PM de­nies call­ing leader of the Op­po­si­tion a ‘fool’ in post-bud­get press con­fer­ence

Malta Independent - - NEWS - ■ Ju­lian Bon­nici

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat de­nied call­ing leader of the Op­po­si­tion Si­mon Busut­til a fool in yes­ter­day’s post-bud­get press con­fer­ence, de­spite video ev­i­dence show­ing the con­trary. He was re­spond­ing to ques­tions put for­ward by jour­nal­ists at yet an­other post-bud­get press con­fer­ence held yes­ter­day.

At the press con­fer­ence, which was called just half an hour be­fore it started, Dr Mus­cat also claimed that prior to the Labour Party’s elec­toral win, the Na­tion­al­ist Party con­stantly re­futed claims that the party would be able to lower elec­tric­ity and wa­ter rates they pro­posed.

He ques­tioned why Si­mon Busut­til would now crit­i­cise the lack of re­duc­tion in th­ese rates, even though the cur­rent gov­ern­ment was able to reach its tar­get, since the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment did not think it to be pos­si­ble.

It was then put to Dr Mus­cat that Dr Busut­til was not alone in his re­quest for lower en­ergy rates since the GRTU, MEA and Cham­ber of Com­merce all ex­pressed con­cerns at the lack of re­duc­tion.

The Prime Min­is­ter also guar­an­teed that rates will not rise, and that in the com­ing year when the price of oil rises around Europe the coun­try will be able to reap the ben­e­fits.

He also ad­dressed the con­cerns around the sub­si­dies in rental prices which was “un­char­tered ter­ri­tory” for the gov­ern­ment. Whilst he said that there was a pos­si­bil­ity that it could end up like the school trans­port scheme in­tro­duced last year which sim­ply raised prices, the gov­ern­ment has put in place mech­a­nisms to guar­an­tee this would not be pos­si­ble. For ex­am­ple the rental prop­er­ties would now need to be reg­is­tered with gov­ern­ment and pay 15%, with­hold­ing tax. This would be achieved since the gov­ern­ment would be in­tro­duc­ing mea­sures whereby rental con­tracts would have to be reg­is­tered much like prom­ise of sale agree­ments.

He said that at least the gov­ern­ment was seek­ing so­lu­tions to con­front the prob­lem, and whilst it may not be the per­fect so­lu­tion, it is a start­ing point. In fact the bud­get called for fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion on the mat­ter.

Dr Mus­cat be­gan the press con­fer­ence by re­it­er­at­ing that the bud­get pre­sented on Mon­day had the sole aim of reach­ing out to those sec­tors of so­ci­ety that needed the most. He said that after sta­bil­is­ing the econ­omy, the gov­ern­ment was now seek­ing to ad­dress prob­lems faced by peo­ple who had fallen be­hind.

He said that the bud­get has to be seen in the light of the roadmap that the Labour Party had drawn up, which in the last three and a half years had seen a trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try from one that was fac­ing a ris­ing deficit and ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment to one when the deficit was be­ing low­ered and un­em­ploy­ment was at a record low.

He went on to list some mea­sures that were men­tioned in the bud­get, say­ing that the mea­sures to be in­tro­duced are sus­tain­able. The coun­try’s deficit will con­tinue to de­crease next year, go­ing down from the pro­jected 0.7% in 2016 to 0.5% next year.

The mea­sures in the bud­get can be de­fined as ‘pros­per­ity with pur­pose’ which help real peo­ple in their ev­ery­day lives, ac­cord­ing to the Prime Min­is­ter. He fo­cused on the poli­cies which will help the marginalised in so­ci­ety like low in­come pen­sion­ers, low in­come cou­ples with chil­dren and the dis­abled specif­i­cally am­putees.

Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Ed­ward Sci­cluna ad­dressed con­cerns that the bud­get does not help the mid­dle class. He used the ex­am­ple of the mea­sures di­rected at pen­sion­ers which as­sist both lower and mid­dle in­come groups to back up his claim.

When ad­dress­ing ques­tions di­rected at the Cost of Liv­ing Ad­just­ment, Dr Mus­cat said that whilst the real ad­just­ment gave a re­sult of €1.60, it was em­ploy­ing a mech­a­nism used by the Na­tion­al­ist Party in the 2006 and 2008 bud­gets which would see the COLA in­crease to €1.75 in the com­ing year.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Louis Grech main­tained that the cred­i­bil­ity of the bud­get lies in its abil­ity to pro­duce sus­tain­able long term mea­sures which bal­ances so­ci­ety and econ­omy. He said that prior to the elec­tion it was the Labour Party’s eco­nomic vi­sion to re­duce debt, the deficit and in­fla­tion. He then said that once the gov­ern­ment was able to achieve this they were able to in­tro­duce struc­tures where ev­ery­body could ben­e­fit from the eco­nomic pros­per­ity on the is­land.

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