[WATCH] ‘Labour is a PR, not PL government’ - Adrian Delia gives reaction to Budget

Opposition leader Adrian Delia delivered his reaction to Budget 2019 this evening in Parliament, outlining his vision for a country with lower taxes, better security and ‘intelligent migration’

Adrian Delia delivering his Budget 2019 reaction
Adrian Delia delivering his Budget 2019 reaction

‘Intelligent migration’ is Adrian Delia’s new buzzword as he outlined the Nationalist Party’s position on foreign workers in his reaction to Budget 2019 this evening.

The Opposition leader dedicated a significant part of his speech to what he said were the problems created by population growth, driven by a sudden increase in foreign workers.

Hitting out at the government for lacking a plan and a vision, Delia insisted the importation of foreign workers from countries with low wages was creating downward pressures on the wages of Maltese workers and upward pressures on rental and property prices.

He insisted this model of economic growth, disguised by the term cosmopolitan flaunted by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was unsustainable.

The rapid increase in population was creating pressure on public services and the country’s infrastructure, Delia warned.

He said the PN wanted “intelligent migration” that attracted skilled foreigners to work in value added industries.

“In this way, they would help raise wages for the Maltese through the transfer of skills,” Delia said, adding everything had to be done according to a plan.

And in those sectors where foreigners were required, such as carers for the elderly, Delia insisted they should be able to communicate in a language the patients could understand.

“Government’s way of doing things is haphazard: Shoot first, ask questions later,” Delia added.

On security, people in certain localities were feeling unsafe, Delia said, hitting out at government for only including Marsa as an afterthought in its plan to introduce facial recognition CCTV in Paceville.

He also criticized the fact that police stations were not open in many localities.

Delia said the government was a public relations entity that boasted about the successes of previous administrations and no longer cared about workers, low-wage earners and the middle class. “This is a PR government, not a PL government,” he said.

GDP alone not enough

The Opposition leader insisted that measuring success through GDP growth alone was not enough. The overall wealth of the nation did not necessarily translate into increased personal wealth of all members of society, Delia said.

“If all MPs in this House had a total income of €2 million, the average would work out at €30,000 each. But the truth is that there are people on that side of the House with incomes of €60,000 and €70,000 and others on this side with incomes of €20,000… the averages do not reflect reality,” Delia said to jeers from the government benches.

He then ploughed on by saying that if billionaire Bill Gates were to join the House, the total income would explode, as would the average but this would make no difference to what everyone else had in his pocket.

“Prime Minister, your Finance Minister is calculating economic success without taking care of people’s suffering… let us not only look at statistics,” Delia warned.

He said a sustainable economic model would help increase money in people’s pockets and “not just a number of pockets”.

Delia said government’s lack of vision was creating more inequality, failing to address environmental degradation and neglecting the education and health sectors.

He accused the government of getting its priorities wrong. “Next year the government will rake in €350 million more in taxes but the expenditure on social services will only increase by €50 million… these are wrong priorities,” Delia charged.

Russian roulette with reputation

Delia also dedicated part of his speech to the financial services sector and the battering it has received over the past few years.

He ridiculed Finance Minister Edward Scicluna for being surprised at having a taxi driver in South America recall Malta for corruption.

Delia said it should have come as no surprise because the minister had two people from the government open secret companies in Panama. “I am surprised that he [Scicluna] has not yet realized the gravity of the situation… I am surprised the finance minister did nothing when his colleague was caught with a company in Panama.”

'The buck stops with you, Mr Prime Minister,' Delia said, as he criticised the government for playing Russian roulette with Malta's reputation
'The buck stops with you, Mr Prime Minister,' Delia said, as he criticised the government for playing Russian roulette with Malta's reputation

He accused the government of playing Russian roulette with the country’s reputation by opening the economy to dubious characters and banks.

“The chickens are coming home to roost… the buck stops with you, Mr Prime Minister,” Delia insisted.

He also hit out at the Individual Investor Programme – the sale of citizenship to wealthy foreigners – insisting the government was scant on information when it said the country would register a surplus without the injection of funds from the scheme. 

“But is government also excluding from its calculations the indirect income from the IIP, which was coming under heavy scrutiny from international agencies?”

An economy for everyone

Delia closed off his speech by listing several priorities a future PN government would focus on to create an economy “that served everyone”.

He said greater investment in research and innovation was required and start-up companies would be helped to grow.

He called for industry and service clusters to create communities to attract talent and investment.

The PN in government had cut taxes, and this must continue by lowering the highest threshold for a greater cohort of people and businesses.

Delia said the upskilling of workers in sectors that were likely to die, was important to ensure they could find decent jobs.

Delia called for more residential homes for the elderly. He also proposed extending free public transport to all young people up to the age of 25 and urged government to pay back the extra money charged on utility bills for thousands of consumers.

He also called for greater security across the island, with emphasis on trained police officers to tackle domestic violence.

Delia said planning rules and environmental protection could no longer remain a "chewing gum" that destroyed the little green areas Malta had.

He said it was his vision to have a country that put people "first and foremost".

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