Only Simon Busuttil expected energy rate cuts - Prime Minister
In his post-budget press conference, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said yesterday that the only person who was expecting a reduction in energy tariffs was Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil.
Replying to questions by The Malta Independent during a post-budget press conference, Dr Muscat did not say whether tariffs would go down before the next election.
“Simon Busuttil has been raving on about a reduction for the last four weeks. Since he first spoke about how tariffs should go down because of the ‘low’ international prices, the price of oil has gone down by 15%. Had we followed his advice we would have come here tonight to announce an increase in energy prices.”
Dr Muscat continued: “Yes, we do have a new power station, but we have also had three years of low tariffs. We have managed to free ourselves from fluctuating international prices. While the price has shot up, with the consequences that this might have on other countries, we have the assurance that our price will remain stable and low.”
This newspaper also asked the PM why morning school transport was not being addressed, and if the measures announced tonight were enough to make a difference. “One can be draconian if one wants. Experts tell us that the best thing to do is to make it less affordable for people to use cars. But that is not our vision.” Dr Muscat said the government was this year introducing measures that target workers.
“Last year we gave incentives for school transport users but, unfortunately, this was cancelled out by a transport fee price hike. The issue of traffic is very complicated. We need a completely new infrastructural system, but we are also holding a consultation exercise on a transport master plan, which includes new methods of transport.”
Asked why there were no measures to tackle corruption, Dr Muscat said this administration had done much on the issue, including with the introduction of the Whistleblower Act, unlike the Opposition, which had done nothing during its time in government.
Dr Muscat said the budget was sustainable and affordable because it was based on a solid economy and conservative projections. “Our plan was always to stabilize the economy first, then move on to growth and job creation and eventually the even distribution of wealth. This has now allowed us to usher in a plethora of social measures.”
The Prime Minister said the most important thing was that deficit and debt targets had been met. “We are not robbing future generations – what we are doing is affordable and sustainable.”
Dr Muscat said that, while the budget was full of social measures, the government was still stimulating the business sector.
Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech described the budget as inclusive but prudent. He said it was not easy for the government to reach such economic milestones and be able to introduce so many social measures. “We decreased unemployment and taxes and, in a very short time we exited the excessive deficit procedure. Debt has also been reduced from 71% and should go down below 60% in a few years’ time.”
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said those who were saying that the government was losing control were very mistaken. “Tomorrow I can go before our pensioners and the elderly with my head held high. I can also do the same before the credit agencies.”
Joseph Muscat Photos: Jonathan Borg