Prime Minister hints at a future election, implying that budget ratification may be preceded by a public vote

Photo by Martin Agius

Anybody listening to Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela’s reply to the Opposition Leader’s speech of yesterday, would not be mistaken in feeling that his address to Parliament this evening as being one where PM indulged much more in a “looking-at-what-we-did-over-the-recent-years” than in what can be expected in the future. Admittedly, as the economic clouds down the road out there in the world are ugly, Abela made no reference to them specifically but said that Malta faces big challenges in its future, challenges which “cannot be trusted in the wrong hands”.

Abela’s speech sounded too much like a continuous repetition of what last week was said by the Minister of Finance Clyde Caruana, rather than an objective look into the future. However, he did in fact hint at a future election, implying that Budget ratification might be followed by a public vote, by saying telling the House that “It’s the people who’ll decide if this budget gets implemented.”

COVID-19

Dr Abela described the COVID-19 epidemic as the greatest challenge Malta has faced since World War II. “Today, we can talk with hope about our future because we were united together as Maltese,” Abela remarked. He stated that the government had addressed the epidemic with its own methodology, stating that Malta could not wait to see what other countries did. “We knew what would happen if we didn’t move.” According to the PM, the way the government devised its pay supplement model aided in employment preservation and demonstrated the government’s expertise in the area. “During the epidemic, we released four budgets instead of one,” he explained.

FATF’s greylisting

Touching on Malta’s greyisting by the Financial Action Task Force earlier this year, Abela stated that the government will fully implement the FATF’s action plan. “I will not make immature claims, such as claiming that the nation would be removed from the grey list in 90 days.” “What I will say is that the county has accepted the FATF conclusion, and the action plan will be fully implemented,” Abela said.

Dr Abela stated that he would not make “immature pronouncements like the PN leader.” We implemented the most significant governance and rule of law reforms in Malta’s history in less than two years. What hadn’t happened since the Declaration of Independence, we accomplished in a matter of months, and amid a pandemic!” he said.

He also slammed the opposition for saying the “nation will sink” and emphasising that authorities will be tough on the weak and companies. “It is only the opposition that tries to portray Malta as the worst country in the world,” he added. “We shall continue to advocate for budgetary integrity.” Be cautious, Mr. Opposition Leader.”

The environment

Abela said that the environment had been ignored for a period of years. “I will not point fingers, but as Prime Minister, I have a responsibility to look ahead,” the PM stated. He stated that eight years ago, Malta’s primary goal was to “end the country’s economic stagnation.” “However, priorities have shifted,” he explained.

He stated that the administration has articulated its environmental vision. “That is the legacy we wish to leave.” On Monday, Abela blasted Grech’s environmental claims. “Look who his right-hand guy is, George Pullicino’s right-hand man, the brains behind the 2006 rationalisation programme.”

Increase in cost of living

Dr Abela stated that the administration recognises the difficulties that people endure, which is why no taxes were raised. “Your political approach is apparent – greater costs and uncertainty,” he said to the opposition. “We did not raise our energy prices in the same way they did.”

He also stated that the PN owes ARMS €4 million. “How do you feel about the budget?” You put up billboards proclaiming that we were in the midst of the worst recession in 40 years. If this is so, “why did you spend 25 years with a better economic condition and all you did was burden them with greater problems?” he said.