Muscat: 'The government didn't get any thanks for Central Link Project'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the Central Link Project was necessary to alleviate traffic congestion between Mriehel and Rabat and that despite the government's commitment, criticism still abounded

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the government didn't get any thanks for finally deciding to implement the "much needed" Central Link Project.

Muscat said that the project had been in the mind map of both major parties for many years now but that the Labour administration was the only one willing to take a serious decision.

"The difference between us and previous administrations is that now we are actually implementing this proposal. There will be 13 new junctions as part of this project. The serious bottleneck issues, the emissions, the traffic congestions will all be alleviated for the 80,000 people who travel through this vein everyday," he said, speaking on a ONE Radio interview.

The Planning Authority approved the Central Link project in Attard on Thursday. It will transform the connecting road between the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill and the Mrieħel bypass into a four-lane thoroughfare.

48,466sq.m of good quality agricultural land are in the way of its implementation, however, as an Environment Impact Assessment carried out last year had warned that the project will result in the permanent loss of agricultural land and the uprooting of 549 trees, 272 of which are protected by law.

"The Attard main road has been suffering for years. Balzan and Attard residents have been complaining continuously about the traffic issues in their locality. Now that the government is implementing the project, we are still getting stick. You can't please everyone. The government doesn't get any thanks for it," Muscat said, adding that the project's most recent plans revealed that less agricultural land would be taken up than had it been implemented according to previous plans under a Nationalist administration.

Are the Maltese living better than before? The answer is yes

Muscat once again toasted Malta's economic success as the reason the "Maltese are living better under this government than under previous administrations."

He said that all credit agency firms were recognising Malta's economic policy and rewarding it with good ratings, referencing the latest rating by American firm Moody's.

"Moody's credit rating is the latest in a series of credit agency ratings that have recognised our standing. This is the merit of coordinated work and continuous government decisions. The government accounts are strong and to be relied upon but we have achieved this because we remain focused and keep making decisions," Muscat said, adding that the Labour government had continued to lower the income tax and improve pensions.

Moody's publication on 19 July said that Malta's credit profile reflected a strong economy and failing public sector debt. Muscat said that the most important credit rating, however, was the Maltese standard of living.

"Are the Maltese living better than before? If you asked them that question, their answer is yes," he said.

He added that businesses setting up shop in Malta was another testimony to the success story of the country's progress. Muscat said that Malta's unprecedented breakthroughs in blockchain technology, FinTech, medical cannabis and other industries ensured the country's financial growth.

"Bank services in Malta are still limited. They are doing very well financially but are facing an intense demand due to these business settling in Malta. Financial regulators tell them to slow down," Muscat said, taking a stab at the "stupid" reactions to this by the Opposition.

A month ago, ING, a Dutch Bank, stopped its correspondent banking services, in particular clearing US dollars, with Bank of Valletta (BOV). BOV had said that this is part of a general de-risking taking place in the industry following a spate of anti-money laundering failures in Europe. It had said that smaller jurisdictions like Malta were being particularly hard hit, since the volumes of business they generate are not sufficiently interesting to the larger players, given the risks and the compliance costs involved.

The Nationalist Party had expressed its concern with shadow finance minister Mario de Marco and shadow economic affairs minister Kristy Debono saying that BOV is reportedly the only major bank that was locally handling gaming companies and payment gateways.