Busut­til once again pledges to ig­nore Elec­tro­gas con­tract if elected

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

Op­po­si­tion leader Si­mon Busut­til yes­ter­day re­newed his pledge to “ig­nore” the govern­ment’s power pur­chase agree­ment with Elec­tro­gas if elected to power, de­scrib­ing the con­tract as day­light rob­bery.

His com­ments come in the wake of an ar­ti­cle pub­lished yes­ter­day in The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day which re­ported how the Elec­tro­gas rate €0.096 per Kwh com­pares with the in­ter­con­nec­tor rate €0.03c - €0.06c per Kwh.

The study shows that if the new De­li­mara power sta­tion had been com­mis­sioned in 2015 as per the Labour Party’s elec­toral pledge, it would have cost the coun­try an ex­tra €138 mil­lion over the last two years.

In ac­tual fact, the study finds it was the use of the in­ter­con­nec­tor, which was com­mis­sioned in March 2015, which had been re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the prices of elec­tric­ity down over the last two years.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing at the Na­tion­al­ist Party’s Santa Ven­era Fleur-de Lys club, Dr Busut­til said that it was thanks to the elec­tric­ity in­ter­con­nec­tor project that the per unit price of elec­tric­ity has been kept low and that once the Elec­tro­gas plant comes on line prices will shoot up to close to 10c per unit.

The ar­range­ment, Dr Busut­til said, makes no sense at all when it has been proven that the in­ter­con­nec­tor is able to sup­ply three­fourths of the coun­try’s en­ergy needs at far lower prices than those con­tracted with Elec­tro­gas, which he de­scribed as a “mon­u­ment of cor­rup­tion”.

Given the losses of €138 mil­lion that would have been ac­crued had the power sta­tion been com­mis­sioned on time back in 2015, Dr Busut­til asked imag­ine the costs next year, the year af­ter and for 18 years.

He ques­tioned why the govern­ment had locked it­self into Elec­tro­gas unit prices when the in­ter­con­nec­tor prices were close to twice as high.

This, he said, was a case of “day­light rob­bery” that demon­strated that Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi was ei­ther in­com­pe­tent or cor­rupt.

Dr Busut­til said, “It wasn't for noth­ing that Kon­rad Mizzi, the min­is­ter who ne­go­ti­ated the con­tract, opened a com­pany in Panama. It is not for noth­ing that we sus­pect that there is some­thing dirty in this whole busi­ness.

“I have pledged that a fu­ture Na­tion­al­ist govern­ment will pur­chase elec­tric­ity from the cheap­est source, and we will not hon­our this govern­ment's cor­rupt con­tract with Elec­tro­gas that will cost us €100 mil­lion a year more than pur­chas­ing en­ergy from the in­ter­con­nec­tor. It is a cor­rupt con­tract and we will ig­nore it.”

Ba­nana Repub­lic

On Bud­get Day, Dr Busut­til re­called, as the Fi­nance Min­is­ter was read­ing out his Bud­get Speech, many peo­ple switched their tele­vi­sion chan­nels to Rai 3's pro­gramme Re­port, which re­searched a num­ber of coun­tries, Malta in­cluded. Malta was de­scribed by the pro­gramme as a Ba­nana Repub­lic.

“This,” he said, “hurts me. But what hurts me more is that the govern­ment has let Malta be­come a Ba­nana Repub­lic. The fact that the in­ter­na­tional me­dia is con­tin­u­ally dam­ag­ing Malta's rep­u­ta­tion be­cause of the govern­ment's ac­tions hurts us all.”

LNG tanker pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion a sham

Turn­ing to the LNG tanker risk as­sess­ments pub­lished this week and the as­so­ci­ated pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process, Dr Busut­til ques­tioned whether the govern­ment even knows what it is do­ing.

Fol­low­ing two year of pres­sure lever­aged by the Op­po­si­tion, the press and the pub­lic, the risk as­sess­ment re­ports were at last pub­lished this week.

This was, how­ever a case of too lit­tle, too late, Dr Busut­til said.

“First they build the en­tire power sta­tion, then they bring in the mas­sive LNG tanker and only af­ter that do they launch a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise to seek per­mis­sion.

“This con­sul­ta­tion process is a sham. Do you know what you are do­ing or not?” Dr Busut­til ques­tioned of the govern­ment.

On his re­quest for an ex­ten­sion of the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process, Dr Busut­til lam­basted the En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Au­thor­ity for hav­ing ex­tended the pe­riod for a mere 10-days, from 30 days to 40 days.

“Af­ter wait­ing two years for those re­ports, the pub­lic and ev­ery­one else has been given just 30 days to read, study and an­a­lyse 15,000 pages of tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion. Nei­ther is 40 days is not enough for a real pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on a project of this mag­ni­tude.”

Dr Busut­til ap­pealed once again for a fur­ther ex­ten­sion to the dead­line. The ERA chair­man, Vic­tor Ax­iak he said, was a man of in­tegrity and he ap­pealed for him to not let this hap­pen un­der his watch.

“Let's make it a se­ri­ous and cred­i­ble one ex­er­cise. If Joseph Mus­cat will not de­fend the peo­ple of Marsaxlokk and Birzeb­buga, we will. They will have us fight­ing for them.”

Big­gest bud­get shock was the elec­tric shock

Turn­ing to this week’s bud­get, Dr Busut­til said that the big­gest shock from the bud­get was an “elec­tri­cal shock”.

He re­called how the pub­lic at large and the ma­jor­ity of the so­cial part­ners had been an­tic­i­pat­ing en­ergy rates and petrol and diesel cuts that, how­ever, did not ma­te­ri­alise.

The Op­po­si­tion, he said, will give its al­ter­na­tive vi­sion for the coun­try and its bud­get tonight in Par­lia­ment.

He de­scribed this week’s bud­get as a pre­tend so­cial bud­get that gave a false il­lu­sion of ad­dress­ing poverty by which in re­al­ity did not do so.

The irony, Dr Busut­til said, was that “the dirt­i­est govern­ment in the coun­try’s his­tory put a tax on soap”.

He ad­vised the govern­ment to ap­ply some soap to it­self. He said that whole cat­e­gories of peo­ple had been ig­nored by the bud­get, not least of which were the mid­dle class.

The peo­ple, he said, will reach their own con­clu­sions and when they do, they will vote to “throw this govern­ment out of of­fice when­ever the next elec­tion may come.

“There is an­other way, an­other party and an­other way of do­ing pol­i­tics - a clean and hon­est way. There are politi­cians that you can ac­tu­ally trust and who are ready to earn your trust and work not for their in­ter­ests, but, rather, for the peo­ple’s in­ter­est.”

Busut­til in­creas­ingly neg­a­tive and bit­ter - Labour

The more time that passes, the more the Op­po­si­tion Leader shows his neg­a­tiv­ity and bit­ter­ness over a bud­get that di­vides ben­e­fits for all, the PL said in a state­ment.

“This neg­a­tiv­ity re­sults in in­con­sis­tency. He says that it was a cos­metic bud­get, then he says the bud­get was done in a way to obtain votes. First they say that en­ergy tar­iffs can’t re­duce, then say they re­duced due to the PN, and now say they should de­crease even more”.

The PL said that Dr Busut­til is also neg­a­tive on the €200 mil­lion in­vest­ment in the health sec­tor.

In an­other state­ment, the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter said that if the Op­po­si­tion Leader believes the en­ergy re­duc­tion could have oc­curred solely due to the in­ter­con­nec­tor, then Dr Busut­til wouldn’t have said that the re­duc­tion is im­pos­si­ble prior to the elec­tion.

The state­ment men­tioned the re­duc­tion in en­ergy tar­iffs, adding that the en­ergy mix pro­posed will see a mix of gas, the in­ter­con­nec­tor and re­new­able en­ergy.

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