Only Si­mon Busut­til ex­pected en­ergy rate cuts - Prime Min­is­ter

Malta Independent - - BUDGET 2017 - Gabriel Schem­bri

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

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