The government has finalised the call for expressions of interest for the public transport service and will publish it shortly, Transport Minister Joe Mizzi revealed yesterday morning.
Speaking at a political activity which took place at the Labour Party club in Żebbuġ, Mr Mizzi said that this call will guarantee an efficient and timely service, as well as the jobs of existing public transport workers.
The minister insisted that the previous government was aware that the former operator, Arriva, would have to leave due to an unsustainable financial position, but kept this fact concealed.
He added that the government helped ensure that the company did not follow through with its plans to liquidate its Malta operation, leaving the country without a public transport service and its employees without a job.
Mr Mizzi stressed that the government spent just €1 to take over the company, contrasting this with the millions spent to reform the public transport by the previous government.
The minister also stressed that Malta’s maritime register is at its greatest size, a statement which was seized upon by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. In an obvious reference to the citizenship scheme, he said that it may be best not to mention the register, as the opposition may want to restrict registrations to “Maltese luzzus.”
Citizenship discussion now out of opposition’s hands, PM insists
In his address, Dr Muscat revealed that the first meeting between the government and the European Commission took place last week. He was upbeat about the outcome of the meeting, stating that it helped each side understand the other’s position more.
He insisted that most Maltese approved of the scheme and opposed the “negative and destructive” behaviour of the Nationalist Party in opposition, which he blamed for escalating the matter at EU level.
Dr Muscat argued that the PN’s tactic had backfired, as the government had no problem with discussing matters with the European Commission. The PN was seeking further discussions, he said, but it was now time to discuss matters at EU level, and not at party level.
The prime minister said that the government will treat the Commission as an equal partner, stating that it would not suffer from an inferiority complex as the representative of the EU’s smallest member state. He added that in the upcoming European election, the choice was between Labour and a party which saw fit to damage Malta’s reputation and which believed that one should submit to everything the EU mandates.
He also pointed out that Malta was not the only country to defend its own interests at an EU level, noting how Germany is similarly standing firm in the face of infringement proceedings filed over government assistance to car companies.
Government fulfilling its promises
As Mr Mizzi had earlier done, Dr Muscat also emphasised that the government was fulfilling its electoral promises, insisting that it was doing more than others had done in 25 years.
Both mentioned works on the December 13 Road in Marsa as an example, with Dr Muscat recalling that it had previously been claimed that works could not take place when it was raining. But works went on regardless during last weekend’s stormy weather.
Dr Muscat also pointed out that the Labour Party had been mocked when it had launched a campaign seeking a refund on VAT paid on vehicle registration taxes. He added that critics had also claimed that taxes would go up, but insisted that these had been proven wrong, and that refunds will start being paid next April.
The prime minister noted that in 2008, the PN had won with the smallest-ever majority, but even so, its main electoral promise – reducing income taxes – was only fulfilled at the very end, and even then, it was staggered over a number of years. On the other hand, he said, his government was seeking to implement its promises at the shortest time possible, noting how electricity bills are set to be lowered next March.
He insisted that people’s opinions of the two political parties have remained practically the same since the election, as the government had proven to be strong and united, while the opposition was being led by a leader who drafted two electoral manifestos – one that was not implemented, and another that was discarded by the electorate.
Truth not yet out on fuel procurement scandal, MP insists
In his own address, MP Chris Agius – who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee presently scrutinising Enemalta’s past fuel procurement purchases, insisted that the full truth had yet to surface on the matter.
He challenged PN leader Simon Busuttil’s assertion that the PN paid for its mistakes in the last general election, adding that people had the right to know about the story and that people expected that those who stole, destroyed Enemalta and burdened the public with high bills got what they deserved.
Mr Agius, after referring to a number of leaked emails related to the scandal, questioned who was being protected, and went as far as accusing the PN of hiding those who benefited from corruption at the expense of the general public.