Prime Minister Joseph Muscat urged leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil to see the light and change his position on the controversial Public Private Partnership scheme for the proposed Gozo hospital.
In an interview with ONE radio this morning, Dr Muscat discussed the progress made in the health sector, citing zero out-of-stock medicines and heavily reduced waiting lists as clear examples of this.
He slammed the Opposition for again being negative about the proposed foreign investment that will lead to a new hospital in Gozo and the refurbishment of St Luke’s hospital.
“It is a €200 million project, which will be paid for through foreign investment by the chosen consortium and not by the tax payers,” he said.
Dr Muscat then made reference to MP and cardiologist Albert Fenech who was chosen to lead the cardio-wing by the private consortium at the revamped St Luke’s hospital.
Turning to unemployment, Dr Muscat spoke of stepping up efforts to further reduce the historically low levels of unemployment. He went on to describe how in 2016 the country will start to see the fruits of the government’s work in its first year. He gave mention to the maritime hub, mentioning that the aim is to have it operational this year. He also spoke of the White Rocks project, which is one the first decisions taken by this Labour government and the projects set to take place at Fort St Elmo, which have been organised by the private sector.
He again mentioned the reduction of electricity bills, which Dr Muscat said has a large effect on the economy as families are paying realistic bills which allow them to invest in themselves.
“We have reduced unemployment to historic levels. Every month we are breaking the precious months’ records. 35 years ago we had these levels of unemployment, but we are not going to comfort ourselves with less than 5000 people out of work. We will continue to take decisions that will leave more people in employment, with better conditions and better wages.”
Dr Muscat also said that he welcomes the idea of GWU providing certification to workers in the hotel sector and is ready to discuss further reassurance for workers.
Asked about what his main focus for 2016 will be, Dr Muscat said that the economy will remain a significant focus, as decisions need to be taken for it to continue to strengthen. Having said that, he said that 2016 will be a year of reform, and the future of Air Malta will be a key focus. He said that he wants to see the national airline on solid ground, and expressed his desire to secure its future.
On the subject of budget measures which have positively impacted the population, Dr Muscat spoke first about the rise in pensions, stating that it is the first time in too long that pensioners have enjoyed an increase,
He followed by saying that this will not be the only increase, and acknowledged the fact that for some pensioners the increase was not enough.
Decreases in income tax and fuel prices in spite of increasing global prices were also mentioned as an example of positive budget measures.
Dr Muscat spoke of his disappointment with decreases in VAT for sports facilities have not reached the consumers, with some gyms increasing their prices, some keeping them the same and a few decreasing them.
He said because this sector is not a monopoly, the government can only intervene through spreading the relevant information. He said that this is where the media comes in, and pressing as to why sports facilities have not handed down cost cuts to the consumers.