconnector. He added that he could not understand why the government had agreed to buy electricity from Electrogas at 9c6 per unit when the cost of purchasing electricity through the interconnector would be between 3c and 6c.

“A Nationalist government would commit itself to buying electricity from the cheapest source,” he said.

Busuttil also hit out at a 40-day period that the Environment and Resources Authority has allocated for public consultation on the new power station adding that the PN had engaged a team of experts to study the 15,000-page report claiming that in this way, at least residents' voices would be heard.

“I am now in a position to reveal that in the case of an emergency the report mentions the evacuation of residents and workers however we do not know how this evacuation will take place because there is no mention of a plan,” said Busuttil.

Busuttil then turned to corruption and problems of conflict of interest within the government and even the Office of the Prime Minister. He once again reiterated that it was unacceptable for chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to still hold his position.

“These things should not happen in a country like Malta, a country that is in the EU. They may be acceptable in a country like Panama, but not Malta.”

Busuttil said the Panama scandal would not go away, irrespective of how hard the government tried. He said the only way for the country to move forward was for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri to be removed. He also said that given the Prime Minister’s refusal to take action, Muscat was now the problem and should step down.

“Under a PN government, an investigation into all contracts negotiated by this government will take place," he said.

The leader of the opposition questioned why the Prime Minister was so quick to order an investigation into the Beppe Fenech Adami affair, yet it had looked into why the Police had not investigated Konrad Mizzi’s role in the Panama Papers, or why there was no investigation into the medical visas scandal, the Gaffarena scandal and the Café Premier scandal.

Busuttil concluded by saying that the people deserved government with a social conscience and one that really improves people’s quality of life. 

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