Budget 'good but dishonest' - Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivers his reply to 2014 Budget.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses the House of Representatives.
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses the House of Representatives.

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Opposition leader Simon Busuttil tonight vowed to criticise the 2014 Budget in an honest manner, in his reply to the budget presented last week. But in acknowledging that the budget included positive measures, the PN leader said the Labour government's first budget was "dishonest."

He called on the governmnet to endeavour to create jobs, keep its hands off the country's identity - referring to the sale of citizenship - and govern the country seriously.

Noting that upon being elected PN leader he pledged to lead a constructive opposition, Busuttil said he always followed the maxim of honesty being the best policy. "Honesty means calling s spade a spade. In my life I have always followed this maxim, even when the truth might have hurt me. Therefore, I will not change ways today."

Acknowledging that the 2014 Budget had been received positively, as the MaltaToday survey published on Sunday showed, Busuttil said the budget delivered many measures which were either "expected or promised."

"It includes various measures which are positive and which we approve of. I welcome positive measures and I will not shy away from saying so. Therefore, whoever thought I would come here and claim that the budget was a bad one will be disappointed. Additionally, once the government has introduced positive measures, we will watch the government and make sure these are implemented."

However, Busuttil also described the budget as "dishonest", saying it had concealed the negative aspects while highlighting the positive measures. 

"It is a dishonest budget because it omits many things that government should have included to paint a clear picture. It is a budget concealed in a pretty dress to look good. It is a budget that only included what the people wanted to hear. The government presented a budget to gratify itself. It is a populist budget."

He added that he expected government to be more courageous following its big electoral victory, and present a budget which was "completely its own and truthful."

However, the government opted for a budget which reflected reality only partially and which "only told the people what they wanted to hear."

For these reasons, the opposition would shoulder its responsibility and expose the truth, Busuttil said. He added that the devil is in the detail and the opposition would reveal what the real budget holds.

Pointing out that the budget was nothing but a pretty facade which lacked transparency and accountability. Slamming the government for spending big to publicise the budget through billboards, television ads and the marquee set up outside Parliament in Valletta, he accused the government of giving more importance to marketing than substance. 

He went on to accuse prime minister Joseph Muscat of practicing "soap opera politics," bringing a wry smile to Muscat's face. 

"So what really lies behind this pretty facade? What stands behind this supposedly transparent budget? What stands behind this masquerade?" Busuttil asked. 

Answering his own questions, Busuttil said: "Firstly the budget was a good one because you inherited a sound economy which enabled you to deliver the goodies."

He added that a number of positive measures were only possible because of the PN administration which has laid solid foundations and initiated a number of measures which the government was now continuing.

Describing it as a budget of "continuity," the PN leader asked why positive measures first introduced by the former Nationalist administrations were voted against and shot down by the then Labour opposition. 

Describing Labour's turnaround on income tax, pensions and other measures which the PN had first introduced as a "Damascene conversion," Busuttil said he took delight in seeing the Labour Party accepting and agreeing with measures introduced by the PN.  

He added that the budget was an electoral budget because the Labour Party wanted to win next year's European elections "at all costs" and accused Muscat of focusing on "campaigning instead of governing."

Busuttil also asked the government to come clean on how much the budget will cost the country's coffers and who will pay for it. Admitting that people's demands to cut the electricity bills were understandable, he said the government was also responsible from giving an explanation.

"A flurry of measures require a lot of money to pay for them, regardless of how positive they are," he said, adding that these measures will not be paid for by economic growth, projected at 1.7% by government.

"A responsible government would explain; how much the measures will cost, who will pay for them, whether any new taxes would be introduced to make good for them, who will pay these taxes and if no taxes will be introduced will any cuts be carried out in other sectors."

He also asked whether the Labour government would create further debts to please the electorate and win the European elections. He warned that spending "beyond our means" could lead the country to face the same problems faced by countries which had to introduce severe austerity measures.

"The truth which the finance ministry concealed is that the positive measures cost money and the country does not have the money to pay for them."

He added that the government made amends by increwasing taxes, cutting costs to the detriment of the people and indebted itself further. However, the government "kept mum and concealed it all," the PN leader said. 

The increase in taxation was in breach of the electoral promise Labour made not to increase the weight of taxation on families, Busuttil said, adding that the Budget increased the tax burden by €170 million which translated into a €400 increase per capita. He added that accusations levelled at the opposition of being incorrect because taxation would only increase through existent taxes exposed Labour's hypocrisy because it never acknowledged it in previous years. 

Explaining that the opposition's arguments echoed those presented by previous Labour oppositions, Busuttil said: "Everyone remembers your past reactions. We are now giving you some of your own medicine."

Moreover, he said that the increase in new taxes amounted to €72 million, as shown in the 2014 Budget estimates.

On expenditure cuts, Busuttil said the government introduced cuts in primary health care, programmes on obesity, dementia and rare diseases, the blood bank and education.

The government, Busuttil added has also cut the budget allocated to persons with disability, local councils and sport.

The debt level would also increase by €550 million in three years, despite the government's criticism previous criticism.

"This from the same party which took so much offence at the debt levels in previous years. Now that it is in government, unbelievably debt is no longer anathema. As long as it spends money and it looks good, debt is no longer a problem."

He also shed doubts on the government's projections which he said contradicted those published by the European Commission. While the government was projecting a 2.7% deficit, the commission was projecting a 3.4% deficit, a €50 million difference, Busuttil said.

The situation is set to get worse, he said, with the commission projecting a 3.5% deficit compared to the government's 2.1% projection for 2014.

In real terms, the PN leader said, the budget would be paid for by the people through increased taxation, reduced services and bigger debt levels.  

On the government's plans to reduce the energy tariffs, Busuttil said that it was positive that power tariffs had been reduced, admitting that the previous PN administration had erred when tariffs were raised in 2009.

Acknowledging that the PN paid a heft price for failing to increase the tariffs gradually, Busuttil said the Labour government was dishonest in claiming that bills would go down by 25% for everyone. The government said that low consumers would get a 35% cut, but these people already got a 25% cut through the eco-reduction, he said. 

Shooting down the government's plans to reduce bills by 25%, Busuttil said that the people should keep this year's bills to see next year whether the cut would be by a quarter.

He added that the government was claiming that  the cuts would cost €25m but €21.4 million would be raked in by the government in licensing and petrol increases. Moreover, that the government was saving €1m a week in oil purchase costs thanks to the new BWSC power plant, translating in €52 million a year, "so why is the government not giving immediate cuts, and bigger ones?" he asked. 

Busuttil said that while the budget catered well for persons who will enter the labour market, the PN leader said that job creation measures were completely absent and asked in what sectors wouldjobs be created and how these jobs would be created.

Addressing the prime minister directly, he asked: "How many jobs will be created in the next 12 months? How many new companies and factories will open? By how much do you intend to see the financial services, gaming, aviation and pharmaceutical sectors grow?"

On health, he accused minister Godfrey Farrugia of introducing fees in the health sector, citing the charges which IFV patients will be required to pay. This caused the government MPs to react by booing and loudly remarking that his claims were untrue.

He also said that after "abusing" of persons with disability during the electoral campaign, the Labour government had failed to address the sector in the budget. 

Describing the new citizenship scheme as "obscene," Busuttil insisted that the "Malta for all" electoral slogan was a blatant lie. While his MPs wave their passports in Parliament,  Busuttil said that the government "should be ashamed of itself."

Stressing that the opposition was against the scheme in principle, Busuttil said that the programme did not make any economic sense. He said the government was giving conflicting versions on how much it would rake in through the scheme, ranging from €15 million to €1 billion.

Regardless of how much money the government will earn from the programme, it put at risk the country's reputation.

Repeating that the government was "prostituting" the country, he said that Muscat could not make a difference between what was "moral and immoral."

Waving his passport, Busuttil said "the schme was an insult to George Borg Olivier and Dom Mintoff."

"If you dare touch our citizenship, you will find the people against you and you will find the Nationalist Party standing up for the people," Busuttil said, adding that the PN will participate in the monitoring committee and divulge the nemaes of applicants.

In his concluding remarks, Busuttil drew comparisons with previous budgets presented by the PN, Buusttil said that "while Nationalist administrations created new jobs, the Labour government had no plan, while Nationalist administrations created wealth, the Labour government is hell bent on spending."

He added that the Labour government had no long-term plan for the country but was only concerned with winning elections.

Spelling out his vision, Busuttil said that he believes in politics based on three principles, "a society which offers opportunituies to all, a society which helps the weak and safeguards the common good."

Adding that the bugdet failed to fulfil these criteria, he said "while I know what kind of society I want to live in, I do not know what kind of society the government wants."

He called on government to stop campaigning and start governing, adding that despite being a good salesman, Joseph Muscat should make an effort and become a statesman.

"You have no excuses. You are no longer the underdog. You have a comfortable majority, therefore govern."

By the now Simon the Boy Blunder is probably really missing his cushy, high paying job in Brussels. Being leader of a moribund party of dinosaurs must be quite exhausting. Your oxymoronic comment about the budget is a good indicator that you still have a lot of growing up to do. You're looking a lot more tired now than when you were frolicking in EUland. Or could it be that the machinations of the two heir presumptives is keeping you up at night?
Dishonest? Two weights two measures, anyone? Hidden remuneration increases? Warped statistics and suchlike? Over the top, and runaway projects' cost overruns? Hiding the ruinous local national financial situation via the bloating of public sector employment, and the gushing of the national debt (I would rather have had oil wells)? Dishonest???
Its one or the other Simon.... How can someone have faith in the man when all he does is confuse us with these statements. If I scratch my head anymore I'm going to loose my hair!
It is either good or dishonest. It cannot be both. How can two contradictions make a good? I cannot understand Dr. Busittil's raison d'etre.
"Explaining why he held the 2014 Budget as deceitful, Busuttil said that it concealed the negative aspects while highlighting the positive measures. ". Dr. Busuttil, isn't that what you did when you were advising EFA and us citizens about the EU. So you too were deceitful. Look at us now! Over €6 billion debt, scandal after scandal and we have to dish out thousands to help bail outs!
Jaqaw batut hafna fis-sommom u figuri matematici Simon? Ma semmix figura wahda li hi wahda! Possibli b'budget ta mijjiet ta estimi u somom ma kienx kapaci janalizza wahda? F'hafna hin mill-budget kien qisu qed jaghmel il-priedka tal-Milied: ikanta'nini la tibkix izjed' kien jonqsu!
Paul Sammut
Flok kritika serja, sobrija u teknika dwar finanzi smajna speech aktar xiraq ghall ma` xi xalata ma` Vitorin.
I find it heartwarming how, now that they're in the Opposition, the PN is now in touch with their social conscience.
Does a DISHONEST POLITICIAN go to Heaven? According to Simon Yes, you can de good but dishonest.
Hawwadni ha nifhmek! Dishonest jigiefieri qed isir it-tgerfix fix-xiri taz-zejt bhal ma kien isir tahtkom u bla misthija? Vera m'ghdnux xi jghid!
Meta Tonio Fenech tal-PN fil-budgets kollha li ghamel qatt u qatt ma lahaq il-miri li ipproggetta, dak kien dizonest ukoll? Haga wahda hija certa. Il-PN qatt ma stenna budget knock out bhal dan, allura se jkollu jitqanzah mhux ftit Simon biex johrog b'xi haga ta sura. Ammettu li dan huwa gvern ta veru u b'road map li twassal ghal gid lil kulhadd.