I will never look at the Labour Party’s interests before Malta’s interests – Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said yesterday that he will never look at the Labour Party’s interests before Malta’s interests.
Dr Muscat was delivering a speech at a political activity in Ghaxaq.
Turning to Malta’s upcoming EU Council Presidency, he said that ministers must spend just as much time in localities as they would need to spend in Brussels. The Prime Minister mentioned that the presidency will be a challenge.
He spoke about rising tourism numbers, and said that Malta must look to the future, and ensure that it has a plan to deal with larger amounts of people, through better roads and waste management.
He quoted from former Prime Minister Mintoff who said, when Malta was experiencing an exodus ‘I hope Malta will, one day, create enough jobs for everyone, and that there will be so many jobs that we will bring in foreigners’.
“Today, we have this situation,” Dr Muscat explained. “I recently spoke to a number of investors, and with EU institutions. They mention always two things. Firstly, whether they will find workers and secondly where the children of foreign workers will be educated. I have spoken with private school heads who have noted an increase in demand. We must see how to help the private school sector expand”.
He turned to the St Julian’s Master Plan, saying that “this is the first time we are looking at Paceville as a zone, saying this is how it must be developed and how much is needed to build infrastructure etc”.
Turning to Air Malta, the Prime Minister said that finding funds for the airline is not the whole issue, “but rather how Air Malta can enter the international market and operate well for many years to come”.
He spoke about suggestions about Air Malta being partially sold to Maltese investors. “Firstly, he said, one cannot allow Air Malta shares on the public market as the laws do not allow it. One cannot open shares publicly. It would be irresponsible and illegal. It is also not simply a problem of funds. We need a strategic partner. A sole aviation company cannot succeed, it must be tied to an international network”.
Turning to the upcoming budget, he said: “While we must continue to encourage people to work, we must understand that there are those who are unable to work”.
As for fuel prices, the Prime Minister said that “for the 11th time this legislature, we will reduce the price of petrol and diesel as from tomorrow. This, when oil prices are actually going up. The Opposition wanted to stick with the old system, yet we look at the long-term. There could be times when prices in Malta could be less, but there are other months when it could also be much higher,” he said.
“Energy and fuel prices are low one day, and overnight oil prices rise by 6%. Why? Because the producers of oil, over which the EU has little interest, decided to reduce oil production, meaning that prices will rise. They (referring to the PN) want us to remain at the mercy of another country. This government says that whatever the international trends are, energy and water prices will remain at the same level, and we will keep planning ahead”.
Turning to the Crane Currency deal, he said that while government helped De La Rue all they can, “We brought in a company who can employ those fired by De La Rue, but can actually hold even more”. He said De La Rue will still be retaining employees.
Attacking the Opposition Leader, Dr Muscat claimed that the PN want to cut the number of government jobs, and hopes that unions would look into this.
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo also spoke at the event.
He said that the PL, since its birth, always tied economic success with education and liberty, and that the party is still loyal to these principles.
The minister spoke of the importance of the breakfast club.
“One problem we have is 18,000 children living in families living on less than €12,000. There are children who come to school without having breakfast. A child who doesn’t eat well, cannot make the best use of their education. We must work as to help children get out of poverty. A hungry child will not pay as much attention”.
He said that the previous government reduced the university’s budget by €2 million. He said that when coming into power, he went to the Prime Minister and said that if we don’t find €4 million, they would not be able to pay wages. He argued that from a €50 million budget, the university now receives €68 million.
He announced that next year, three new schools will be built, in St Paul’s Bay, Marsascala and Rabat, Gozo.
The minister also spoke about the Wardija school renovation project, where €2 million was spent. “We want to do the same at San Miguel and at Guardian Angel in Hamrun”.
Turning to Zebbug, he said there was a school where €1 million was spent on renovations.
He said that soon spending must, instead of building new schools, go to renovations of current schools.
“In the coming years we will give primary schools new life. Because of strong economic growth, with foreigners coming to Malta for work, around 2,500 new students entered our schools”.
He mentioned that, when becoming minister, he found a situation where half of students stopping at fifth-form would not have studied a third language. “This, when Malta depends on tourism”.
“Languages are important for us, and we cannot accept half our students not studying a third language. We launched programmes in Italian, Spanish, German and French, to teach the languages in an interesting way. Students who this year chose to study these languages are higher than ever”.
He also stressed the need for students to have qualifications and understanding of both Maltese and English.
He also noted an increase in students taking sciences, mentioning the important of Maltese youths having the skills needed for jobs being created.
He said that government is working to reduce the number of early school leavers, mentioning that training for students who were failing and were not going to pass their O-levels helped around 500 students.