PM not present for Op­po­si­tion Leader’s speech on OPM bud­get es­ti­mates

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

Op­po­si­tion leader Si­mon Busut­til ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment that Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat was not present yes­ter­day at the par­lia­men­tary sit­ting to dis­cuss the bud­get mea­sures that re­late to the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter.

“There are still work­ers whose wages need to be ad­dressed. There are 70,000 work­ers in var­i­ous cat­e­gories whose wages, rather than in­creased, have ac­tu­ally gone down. The Prime Min­is­ter says that we (the op­po­si­tion) do not know how to read the sta­tis­tics,” Dr Busut­til said.

“We are quot­ing di­rectly from of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics – look at shops, there are 52,000 work­ers who, be­cause of the ris­ing cost of liv­ing, have had to en­dure rel­a­tively lower wages. Prime Min­is­ter, this is an in­sult to our in­tel­li­gence.

“This is a pend­ing is­sue that, de­spite our long speeches on Mon­day and Tues­day, per­sists nonethe­less,” he said.

Dr Busut­til de­scribed a num­ber of mea­sures, such as ex­cise du­ties, that he said have brought Malta back to the times of Prime Min­is­ter Al­fred Sant. He then spoke of the harsh crit­i­cism lev­elled by the Cham­ber of Com­merce due to “ir­re­spon­si­ble du­ties” placed on cer­tain goods.

He re­ferred to a let­ter he read out last Mon­day in par­lia­ment from a preg­nant woman who wrote to the di­a­betes par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee mem­bers. The woman wrote that she is des­per­ate for med­i­cal treat­ment for fear that she will harm her baby’s life.

“Since Mon­day, has any­thing been done to help this woman? I un­der­stand gov­ern­ment lim­i­ta­tions, af­ter all we were in gov­ern­ment and know per­fectly well that you can­not do ev­ery­thing – but for good­ness sake this woman de­serves the full sup­port of the coun­try and the tax­pay­ers’ money,” he said.

The po­si­tion of the Op­po­si­tion as re­gards medicines is that they ac­knowl­edge that cer­tain medicines re­main on the gov­ern­ment reg­istry, and very of­ten it is el­derly peo­ple who would need that medicine.

The prob­lem is that a por­tion of el­derly end up go­ing with­out that med­i­ca­tion be­cause they are un­able to af­ford it on their pen­sions, he said.

In­de­pen­dent MP and leader of the Par­tit Demokratiku (PD) Mar­lene Far­ru­gia in­ter­vened, say­ing the prob­lem is hav­ing ac­cess to this scheme.

Dr Busut­til pro­posed that the gov­ern­ment pro­vide a cer­tain amount of money cal­cu­lated on their needs for pen­sions so that they would be free to buy the med­i­ca­tion that is pre­ferred to them.

On the Vi­tals-gov­ern­ment con­tracts for the pri­vati­sa­tion of the Gozo Hos­pi­tal and St Luke’s, Dr Busut­til said it is dis­gust­ing that to­day no­body knows who the ul­ti­mate owner of th­ese hos­pi­tals are to­day.

“Do the peo­ple of Gozo have the right to know who owns their hos­pi­tal?”

He then went on to speak about the web of com­pa­nies listed as the own­ers of Vi­tals, which is es­sen­tially “a box, in a box, in a box, in a box, in a box and we still do not know who the own­ers are”.

“The PN will per­sist un­til we get to know who are the own­ers of th­ese hos­pi­tals, our hos­pi­tals!” he ex­claimed.

Turn­ing to the Elec­tro­gas power sta­tion and the cur­rent use of the in­ter­con­nec­tor be­tween Malta and Si­cily, Dr Busut­til said that cur­rently Malta is get­ting three quar­ters of its elec­tric­ity from the in­ter­con­nec­tor which is cheaper, he said.

He went over the in­cre­men­tal price in­creases with buy­ing elec­tric­ity from Elec­tro­gas, cit­ing a re­port.

“If we were not right about this, the Prime Min­is­ter would have sim­ply told us how much Malta will be buy­ing elec­tric­ity for at Elec­tro­gas,” he said.

“It does not make any sense. And we have to buy ev­ery­thing Elec­tro­gas be­cause of a clause en­ti­tled ‘take or pay.’ This does not make any sense and is ir­re­spon­si­ble – this is why we sus­pect cor­rup­tion.”

In his speech, Dr Mus­cat had said that the Op­po­si­tion’s anal­y­sis of the cost of elec­tric­ity from the in­ter­con­nec­tor was flawed be­cause it failed to fac­tor in a num­ber of costs. Dr Busut­til made note of this and chal­lenged the Prime Min­is­ter into re­veal­ing whether he has placed ex­cise duty on the elec­tric­ity bought from the in­ter­con­nec­tor.

Dr Busut­til spoke of the LNG tanker, that is still lack­ing an Emer­gency Evac­u­a­tion plan, call­ing this ex­tremely ir­re­spon­si­ble to­wards the peo­ple of Marsaxlokk and Birzeb­buga.

“I would like to con­clude with the ele­phant in the room: Panama Pa­pers. This is the is­sue that is the muz­zle around Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat. The dis­cov­ery of no port­fo­lio min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi and the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schem­bri with se­cret com­pa­nies in Panama is grounds for im­me­di­ate dis­cov­ery.

“I would like to ex­plain to ev­ery­one how se­ri­ous this is. When I have a meet­ing, a no­ti­fi­ca­tion pops up on my phone, as well as my chief of staff’s phone. That is how close th­ese two po­si­tions are, Dr Mus­cat knew what was go­ing on. He can­not dis­miss Dr Mizzi and Mr Schem­bri, be­cause he would have had to leave him­self.

“Then this fa­mous au­dit that never came. We do not care about au­dits, we care about po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is an in­sult to the peo­ple’s in­tel­li­gence.

“The Labour Party had the cheek to say there were no struc­tures in place reg­u­lat­ing this be­hav­iour, as though it was the Na­tion­al­ist Party’s fault Keith Schem­bri and Kon­rad Mizzi opened up se­cret com­pa­nies in Panama.

“Moreso, why didn’t the po­lice in­ves­ti­gate? What hap­pened to the re­port of the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Anal­y­sis Unit? In­stead of it be­ing pub­lished, we had the di­rec­tor Man­fred Galdes re­sign. Why did he re­sign? Can we see the re­port? Is it too much to ask?

“At this point, it is the peo­ple who will pass judg­ment and de-

“The PN will per­sist un­til we get to know who are the own­ers of th­ese hos­pi­tals, our hos­pi­tals!”

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