Busuttil blasts Gozo ‘cosmetic’ budget, demands identity of hospital beneficiaries

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says publication of government's contract with new operators of Gozo hospital raised more questions than answers as identity of beneficiaries remained shrouded in mystery.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in Victoria, Gozo
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in Victoria, Gozo

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has today claimed that the government’s budgetary proposals for Gozo were cosmetic which reflected that Malta’s sister isle was merely an afterthought for the Labour administration.

Speaking in Victoria, Gozo, the PN leader demanded that the government come clean on the identities of the ultimate beneficiaries of the company to whom St Luke’s, Gozo, and Karin Grech hospitals have been partially privatised.

Busuttil, who last week questioned whether minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had profited from the deal, insisted that it was “unacceptable” that the beneficiaries of the company given a 30-year concession to run the three hospitals remained unknown.

Vitalis Global Healthcare, which will invest some €200 million in the St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo hospitals, is owned by Bluestone Investment Ltd, which is itself owned by Bluestone Special Situation Four Ltd, an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.

“Healthcare professionals are also uncertain of what the privatisation would mean, especially since the contract makes it clear that workers’ conditions may be changed. Patients are also unsure about the quality of healthcare they will be receiving. Will they receive the same treatment as the paying patient in the bed next to them,” he asked.

Busuttil also said that the Nationalist Party remained against the privatisation of the Gozo hospital, as it was the only hospital in the island. He also lamented the lack of discussions and public consultation before the deal was announced.

Speaking on the budget, Busutitl said the measures were not truly social as many people were worse off. Particularly, Busuttil said the measures for Gozo were “cosmetic” and a “copy and paste” of previous budgets.

He asked what had come of the government’s plans for an air strip, a casino, a fast ferry service, new courts, a new elderly home, a home for disabled people, and the tunnel linking Malta and Gozo.

“The only thing it did was to appoint a blacklisted Chinese company to study the feasibility of the tunnel but nothing came out of it. The government is four years behind on the tunnel. The Nationalist Party, on the other hand, have come up with a concrete proposal for a permanent link between Malta and Gozo,” he said.

Busuttil also questioned the timing of the prime minister’s announcement that the government will discuss the minimum wage in Malta, arguing that Muscat had plenty of time to speak during his four years as prime minister.

“The proposal to increase the minimum wage is reasonable, but first the government should invest in those low income earners to make sure that they are not dependent on the minimum wage,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also had words of praise for the party’s newest candidate Salvu Mallia, who earlier had said that the prime minister was the “worst disaster to befall Malta since the 1814 plague,” and argued that Mallia represents the party’s “honesty and fight against the government.”

“Like many Labour voters, Mallia realised that they had been fooled by Muscat. Labour voters should not be blamed for Malta’s current position, but it is Muscat who should be ashamed of himself,” he said.

Busuttil said the Nationalist Party and Salvu Mallia have a common goal as they both want a government which champions “cleaner politics, a cleaner environment, and a better quality of life.” The Opposition leader said

“However, we share the same basic and essential principle: We have to fight against corruption in favour of social justice, a better quality of life and a just redistribution of wealth,” he said.

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