Malta needs to reach higher economic dimension, Muscat says, as he defends Corinthia project

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Malta is at a point where it can either settle for what it has, or else aim higher and move ever forward

Malta has to choose which direction it wants to go, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday
Malta has to choose which direction it wants to go, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday

Malta is now at a point where it has to make major, generational decisions on which direction it wants to go, and on whether it wants to reach new levels of economic expansion, the Prime Minister said.

In a speech characterised by hard to miss allusions to the proposed Corinthia project, Joseph Muscat told party faithful at the Zebbug Labour party club that the country was now at a crossroads, having to choose whether to be content with the current positive situation, or to continue making forward strides.

The Prime Minister made reference to Central Bank governor Mario Vella's comparison of Malta to an old car in an interview with MaltaToday on Sunday. "The car can arrive at its destination, but it's old. In such a situation, you need to buy a new car - you need to invest - or you wouldn't be able to reach your potential, and you might have an accident," Muscat said.

"Making a step forward incurs certain risks, dangers and sacrifice. But we can change the structure of Malta once and for all in such a way that we will leave something for upcoming generations, which they can build upon."

The need to move forward is going to become more pronounced in each sector, he said, stressing that he wanted to make it clear that the Labour Party was not going to be simply be happy with the status quo, but would strive to achieve more.

Muscat said that he wanted to take the touristic sector, in which mostly foreigners work in, to a point where the Maltese themselves could start having a career in the area. "It is mostly foreign people who work in tourism, because Malta is attracting certain tourists whose main priority is value for money, leading to low salaries being paid to those employed in the sector."

READ ALSO

Residents ask for urgent Corinthia debate in Parliament's environment committee

Corinthia boss Alfred Pisani defends his project: ‘you must always accept progress’

Regarding the Corinthia project, which plans to build a six-star hotel complex in St George's Bay, he said that if the country could attract tourists who don't mind paying €5,000 or €6,000 a night, this would mean better salaries for Maltese people working in the sector.

He underscored that, while the government was willing to listen to constructive suggestions regarding the project, it had to ensure that there was a level playing field in terms of the valuation of the land in question.

"What we gave to investors before, we have to give to investors now," he remarked, in reference to the valuation of the land on which the development will take place, which was defended by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi who said it was valued in the same manner as the former ITS land on which the DB Group will build its City Centre development.

The Nationalist Party's criticism of the project can't be taken seriously, Muscat said, since a previous PN government had sold Smart City for a mere €1.75 per sq.m. "And I will not be given lectures by those who, when the Corinthia project was first announced in 2015, during Simon Busuttil's leadership, came out in favour of it."

Since 2015, the government had in fact improved on its deal and on the cost that will be charged to Corinthia, he highlighted. "They were in favour of it when the government was going to charge less, but are now against when we are going to get more money. I am suspecting that they are doing this now so as to oppose what the previous PN clique had done... because the last clique came out in favour, they are against it."

In his concluding comments, Muscat also touched on the issue of salaries, saying it was a legitimate complaint when people said they didn't earn enough, but that the way to solve this was to raise the whole economy and not to set a higher minimum wage.

"If I wanted to bring the minimum wage up, I could do so tomorrow. But this would mean that those on a minimum wage would be dismissed by their employers, who would choose to employ less people to save costs. So it's not a matter of raising the minimum wage, but of having a bigger cake and taking the entire economy up a level."

More in National