Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi warned that a Labour government would throw away all the good work done to secure €1.128 billion from the EU for the next seven years. According to Dr Gonzi the PL would use half of this money to build a new power station in Delimara.
With less than four weeks left for the general election he urged voters to weigh their decision well, when deciding which party is best to run the country for the next five years.
The prime minister was speaking on Radio 101. In the hour long interview he focused on the conclusions of the EU summit in Brussels.
Dr Gonzi explained that negotiations lasted till the very end, with Malta being the last country to reach agreement.
He added that it was only five minutes before the summit’s conclusion that the final offer was made. As a result Malta will get €1.128 billion, which is even better than if it was still an Objective One member state. This is almost double to the €680 million package which was on offer at the start of the summit.
The prime minister insisted that throughout negotiations he was determined not to budge from his stance while making his case on what he described as “sound arguments related to Malta’ vulnerability as an island state”.
Dr Gonzi said that the deal stipulates that €63 million will go the gas pipeline, with the rest of the money coming from the taxpayers. However he said that Labour’s proposal of building a gas powered plant, will not receive a single euro from the EU. While the PN is claiming that tax payers will have to foot all the bill, Labour is saying that the funds will come from the private sector through a public private partnership.
The PN leader added that Dr Muscat’s promise to step down if he does not deliver on his promise to reduce utility tariffs, would be of little consolation as it would solve nothing.
He said that it is highly significant that Malta managed to secure such a good deal, despite the fact that the EU reduced its overall budget for the first time in its history. Dr Gonzi explained that this money will trickle down to education, healthcare, the environment, agriculture and the economy.
The PN leader remarked that with this deal now clinched, the party can look forward to implement its manifesto. He added that in contrast with the PL, the PN is focusing on job creation, targeting 25,000 new jobs in the next five years.
He claimed that Labour’s manifesto was a work in progress till the very day it was unveiled. He branded the PL’s financial estimates as sketchy and amateurish, while taking a dig at journalists “for not probing Labour’s spokesmen to give a detailed explanation of their figures”. According to Dr Gonzi the International Monetary Fund made no financial projections about Malta, even though the PL said it based its estimates on such figures.
Dr Gonzi heaped praise on former EU ambassador Richard Cachia Caruana who was heavily involved throughout the negotiations, even after he was forced to resign following a no-confidence vote in parliament last June. Since then Mr Cachia Caruana was appointed as the prime minister’s consultant on EU matters, while Marlene Bonnici was appointed as his successor.
The prime minister remarked that this deal is clear testament to the government’s credentials to defend the national interests through persuasion and diplomacy. He said that this contrasts with the PL’s approach, which would have been a throwback to the Mintoffian days. Dr Gonzi recounted how some years back at the height of the immigration crisis, Dr Muscat had suggested to use the veto. He added that “bullying tactics will get you nowhere in this day and age”.
The PN leader while acknowledging that in economic terms the next five years won’t be as bad as this legislature which is now coming to an end, warned that the road ahead will still be very tough. This requires further efforts to improve the country’s finances, he said.
He added that if the electorate takes this issue lightly and decides to give Labour a chance in the general election, it will be too late then to make amends.