Budget 2024: Government focused on economy of population growth not quality, Grech says

Opposition leader Bernard Grech says government is ‘lacking in every sector’ in Budget reaction speech

Opposition leader Bernard Grech (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Opposition leader Bernard Grech (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said government is lacking in every sector, and is focusing on an economy of quantity rather than quality.

“This was a Budget which has failing to address the problems government has created. This is a government which has no vision,” Grech said. “This is a government which is tired out.”

Grech was delivering his reaction to the budget presented by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana last week.

The Opposition leader’s speech constantly made reference to government’s “economy of unsustainable population growth”, saying the Nationalist Party has the credentials to lead the country forward.

‘A country riddled with debt’

Speaking on debt, Bernard Grech echoed last year’s Budget reaction speech, saying government’s economic policy is creating unsustainable levels of debt.

“We are en route to reaching a debt of €10 billion. That translates to €4 million a week,” he said.

Nationalist MPs listen on from the Opposition benches (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Nationalist MPs listen on from the Opposition benches (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

He quoted the Finance Minister Clyde Caruana in saying that debt by this administration has will total more than all the previous governments put together. He said debt is projected to increase to around 60% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Government has riddled the country with debt, instead of investing in different sectors.”

“You chose to fatten your pockets, or as one of you said: ‘to pig out’,” he said, as he pointed to the government benches, making reference to now independent MP Rosianne Cutajar’s leaked Whatsapp chats with Yorgen Fenech.

A health sector which got worse’

When speaking on the health sector, Grech came out swinging, quoting the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Steward Healthcare’s appeal against the decision to annul the hospitals privatisation deal, a number of times.

“You gave €400 million to foreigners, and the service has not improved but worsened,” he said.

He also slammed the Prime Minister’s statements in saying that it was government who rescinded the contract.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

“The contract was not rescinded by you, but by the courts, through the PN’s insistence and then leader of the PN Adrian Delia,” he said

He said the Labour government’s motives were not of improving the health sector, but to “fill their pockets.”

This he said contrasts with the Opposition’s vision of continued investment in the sector.

Our vision is one of state-of-the-art investment. Investment in the most modern healthcare equipment, which assists in the best way our professionals. Professionals like doctors and nurses who carry out the vocation they have chosen,” he said.

‘A summer of blackouts’

Speaking on the energy sector, Grech made reference to the series of power cuts experienced during last summer’s heatwave, saying it showed the government’s lack of preparedness on the sector.

“This summer people suffered due to the government's incompetence and lack of investment,” he said.

He stated government’s failure in the sector reinforces the PN’s vision for the interconnector.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Grech also briefly laid out the party’s vision on energy, promising accelerated investment in Malta’s distribution network, as well as a system of data analysis gathered through smart meters.

He also promised incentives towards sustainable and energy efficient infrastructure, while pledging to open the distribution of energy to the private sector.

‘A cost-of-living crisis’

Speaking in the House, Grech said government has failed to address the rising cost-of-living, stating thousands are struggling to make ends meet.

Grech pointed out that inflation in the country has surpassed the EU average, resulting in Maltese households grappling with the escalating financial strain.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Speaker Anglu Farrugia (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

He added, “Despite this situation, the government remains unresponsive and shows no willingness to tackle the challenge.”

“Even Alex Agius Saliba lost trust in his Prime Minister and noted that many Maltese go to Sicily to shop because they believe prices are more reasonable than in Malta. Life in Malta is 30% higher than in places like Sicily,” he said

‘A vision of hope and courage’

Grech concluded by speaking of the PN’s vision for Malta, saying it was one of “hope, courage, integrity and transparency”.

“Economic renewal is our commitment, we will support an economic journey of transformation, an economic vision that values high-quality jobs over quantity,” he said, once again saying it will not be based on the importation of foreign workers, but investment in people and businesses.

“We are determined to safeguard democracy. Our democracy has to be protected and we are not afraid to do this,” he said.