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