‘Muscat’s honeymoon is over… the emperor has no clothes’

Opposition leader sets great store by criticism of Labour administration and unfulfilled meritocracy pledge

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil delivered his reply to the Budget speech by targeting various ministries in a run-down of shortcomings that have happened since Labour took power.

As expected, the Sheehan shooting and the heavy shadow of home affairs minister Manuel Mallia hung over the evening’s proceedings, with Busuttil saying his speech was being delivered in an “unpleasant” political climate, and attacking the “unbridled nepotism and clientelism” under Labour.

“The people today ask whether they can trust the Ombudsman, the police, MEPA, NSO…. In the last 20 months we’ve seen a culture of people doing what they want simply for being ‘part of Labour’.

“I ask you prime minister to give people rights, not make them dependent on you. There’s no dignity in asking for something that is already being paid for in taxes.”

“Everyone is seeing this government’s mask fall down day by day… and people don’t like what they are seeing, because it is totally different from what it was during the last election,” Busuttil said, saying MPs and ministers were enjoying more than one salary; and that they were dispensing jobs, promotions and medicines under a network of clientelism that was “putting paid to Labour’s electoral promises of meritocracy.”

 “Muscat has given his MPs well over €500 a week in honoraria with their appointments on boards and corporations… €24,000 to Silvio Parnis to buy his silence; €45,000 to Luciano Busuttil to sit quiet on the backbench; €50,000 to Charles Buhagair, more than a minister; €57,000 to Anthony Agius Decelis, earning as much as the prime minister; €60,000 to Labour whip and now government spokesperson Carmelo Abela; and €65,000 to Silvio Schembri for three jobs… hypocrites, you’re having a ball at the taxpayer’s expense,” Busuttil said in parliament.

The Opposition leader said that a report by the Auditor General on MPs’ salaries had not yet been published since it was presented to the prime minister six months ago.

“These MPs are abusing of their positions,” Busuttil said, first referring to an Appeals Court decision that flagged Luciano Busuttil’s conflict of interest in a council tender, referring the case to the Commission for Administration of Justice.

“You’re weak, Prime Minister,” Busuttil stated with rancorous tone, enjoying sniping at the heads of ministers Helena Dalli and Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Manuel Mallia. “You’re weak in the face of abuse.”

He then latched on to a narrative of lies and power, accusing Labour of being “drunk on power” and saying one lie after the other to hang on to power, at the cost of its own ideals.

Budget criticism

Busuttil’s criticism of the Budget paled in contrast to his political criticism. Straight from the arsenal of the PN’s regular criticism was the increase in debt of €500 million in the first six months of the year, but again ignoring the quarterly rates of debt amassed by Labour in 2013; and the increase of 2,400 public sector jobs coupled with the replacement of 2,000 retiring employees.

He pointed out Malta’s low export figures and declining industrial production rates, and then criticised Muscat for having to rely on the sale of passports and assume the less than “decorous” role to promote the IIP scheme himself.

He dubbed Joe Mizzi the “minister for traffic” as the transport minister came into the House, and said that a €150 tax credit for parents who use school transport should have been a universal government-financed initiative for all parents who send their children to independent and church schools.

He ridiculed the government over having postponed the 12 October opening of the new parliament, and for having created seats not wide enough for the most ‘girthsome’ of MPs, George Pullicino (laughter naturally ensued…).

He questioned government plans to reduce energy tariffs for businesses when the power station had not been yet built, and then asked why would a new power station be required when the tariffs had now been slashed.

“You will be buying energy for 18 years at a price that is now double what you can get on the European market through the interconnector,” Busuttil pointed out, before accusing Muscat of having lied when he said he would resign if the LNG plant was not built within two years of his election.

“Whose interests is Muscat protecting? The workers’ interest, when he said he would not privatise Enemalta, when in reality that is what is happening here? Or are you protecting your interests, prime minister, having to build the power station as a matter of pique, just like Alfred Sant did when he replaced VAT with CET and created a whole mess?”

On the environment, Busuttil said it was preoccupying that ODZ land was under threat of more construction, and that the environment minister was seldom to be seen on such matters. “We must take care of the environment even for the sake of economic advancement,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also said the Budget had little to say about culture and creativity, even by way of creating an economic vision for culture. “Who is responsible here for culture? We’ve heard nothing serious about culture in the Budget…”

Busuttil said the Budget did not even create a socially justifiable redistribution of income, adding that Muscat’s had placed in doubt his left-wing credentials. He dubbed the 58c COLA increase as ‘miserly’ and ridiculed the €35 top-up for lower-income groups. “The €35 will be taken back by the increase in car licences and insurances.”

He took issue with finance minister Edward Scicluna’s scapegoating of people and single mothers. “I take exception at his comment that being a single mother is not a profession. It’s being a minister’s wife that is not a profession,” Busuttl said in an obvious reference to Konrad Mizzi’s wife Sai’s €13,000 a month to act as Malta Enterprise envoy.”

 

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