Budget 2015 measures to compensate for 58c COLA increase

‘People have the right to know who’s behind the unsigned bank letter’ – Prime Minister on PV contract controversy

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

A miserly 58c cost of living allowance is “not enough” and it is the government’s duty to come up with measures to help those most in need, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Addressing a political activity in Haz-Zabbar, the Labour leader said the 58c COLA increase will not make a difference in people’s lives and government will not try and insist otherwise.

“We won’t justify it because it is our duty to ensure that those most in need do not suffer more,” he said, adding that Budget 2015 will cater for pensioners, students, the middle class and those trapped in the poverty line.

Explaining to those gathered at the Labour’s club that the cost of living adjustment was not determined by the government, but through an agreed mechanism, Muscat said the government won’t change the formula unless the social partners agree to it.

Arguing that the COLA was “a compensation” for the increase in the cost of living based on the previous year, the PM said life last year did not increase as much as it did in the past.

“Like yourselves I go shopping at the supermarket on Saturdays and I know that enough is never enough, especially with children. But statistics show that the cost of living did not increase as much,” he said, adding that “expressing pride at higher COLA increases is expressing pride at higher cost of living”.

Muscat said that, under the previous administration, wages increased by 1.9% whereas the cost of living increased by 2.1%. But under the Labour administration, he added, the purchasing power increased by €8.70 per week, mainly due to the stability in fuel prices and the reduction in energy bills.

He said, that a €100 cost consumers spent on energy bills and fuel prices in 2008 increased to €177 by the end of their term.

Today, MaltaToday reports that the 39 Labour MPs are costing the taxpayer more than €1.6 million a year, a substantial increase of €472,439 when compared to the previous Nationalist parliamentary group in 2012.

Muscat told Labour supporters that when his party took to the streets protesting the €1.16 increase under the Gonzi administration, “the protest was also against the weekly €500 increase the Nationalist Cabinet had given itself.

“At the same time, that government had increased the cost of utility bills. On the contrary, we reduced utility bills, we are not taking any €500 increases and the budget will continue helping families,” he said.

‘People have the right to know who’s behind the unsigned bank letter’

The Prime Minister said “the people have the right to know who was behind the unsigned bank guarantee”, discovered during an investigation into the €35 million PV contract.

Muscat was referring to the controversy surrounding the award of a contract for the installation and operation of PV panels on government buildings, awarded to the Solarig-Alberta Photovoltaic Consortium. The contract is now under police investigation.

Dubbing Nationalist MP George Pullicino “Mastro Lindo”, Muscat said the truth behind the award of this contract had to be uncovered and an explanation of how a bank guarantee – certifying the capital solidity of Solarig – without a signature could have been accepted.

MaltaToday on Sunday reports that a letter sent in July 2014 by Spanish bank Bankia informed the Malta Financial and Services Authority (MFSA) it was not a position to confirm the authenticity of the document issued by Bancaja, because it lacked the necessary signature. Moreover, the Spanish bank said that the banking business of Bancaja had been transferred by spin off to Bankia, “so any sponsorship letter could not have been issued by [Bancaja]”.

Dubbing Nationalist MP and former resources minister George Pullicino “Mastro Lindo” - after the latter told parliament he was "clearner than the PL group put together" - Muscat took Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to task “for associating himself with Pullicino”. Pullicino, Muscat added, had presented a letter of intent to the successful bidders, “who won the contract based on an unsigned letter, after the rest of the other bidders were rejected”.

The Prime Minister also appeared to sound a warning: “We will forget what went on during the past 25 years and, one step after another, we will get to each and every case.”

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