People expect more, but we will not fall for provocations – Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat calls for a debate on possible increase of minimum wage following damning Caritas report • PN says prime minister is ‘cut off from reality’ after ignoring Panama Papers scandal

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said it is time for Malta to have a debate on the possibility of increasing its minimum wage following after a report by Church organisation Caritas laid bare how some families are struggling to make ends meet.

Speaking on One TV, the Prime Minister, whose government has been embroiled in a series of scandals and controversies following the Panama Papers revelations, acknowledged that the “people expect better from us”, but insisted that it would not fall for the Opposition’s “provocations.”

Muscat’s inferred reference to the Panama Papers did not go down well with the Opposition, and in a statement published following the prime minister’s earlier speech, it insisted that Muscat was “cut off from reality.”

“The past days’ revelations merit some form of reaction from the Prime Minister … Muscat must realise that despite his attempt to ignore the scandal, the fact that he kept Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri close to him confirms that he is their accomplice,” he said. 

Earlier, Muscat explained how the government had reduced Malta’s unemployment rates to a 36-year-low and also registered consistent economic growth. However, notwithstanding these results, the prime minister pledged that it would not rest on its laurels and would discuss the possibility of increasing the minimum wage.

Muscat’s remarks come in the wake of a Caritas report which highlighted how some families cannot even keep up with even the most basic costs of living, and that some families with one breadwinner on the minimum wage – which currently stands at €672 a month – cannot meet everyday expenses.

Caritas’s call for an increase in the minimum wage has been endorsed by Alternattiva Demokratika and the General Workers Union.

“The Caritas report showed that the jobs being created were reducing poverty and that the government’s measures, namely in work benefits, tapering and lower energy costs, were bearing fruit,” he said.

The Prime Minister said Malta managed to beat unemployment, which he described as the country’s “one major enemy”, and said that its successes allowed it to debate the minimum wage.

“The government will continue creating work and will not fall for the Opposition’s provocations. The Opposition is still against the Individual Investor Programme and it is doing whatever it can to deter investment,” he continued.

The prime minister also explained that the government would work on issues such as the environment and governance.