The Malta Independent 26 July 2016, Tuesday

Fighting speech by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat after week of crisis

Noel Grima Sunday, 24 January 2016, 12:06 Last update: about 7 months ago

After a week of crisis which saw the resignation of a parliamentary secretary, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rallied the party faithful with a fighting speech today.

He was speaking at the party's Art Nouveau theatre in Gzira, the Orpheum, a place which reminds the party faithful especially of the Mintoff years.

However, the prime minister began his speech by reminding people how the party under him does not live on its laurels and the past, but looks ahead.

Eight years ago, when he presented himself to be chosen as party leader he had been clear about the need for change, to bring the party out of its comfort zone, to bring it out of its covering, and to stop it from continuing to live in the past.

Malta was a new place: there were new style families, and there was a need for divorce.

Eight years ago, for a party to speak about divorce would mean consigning itself to failure.

Some party faithful were afraid of this change to a moviment, afraid to change the party's symbols, but other people who do not attend party meetings flocked to PL to change Malta.

What followed were 'five brilliant years' beginning from the Opposition benches, not just a change in the person who is prime minister but also a total change in the direction of the country.

Few of the present government had experience of government. People voted for change and they got change, from a government about to collapse to a government with a stable majority, from an economy in tatters to an economy with the strongest growth in Europe, from a level of unemployment which topped 8,000 to one so low that it was last at this level 30 years ago, from a country where people were in arrears to ARMS and had to endure the humiliation of the voucher system to the present system where the rates have been brought down and the voucher system changed from a government constantly warned by the EU that its expenses were spiralling and so too debts to the present economy praised by the Commission and rating agencies. This has been acchieved without people getting their salaries cut, or their pensions. On the contrary, pensions have received their first increase in 25 years. This last statement was received by the crowd with an ovation.

Before, private enterprise was only involved in the roundabouts but today there is so much involvement of the private sector that at a recent meeting they told the govvernment to slow down.

Dr Muscat acknowledged the good done by the PN administration in education but added that today the government does more than build a new school every year. It encourages successful students, it gives private lessons free of charge, it avoids the stigma of sending unsuccessful students to particular schools, it has given students a tablet, it allows teachers to take a sabbatical.

This government has also tackled benefit fraud. And as regards immigration, the previous government used to say nothing more could be done while this government has got the European countries to understand that more needed to be done and today, as a result, the flow of migrants tio Malta has come down to a trickle. It was hypocrisy on the part of the Christian Democrat government that led the situation to fester and migrants to gather round the Marsa roundabout and await people to give them work whereas this Social-Democrat government will soon issue rules by means of which the migrants will have their rights protected.

This government has cut Income Tax repeatedly and it has undertaken the restoratiion of the Valletta market where others contented themselves with just a fountain. He called on people to watch Italian television and see the protests in favour of civil unions, which Malta has already accepted.

As to health, there are no longer any out of stock medicines and soon people will get to know details about Mater Dei's construction and solidity. St Luke's will be given an overhaul and a new hospital will be built in Gozo.

When it came to government, the new administration found that almost all governmnent companies were on their last legs. Enemalta, which a previous minister wasnted to sell for €1, was €1,000,000,000 in debt and the only solution offered was a 30% hike in rates, which this government refused. Gozo Channel, which has a monopoly, was bankrupt. It has now registered a prdfit. Air Malta was laden with many commitments coming from the past. The present government will see to it that in two and a half years it will have a new life.

This government heeded what the people were telling it. It changed its tack on the American University of Malta.

As regards the choice of the new rector of the University of Malta, the choices in the past had left many people angry, despite the merits of Juanito Camilleri, who was felt to have been an imposition. Last week he and Evarist Bartolo held a meeting for university staff and asked them to describe what in their opinion were the qualities required of a rector.

The government is giving €5,000 to first time buyers.

The government has also tackled the issue of people in precarious employment and the companies who still do so cannot qualify for government contracts.

400 persons with a disability have found jobs.

Dr Muscat's last point regarded governance.

Apart from doing all that he had been mentioning, the government also is tackling the issue of governance. It will attack it head-on, whatever the cost.

The government has introduced legislation regarding the funding of political parties. It is not credible for someone to claim that €5000 were raised at a coffee morning.

Simon Busuttil has no moral authority to speak about governance. He was there when so many scandals were taking place and he did not speak, nor did he resign, so he is guilty by association. Moreover, in the one case that has come to light, instead of sending a case to the police, he asked the person involved why he had done so when he knew the party was gioing to lose the election.

Some people may blame the present government for things that go wrong but no one thinks of going over to the Opposition because of this. 

At this point Dr Muscat saluted Michael Falzon and Manwel Mallia who were in the audience and thanked them for being 'men' and the audience dutifully gave them an ovation, Simon  Busuttil would wish he had men like these. People expect nothing from Dr Busuttil but they expect everything from the government, Dr Muscat concluded.

 

 

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