White Rocks sports village to be relocated to new site - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says budget proved government's credibility in his reply to Opposition leader Simon Busuttil’s speech on Budget 2014.

Joseph Muscat makes his case for Budget 2014 in the House
Joseph Muscat makes his case for Budget 2014 in the House

In a spirited speech, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tonight said that the 2014 Budget had proved that the "government  implements what it promises" and noted that this took the Opposition by surprise because "they normally do the opposite of what they promise."

Announcing a number of projects which were not included in the 2014 Budget, Muscat said that the shelved sport village at the White Rocks in Pembroke will be relocated to a new site and a fresh call for expressions of interest would be issued for the development of this prime site.

Plans for the €200 million development of the former White Rocks holiday complex into a sports village fell through after talks with a UK-based company stalled. Muscat said that the company which was interested in the developing a sport and retail village was told by the previous government that the project should be constructed on the prime-site, only for the project to fall through. 

He stressed that the people know where you stand with the government and said that the country trusts his administration.

Muscat said that his government is intent on creating wealth, jobs and economic growth. Describing the budget as "credible," he hit out at the opposition leader's "inability" to grasp the economic aspects of the budget.

In reply to accusations that the budget did not address job creation, Muscat added that Malta Enterprise approved 30 major projects involving foreign investment "and none of these companies are Brazilian," he quipped in reference to the infamous claim made by previous prime minister Lawrence Gonzi on the resettlement of multinational to Malta, which only opened a front office and move away a few weeks later last year.

The prime minister added that the 2014 Budget addressed all sectors of society, especially the middle class which was abandoned by previous PN governments. 

"This is a Budget which strikes a balance between economic growth and social needs. This is a government committed to wealth creation and the difference lies in how it is distributed fairly among all people - the well off, the low income people and the middle class, on which the country was built"

The budget presented last week was aimed at encouraging people to enter employment and the tax cuts included in the budget were aimed at reaching this goal, he said.

"We will award hard work and we will work the hardest of all," Muscat said, adding that the budget measures would steer people away from the trap of social welfare.

He also noted that the government had reduced the deficit below the 3% threshold in just eight months and slammed the opposition leader for failing to recognise the government's success in reining in the deficit which spiralled out of control under previous PN administrations. 

Pointing out the government's success in controlling unemployment, Muscat said that the EU commission was projecting the creation of 3,400 jobs next year, well above the 1,800 average under PN administrations.

He also noted that inflation levels were also falling, but greater efforts were needed because some hard working people were still finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Insisting that his government was pro-business, Muscat said that the private sector was the economy's motor and the creation of wealth depended on the success of business. Moreover, he noted the tourism records registered this year.

Slamming the opposition leader's "illogical and contradictory," reaction to the budget, Muscat said that the PN's reaction to the budget lacked serious economic analysis.

"This government has an economic plan," Muscat said, adding that the finance minister's abilities were an asset to his government.

Dissecting the opposition's criticism that the budget was an electoral one, aimed at winning the 2014 European parliament elections, Muscat said "I will not reply now, I will reply in next year's budget speech if everything goes to plan."

Describing PN leader Simon Busuttil's criticism as "childish," Muscat said that his government had not introduced any new taxes and the tax burden on the people was less than that of the last budget presented by the PN government.

"The government will rake in 21 million euros from increases in excise duties but in return we will give the people up to 60 million euros in new measures," Muscat said. 

He added that the PN had projected to rake in 26 million euros in taxes more than the budget presented last week projected. This was revealed by the financial projections presented by the PN in the electoral campaign.

"The opposition has zero credibility," Muscat said, adding that had the PN been in government they would have also increased the debt burden.

Reminding the opposition leader of his warnings that a Labour government would result in the country requiring a bail out, Muscat said that "instead I am here announcing reductions in the energy bills and the opposition leader was the one who asked for a bail out for his own party. If anyone lived beyond his means it was the Nationalist Party which has failed to pay its own employees for months."

 Describing Busuttil's criticism as "amateurish," the prime minister said opposition leader's speech was littered with inaccuracies and lies, Muscat said that contrary to what the PN leader said, the allocations to the National Commission for Persons with Disability, IT in schools, health programmes and local councils were increased.

Given Busuttil's economic ineptness, he could only resort to "personal insults," Muscat said. 

On energy, Muscat said that Enemalta was on a downward spiral before Labour took office and explained that through the government's agreement with the Chinese government the state utility was no longer a dead weight and would save thousands of jobs.

Comparing the opposition to Humpty Dumpty, Muscat said that "opposition's arguments and criticism of the government's energy plans broke into a thousand pieces."

He added that families consuming less than 2,000 units would enjoy the new reductions "over and above" the current 25% eco-reduction they currently enjoy.

On Busuttil's admission that the previous PN government was wrong in increasing energy tariffs in 2008, Muscat said "the opposition leader is not sorry for having introduced the increases but for not having introduced the increases gradually."

Muscat also shot down the opposition's electoral pledge to introduce night tariffs which he said auditors KPMG had clearly described an unfeasible. Moreover, the prime minister said the report commissioned by the former administration cost €15,000 and called on the opposition to pay the bill.

On health, Muscat said that the government had a long and strenuous road ahead of it to get the sector back on track.

Currently, 35 medicines were out of stock, down from 116 in April, Muscat said. "this does not mean that we will rest on our laurels. It's still a large number of out of stock medicines and we will do our utmost to bring the number down."

He added that upon embarking on his health review, former PN health minister John Dalli had encountered double payments for supplies at Mater Dei, supplies worth  €50 million which were never delivered and the confusion in administrative and management departments at the hospital.

"We have discovered up to €1 million in equipment which was totally forgotten and locked in a room," Muscat said.

Muscat said that he welcomed the opposition's initiative to have a bi-partisan approach in the health sector and insisted that the his doors were always open.

On the environment, Muscat said that he was prepared to discuss the sector with NGOs who recently announced a protest against over development.

"However, the opposition cannot expect to be credible in its criticism," Muscat said explaining that the controversial Mistra development could not be denied by MEPA because an outline permit was issued under the previous PN administration.

While slamming the opposition's "sudden" realisation of the problems facing the south of the country, Muscat announced the creation of a committee on the sustainable development of the south which will include the government, the opposition, the church and civil society.

On the controversial citizenship scheme, Muscat said he was still unsure what the opposition's position was. "I respect whoever is against the programme but it is still unclear what the opposition's stand is."

In a somewhat murky criticism of the opposition's stand, Muscat said that under PN administrations had approved up to 7,000 citizenship applications in previous years.

On the opposition's accusation that the company chosen to run the Individual Investment Programme (IIP), Henley & Partners might have a close relationship with the Labour Party, Muscat revealed that former finance minister Tonio Fenech had signed a testimonial praising the company's work and praising their "unrivalled" expertise in their advise on residence and citizenship.

On the opposition's threat to repeal the programme when in government, Muscat quoted the Attorney General's recommendations that the removal of citizenships would "run into serious Constitutional problems."

He added that if the opposition would one day repeal the citizenships granted, it would have to introduce new taxes to pay for the hefty damage suits it would face.  

On education, Muscat said he was surprised by the opposition's silence on stipends, adding that his government would "increase stipends next year, the year after and the year after again."

Muscat also "challenged" society to judge whether drug laws were just and hinted that the government was prepared to decriminalise drugs. Admitting that he was "torn" on the issue given that he was a parent, Muscat said that the issue should not be politicised. 

The prime minister also announced a number of extra-budgetary measures, including the shelved White Rocks sport village project which he said would be moved. Moreover he said the government would issue an expression of interest for a new yacht marina at Sa Maison which would create new jobs. Another project on the cards, is a new car park in Valletta. 

Yesterday, Muscat had a field day! He must have raised his personal ratings by 15/20%. I felt sorry (not really) for Xmun. There he was, squirming in his seat, being taught a lesson he will never forget. Xmun, if you want to stick around, surround yourself with far better prepared advisors and deputies than presently. You could not have done a greater disservice to PNers than your "babaw" childish speech (OK for convicted lifers, I suppose, but nauseating for unbiased voters), giving Muscat the opportunity to really smack you across the face. BOTH CHEEKS TOO!
25 years have passed since we heard a positive, honest and transparent PM speech on the yearly Budget. For the past 25 years we have been hearing lots of words but few concrete actions. The people are happy and started looking positively at politicians. The making of a statesman has been accomplished!
excellent site for a naturist development.like other european naturist centres. malta needs to diversify!
Wara diskors bhal tal-bierah mill-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat se jkun hawn hafna apologisti tal-PN sturduti dalghodu!
Wara li l-Partit/ Gvern Nazzjonalista kisser, farrak u nefaq kollox u ma halla xejn hlief deficts u djun qed jahsbu li Joseph Muscat gia lehaq Qaddis u qed jibda jaqla il-grazzji. Kieku mhux hekk, kieku mhux qedin jistennew li Joseph Muscat jaghmel il-Mirakli. Naheb li qed jipprova issib xi bakketa Magika imam ghadu ma sabx wahda. Joseph jekk isibha ara ma iffettilekx tislifa lil Simon ghaliex jghidlek "this is good but dishonest" :)