[WATCH] PN contradicting itself because it lacks vision, Muscat says

The Prime Minister said that while it was easy to criticise, the people expected a party looking to one day lead the country to also present solutions  

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the PN repeatedly contradicted itself because it lacked a clear vision for the country
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the PN repeatedly contradicted itself because it lacked a clear vision for the country

The Nationalist Party’s lack of a clear vision for the country was resulting in the party and its leader Adrian Delia taking contradictory positions on a number of issues, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday.

Muscat was speaking during a political activity in Senglea where he made reference to an exchange on transport between him and Delia during their first televised debate last week.

The Prime Minister said he had challenged Delia to state what his solution to the issue of traffic congestion was, with Delia bringing up an underground system as one possible solution.

Muscat said that while government was investing “substantial amounts” of money to study such a proposal, Delia's statement contradicted a number positions taken by the PN.

He said that while the Opposition had voiced concerns about the construction waste generated by the tunnel, and its potential use for land reclamation, it had no problem in suggesting an underground system. “If you’re worried about where we will put the waste from tunnel, imagine if we dig 20 tunnels around Malta and Gozo. Is it possible that they don’t of these things?”

Furthermore, he said that rather than view material produced from the tunnel’s construction as waste, the government considered it a resource, and would be making it clear, once tender documents are published, that the material belonged to the Maltese government. 

Another inconsistency, Muscat said, arose from the fact that such a system would also require the population to grow to a critical mass necessary for it to be feasible. “First he says we have filled the country with foreigners and now he wants a project that will require more people in the country.” 

Going through with the project without increasing the population would require large government subsidies which could only be paid for by an increase in taxes, something the PN had also said it was against, he said.

Ultimately he said the issue went beyond traffic or an undergound system, but was rooted in what vision the two parties had for the country going forward.

Muscat said that while it was easy for one to complain about the present situation, someone aspiring to one lead the country also needed to come up with solutions.

If one accepted that Malta had too many cars on its roads this left three main solutions to address the problem, Muscat said.

The first, would be to adopt a system similar to that employed in Singapore, where there was a fixed limit on the number of cars that could be added to the country’s roads every year. This, he said, resulted in a situation where those who had the means to pay to get a car could, while others had to make due with other modes of transport.

A second option, he said was to increase car license fees to point where it became too expensive for a majority of people to afford a car. Alternatively, the country could also choose to increase the legal driving age from 18 to 21, or to introduce parking metres around the island.

“If you are saying that there are too many cars on the road, these are the options and he should be able to say it,” Muscat said.

On the other hand, he said the Labour Party had been clear in what it believed the way forward was, having embarked on a massive road-widening project and an upgrading of the country’s road infrastructure, while also implementing measures to encourage the use of public transport. He said the government was working towards a situation where the state could provide free public transport to all.

“I’ll go one further and say that we need to eventually pay people to use public transport,” he said.

The government didn’t believe in reducing cars on the road by making it too expensive for ordinary people to drive, but rather to compensate people for them giving up using their own car.

Another measure the government was working on, he said, was shifting the country onto electric vehicles. “These are our solutions on the way forward on transport. Others complain but they have no solutions.”

Muscat stressed that the biggest difference between the two parties was one of credibility, again accusing the PN of changing its mind on the proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo.

While the PN had gone ahead and pledged to build the tunnel as early as 2013, he said the Labour Party had only done so once it had determined the project to be feasible.

“There wasn’t a budget between 2013 and 2017 where they didn’t say that we weren’t going to do it,” he said, adding that the PN claim the government was making excuses every time it said that it was still studying the proposal.

A motion in parliament which sought to confirm both sides’ commitment to the tunnel, and which both parties voted in favour of was the third “black on white” declaration the PN had made in favour of the tunnel.

Despite this, he said from Delia’s remarks during the debate, it appeared that the PN had again changed its mind, as it had done on multiple occasions in the past.

“They promise one thing and do the other,” he said. “This goes beyond the tunnel issue. These people deny the nation on an issue like this which they have pledged in writing three times…just think of how easy would find it to deny you something they have promised you personally.”