Muscat looks back at three years in government: 'economic success, social revolution'

Prime Minister says coming two years will be about addressing people in poverty, workers in precarious condition and a better distribution of wealth

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Looking back at his first three years in government, marked by highs and lows, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hailed what he called “economic success” and “social revolution”.

But he also admitted that the government needed to be more humble, learn from its mistakes and do more on good governance and the environment.

At Auberge de Castille, accompanied by his ministers, parliamentary secretaries and members of parliament, Muscat spoke in detail of the country’s economic turnaround, the introduction and strengthening of civil liberties, the improvements in the health and energy sector, the elimination of out-of-stock medicines, the reduction in energy tariffs, the free childcare centres, the benefits to parents and the youth guarantee, amongst others.

“People are saving €40 million in fuel prices,” he said, despite the opposition’s repeated calls for further reductions in the price of fuels.

He recalled how, upon being elected to office, he had found a worsening deficit, a slowdown economy, an Enemalta on the verge of bankruptcy and a slowing economy in Gozo.

The directional change, he said, has resulted in an economic growth of 6.3%, deficit lowered to 1.6% and a decrease in the debt burden. Poverty was marginally reduced – “it’s not a trend but a dent in the figures, we need to do more” – and pensions were increased for the first time in 25 years.

“We are delivering results … this government as a team is delivering,” Muscat said.

Among others, he went on to list the 9% increase in female participation in the labour market, the €5,000 savings by first-time buyers, the VAT car registration refund, the in work benefits to low-income couples and single parents, the stipends given to 900 students who repeated a year, the introduction of civil unions, the ongoing consultation on the cohabitation bill.

“The coming two years will be about opening the new petrol station this summer, addressing poverty, people in precarious employment and ensure a better distribution of wealth.

“We have our challenges: environment and good governance. I understand people who are disappointed. We must be humble and improve.”

Good governance, he told journalists, will be improved by having regulators grilled during public hearings, the introduction of the Standards in Public Life legislation – whose commissioner will be appointed by government and opposition consensus.

“We have introduced the Whistleblowers Act, removed time-barring from cases involving politicians and we’ve introduced transparency in the financing of political parties.”