‘PN closer than ever, can win election’ – Busuttil

PN Leader Simon Busuttil says ‘glaring conflict of interest’ of Keith Schembri and €100 million investment would not be accepted under a Nationalist administration, says PN government would reduce stamp duty on property purchases in Gozo

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addressing the party faithful in Nadur
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addressing the party faithful in Nadur

PN leader leader Simon Busuttil has claimed that the Nationalist Party is close to turning around the 36,000 vote-deficit that saw it lose the 2013 general election, insisting that the latest survey results showed that the Opposition was in its strongest position.

The PN leader said the party had made significant inroads ever since its disastrous defeat in 2013, arguing that there was a “clear possibility” that it could win the next general election.

His comments were made in light of MaltaToday’s survey which, on Sunday, showed that that Muscat’s Labour holds a 2.7 point advantage in voting intentions over the PN. But Busuttil, who failed to make any significant inroads in trust ratings over Muscat despite the latter’s dip in trust after the Panama Papers revelations, took comfort in the fact that the PL’s advantage falls within the survey’s margin of error of +/-4.3 points.

Busuttil also remarked that the PN had registered inroads when it comes to the voting intentions of switchers and those who voted for the Labour Party in 2013.

Speaking to the party faithful in Nadur, Busuttil said a Nationalist government would work for the “common good and to serve the people and their needs.”

Lambasting Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for “using the country to serve himself and to appease the party’s inner circles”, and for the series of corruption scandals that have engulfed Malta, Busuttil said Muscat put his above those of the country.

Busuttil said this was made evident by Leo Brincat after Malta’s representative on the European Court of Auditors had told MEPs of the budgetary committee that he had only voted against the no-confidence motion in minister Konrad Mizzi because of his loyalty to the party.

The Opposition leader said this was also evident in the case of the Crane Investment, the Boston banknote printers who will invest €100 million in Malta, after it was shown that “in order for anyone to do something, it had to go through Kasco, the company owned by the prime minister’s chief of staff [Keith Schembri].”

Schembri, the owner of business group Kasco, was said to have been instrumental in securing the investment, which will create some 300 jobs. Kasco Technical, a company owned by Schembri, is an official distributor for Komori, one of the leading suppliers of banknote printing machines.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he would have no objection if his chief of staff's business group bids for the supply of print machinery for Crane Currency. However, Busuttil, begged to differ, claiming that there was a "glaring of interest" which was "unacceptable."

“The Prime Minister’s chief of staff has a glaring conflict of interest. On the one hand he was part of the government delegation involved in talks to get Crane Investment to Malta, whereas on the other hand, he has a financial interest in the company's operations in Malta,” he said.

Busuttil made a renewed appeal for the publication of the contract of the LNG plant, the floating storage unit that will be moored in Marsaxlokk Bay, arguing that the whole deal was a "monument of corruption" as it reeks of mystery and unanswered questions.

“The documents and contracts have yet to be published, the deal was negotiated by people who set up Panama companies. Moreover, it doesn’t make sense for the government to enter into a purchasing contract for 18 years when it is cheaper to buy electricity from the interconnector,” Busuttil remarked.

PN government would reduce tax for developers, stamp duty on property purchases in Gozo

Earlier, Busuttil reiterated his promise that if elected, a Nationalist government would exempt pensions from income tax, revise tax rates on dividends for pensioners, and increase pensions “seriously and in a sustainable manner.” He also pledged that all medicines will be provided to the elderly for free, a reverse in the increase in rents on social housing, a subsidy on private renting accommodation, as well as free chemotherapy treatment for all “to avoid having cancer patients need to the Community Chest Fund for help.”

The PN leader, who earlier this week met with MDA President Sandro Chetcuti, said the often-maligned construction industry had a role to play in improving citizens' quality of life by improving environmental standards and by urban areas begging for regeneration. A future PN government would seek to facilitate this by reducing capital gains tax for developers who reach the highest standards of energy efficiency in construction, he said.

“A PN government led by me would also reduce capital gains tax to promote rehabilitation of areas in need of regeneration, and would also reduce stamp duty on property purchases in Gozo,” he said.

Turning his attention on transport, Busuttil insisted that a future PN government would “walk its talk” and would implement a long-term plan to alleviate Malta’s traffic congestion.

Busuttil conceded that the maligned bus system introduced by the Nationalist Party was not up to standard, and that a fast transit system, such as a tram or light railway, would mitigate the congestion.

The PN leader also announced that the PN would publish its pre-budget proposals this week.

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