[WATCH] Busuttil questions whether electricity bills being reduced enough

Opposition leader questions government decision to bind Malta into purchasing electricity from Electrogas for the next 18 years

PN leader Simon Busuttil.
PN leader Simon Busuttil.
Busuttil calls for big business, small government

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil questioned whether energy bills for businesses would get reduced to a level that reflects the collapse in the global price of oil.

Electricity bills for businesses are expected to go down by 25% by the end of the March, but Busuttil expressed concerns about how these reductions will be funded.

“We still don’t know how the government intends to finance this reduction,” Busuttil told a hall of businessmen during a business breakfast organized by the Malta Business Weekly.

Busuttil tore into the government’s energy policy, saying that the decisions it making will bind up to four consecutive governments.
“Is it right to bind Malta into purchasing electricity from Electrogas for the next 18 years when we have no idea how oil prices can change in the future?” Busuttil asked, while calling on the government to publish the contracts it had signed with Shanghai Electric Power for the Chinese company’s purchase of Enemalta shares.

Responding to a question from an audience member, Busuttil said that the PN’s energy policies are largely dependant on the current government’s decision. “If I get elected as Prime Minister I’ll be lumped with Electrogas, whether I like it or not,” he said. “On principle however, our energy policies are about purchasing electricity from a good mix of sources- the BWSC plant, alternative energy sources, and the interconnector.

“I’d much rather link Malta to the EU’s energy grid, rather than have us purchase energy from Azerbaijan, a country with huge transparency problems.”

‘Don’t pin sales decline on Internet shopping’  

Responding to a question from GRTU deputy president Philip Fenech, Busuttil said that the rise of Internet sales alone cannot explain the recent and continuous decline in shop sales.

“Internet shopping exists in every EU member state, so why is Malta’s sales decline much steeper?” Busuttil questioned. “I don’t mean to pin the blame on anyone in particular, but the first step to addressing a problem is a acknowledging that the problem exists.”

He also said that more Maltese businesses should go online and that the government must clamp down on untaxed goods being imported from Sicily. 

‘Bad governance harming businesses’

Busuttil argued that bad governance ultimately strains businesses. Citing the government’s €4.2 million ‘bailout’ of Café Premier, he said that suspicions of sleaze and corruption in government deals undermine the success story of business in Malta.

He also called for objectivity in public procurements, warning that unfair procurements could deter businesses from applying for government tenders because preferred bidders would, essentially, have already been selected. He warned that

political appointments within public administration “defend their masters over civil society”.

‘Public debt on the rise’

Busuttil accused the government of increasing the public debt at an alarming rate.

“The government must avoid slipping on fiscal targets where public debt is concerned,” he said. “The government recently boasted that it managed to attract the sale of government bonds at €1 million every three minutes. This is basically tantamount to it flaunting the fact that it was increasing its public debt by that amount every three minutes.”

Employment in the public sector in general also drew Busuttil’s criticism.

“By the end of the last PN government, 41,500 people were employed in the public sector. Now this has gone up to 44,500, at huge economic costs to the taxpayer.”

On public expenditure, Busuttil said, “The government is ballooning – it should not be the motor that pushes the economy forward. That should be the role of the private sector.”

Busuttil went on to give an outline of the PN’s political plan for the economy, saying it would be “presumptuous” to give a detailed plan three years ahead of the election.
He said the plan would be built on four pillars: creating a central role for business and a secondary role for government, increasing people’s trust in politics and public administration, ensuring the economy acts in the service of the people and not the other way around and finally, ensuring the economy’s sustainability.

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