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24 April 2014

Health, Jobs, education PN priorities, PM insists

 - Monday, 23 April 2012, 00:00 , by John Cordina

Healthcare, jobs and education are the government and the Nationalist Party’s top priorities, and will remain so throughout the present legislature, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi insisted.

In an interview broadcast yesterday morning on the PN’s Radio 101, Dr Gonzi, unsurprisingly, focused at length on the government’s efforts, insisting that these resulted in tangible benefits for the Maltese.

The prime minister also took care to stress that the PN was making an effort to get closer to the people, as he pledged it would in the wake of a PN council meeting two months ago.

These efforts included the launch of the mychoice.pn website, which urges people to send their “thoughts, aspirations and stories,” as well as to make a donation. Dr Gonzi noted that the website aimed to get people of all ages – and youths in particular – to contribute to the party’s policies and plans, offering them the opportunity to influence its future.

Another such initiative Dr Gonzi touched upon was his informal meeting with Hotel Excelsior employees at their staff canteen last week. He expressed himself as being satisfied at what he said was a learning experience, and noted that such meetings will continue to take place over the next few months.

The prime minister then stressed that creating jobs was crucial and at the heart of his party’s policies. Noting that 20,000 jobs were generated during the past four years, he noted, as he has frequently done in the past, that this was not mere coincidence but rather was through the efforts of the government.

He said that jobs were not created through “empty talk” but through investment, and that investors do not invest to do the country a favour, but because they had enough confidence in the Maltese economy to do so.

Nevertheless, Dr Gonzi said, people would be primarily concerned with their personal situation, adding that he was frequently told of people struggling with the cost of living.

The government, he said, helped those unable to cope through a number of initiatives, including subsidised utility tariffs, financial aid to compensate for an increase in gas prices, as well as special assistance for people aged 80 and over who live independently.

The prime minister added that the country’s success was crucial to help those in need, as it increased spending power and the government’s own revenue.

Education was key to this success, he insisted, noting that the PN had opened wide the doors to learning in the country, and that it had always been the party that had blind trust in the Maltese people’s abilities, regardless of their political orientation.

He contrasted this to the Labour Party, and said that the party which had sought to use education to create a socialist generation in the past did not change that much, citing its reaction to a political dialogue held at university in the run-up to the 2008 elections to back his case.

Dr Gonzi added that the country could only succeed if it invested in itself, before noting that the PN had always kept its word on stipends – whose budgetary allocation for 2012 was slightly decreased last January.

The prime minister also discussed the self-employed and SMEs, stating that the government was doing all it could to help, including by reducing the bureaucracy they faced. He praised Minister Jason Azzopardi’s efforts to do so, and noted that small businesses had also been helped by a number of other schemes.

As for health, the prime minister once again insisted that the PN offered the best way forward.

Beyond providing quality treatment in hospital, prevention was important, he said, welcoming how the national breast-screening programme detected over 120 cases of cancer at an early stage, helping save women’s lives as a result.

Dr Gonzi also noted that the environment was also important, and mentioned initiatives such as the closure of the Magħtab landfill, sewage treatment plants, the development of public spaces and the replacement of the heavily-polluting buses of old.

The prime minister concluded the interview with a few parting shots aimed at the Labour Party, stating that the party had proven its gross incompetence on a number of occasions in recent days.

He appealed to Labour leader Joseph Muscat not to damage Malta’s reputation abroad, citing how Dr Muscat – according to North Korea’s news agency – defended the country’s right to carry out test rocket launches including the one carried earlier this month, which was condemned by the UN Security Council. The country’s press agency also claimed President George Abela praised the regime’s achievements, and both Dr Muscat and Dr Abela denied these claims.

Dr Gonzi also referred to the party’s motion calling for the resignation of Malta’s EU ambassador Richard Cachia Caruana, noting that it incorrectly interpreted a leaked US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks. He said that the 2004 cable concerned efforts to ensure Malta could access documents related to national security issues, and that the country had no plans to rejoin the Partnership for Peace back then.

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