Budget not socially just, says Opposition leader

“The clever thing is not reducing the tariffs, but sustaining this decrease. Nothing was mentioned of the power station or about new economic sectors,” he said.

Addressing the press after the budgetary speech, Busuttil insisted that there was no substance to the budget measures announced.
Addressing the press after the budgetary speech, Busuttil insisted that there was no substance to the budget measures announced.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has this evening slammed the government’s financial estimates for 2015, arguing they are socially unjust. and lacking a clear economic vision and substance.

Addressing the media after finance minister Edward Scicluna's four-hour long budget speech, the PN leader insisted that when all measures are taken into account, "there is no substance."

Taking umbrage at the four-hour long speech, Busuttil argued that the government is unable to meet the budget time limit, "let alone the stipulated time frame for the construction of the new power station."

During his budget speech, Scicluna confirmed the reduction of utility tariffs would be extended to businesses. electricity and water tariffs will be reduced by 25% and 5% respectively - a measure which according to the government is expected ot inject €80 million in the economy.

However, the finance minister was mute about the completion of the new Delimara power plant. Giving his initial reaction, Busuttil underlined that this is a silence which speaks volumes. Moreover, the PN leader argued that notwithstanding the reduction in utility tariffs, the "problem lies at sustaining the decrease."

“Even though the new power station is an intrinsic plan of the government’s electoral mandate and the budget, nothing was mentioned of it. In four hours, the government found enough time to announce a new footpath through Wied iz-Zurrieq, yet it did not give any deadline or any update about the power station."

“The clever thing is not reducing the electricity tariffs, the real challenge is financing these reductions, " he said. 

Flanked by deputy leaders Beppe Fenech Adami and Mario de Marco, Busuttil said the budget highlights the government’s “lack of economic direction, and its inability to diversify the economy."

“The budget failed to mention any clear plan on growth or economic direction. It failed to mention any new initiatives for new economic sectors or to create further economic growth,” Busuttil said.

On the maligned 58c Cost of Living allowance  (COLA) increase, Busuttil underlined that the government's one-off payment of €35 was "an insult, and that it was not enough to compensate," for the meagre COLA increase. 

“The Budget confirmed the ridiculous COLA increase of 58c. This became worse with the so-called compensation of a one-off payment of €35. This, however, will not be given to everyone, and consequently, this further highlights the fact that there is not a just redistribution of income," he argued.

Rather than ensure social equality, the government implemented several new taxes on insurance policies, mobile use, and wine consumption, among others. He also said that the drop in fuel prices still did not reflect the sharp drop in international prices.

Asked what has become of the bailout warning he had warned in the run-up to the 2013 general election, Busuttil was adamant that certain "worrying symptoms," namely excessive public debt, decreases in industrial production, and increase in unemployment and public service employees, were still prevalent. 

While welcoming the government's pledge to crack down on social benefit abuse, Busuttil said such abuse should be dealt with on a daily basis and not just during the budget.


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