Busuttil: Labour must return party clubs or face court action

On Budget 2015, Busuttil says tax cuts and lump sums should make up for 58c COLA

Simon Busuttil: Labour must return party clubs before going for party financing laws. Photo Ray Attard
Simon Busuttil: Labour must return party clubs before going for party financing laws. Photo Ray Attard

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil wants Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to “admit” that the party is enjoying millions in property expropriated by the State, which it is using for its party clubs.

Interviewed on Radju Malta’s ‘Ghandi Xi Nghid’ by Andrew Azzopardi, Busuttil said that the PN would take the matter to court and challenge the discriminatory ‘financing’ of the Labour Party, which enjoys low rents on properties devolved to it by successive Labour administrations which had originally been expropriated.

“I want Labour to return the properties. I don’t parties to have unlimited donations, and indeed I want private donations to be even more restrictive. But we want to start from the same point. Labour has 28 properties, six of which were expropriated from private families, preventing them from their enjoyment,” the PN leader said.

 

When faced with claims by PN secretary-general Chris Said that should Labour refuse to return the properties it should pay the PN with an equivalent amount of the properties’ value, Busuttil stopped short from confirming this stance.

“No, I want the Prime Minister to admit that he has millions in stolen, private property. Every party should declare the value of their property, and to have equivalence.

“Our point of departure is that Labour gives the property back, otherwise we will take the matter to court, because this discriminatory situation creates big problems in a democracy.”

Budget 2015

The PN leader is also insisting that the government’s discretionary measures in Monday’s Budget should include universal tax cuts and lump sums for low-income earners to make up for a dismal weekly 58c Cost Of Living Allowance increase.

“There are different ways [government can compensate for the COLA]… you don’t need to break down the system,” Busuttil said.

When told that tax cuts would only benefit high earners, Busuttil suggested that a lump sum be paid to those who don’t pay income tax.

“Government cannot just pay out that amount of COLA. If it’s 58c only, you don’t need to change COLA, but give good compensatory measures so that people’s quality of life improves. If you just give 58c it will regress.”

Busuttil also reiterated that the Labour government fell short on its commitment to reduce the public sector workforce by 500 annually, after having told the European Commission it would only replace two-thirds of its retiring workforce, except for health and education workers.

“Over 16 months since it took power, around 2,000 retired from the public service. Over and above replacing that workforce, another 2,400 were added in new public sector jobs, bringing it to a total of 4,400,” Busuttil said.

“Is the Prime Minister trying to fool us when he says that the public sector increased by 2,400? We cannot afford this increase when this threatens our economic fundamentals. It can cause tremendous consequences. We are still paying for an increase of 8,000 in the public sector workforce before the 1987 election by Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.”

Busuttil was also adamant that a decision by the government to further regularise the position of Armier boathouse squatters by granting them a smart meter was wrong, but left wanting on his party’s position on whether the public land squatters should stay or not.

“I want people to talk about what’s happening today, not what we’ll do in the next three years and a half. We should be talking about Joseph Muscat. It’s an obscenity that someone who breaks the law gets an energy meter.”

Busuttil accepted the fact that Armier squatters had “broken the law” but when it was put to him whether the PN would remove them, the Opposition leader shifted talk on allegations that Labour minister Helena Dalli’s property was the site of illegal works by a person who was yet to acquire this property. “Of course [she should resign], this government was elected on a pledge of accountability.”

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