The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Muscat says Delia swung from one extreme to the other on migrants

Noel Grima Sunday, 16 September 2018, 10:55 Last update: about 3 months ago
Prime minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat tore into Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia this morning, claiming that in the short space of one week Delia swung from one populist xenophobic stance to one that would make Malta the place where all migrants are brought to.
Dr Muscat was speaking in an interview on One Radio.
He said that last week Dr Delia spoke in a populist and xenophobic way and was severely criticised for his words.
Then in less than a week he swung to the opposite extreme and offered Malta as the place where all migrants be brought to from which the migrants would then be distributed around. First he spoke like Salvini, Dr Muscat said, then he proposed what Salvini is telling Malta to do.
If Malta was to do what Dr Delia was suggesting, it would become a hot spot in Europe. This is not what he (Joseph Muscat) wants nor what is in the interest of Malta.
Dr Muscat was asked for his reaction to what Italian Prime Minister Conte said when he attacked Malta. Muscat said the government had already replied to this through a statement and a note verbale, pointing out that what Conte had said was not correct.
Malta, like any other country, is bound by international rules to allow ships [passing through waters under its control right of passage.  In the case of the Diciotti and of many other ships, Malta cannot interfere with their right of passage unless the ships themselves are in distress and call for help. If these ships want to go on to another place (Lampedusa) Malta cannot and must not stop them.
The general public hears only of some few cases but in just one day last week there were no less than 10 boats carrying migrants from North Africa to Europe. Some were intercepted by Tunisian vessels but in many other cases, especially in the case of high-speed boats, they sped on to Lampedusa. The last case involved a boat with over 180 persons on it which Italian minister Salvini again insisted should be taken in by Malta when this boat was not in distress and did not call for help from Malta.
He (Muscat) has been attacked for taking in migrants who were in distress. Malta is the only country in Europe that has succeeded in spreading around the migrants who had come here. On the other hand he (Muscat) has also been attacked for not allowing NGOs to operate whereas all NGOs who stay within the rules are allowed to operate.
Malta wants to save lives.
Dr Muscat also spoke about the economy and again attacked Adrian Delia. Delia has said it is time to apply brakes to the economy. Dr Muscat replied that in economy there are no brakes, only clutch and gas (speed). If one applied brakes there would be a ripple effect and the people at the bottom will suffer. 
We have to learn to manage growth. It is not right to have a trickle-down economy nor is it right to target the rich. There is a third way and it is the one the government is following. This is a pro-business government and in being so it is also pro-workers.
Some laughed when the government sent cheques to those who work. The EUR 60 cheques make a difference to such people. If the economy grows less, there will be less money to spread around.
As regards property prices, as he explained to the MDA when he met them, 80% of the Maltese own their homes. When property prices increase, the value of the property owned by people increases too. 
But for the 20% who do not own their houses and live in rented accommodation, the increase in house prices hurts, especially when such people are eg separated people.
In last year's Budget the government increased the subsidy given in such circumstances and many applied. This year's Budget will add more. Sterling work was being done in this regard by Edward Scicluna and Roderick Galdes.
The Budget that will be announced on 22 October is a far cry from the Budgets under the PN who used to use the first budgets after an election to increase taxes. This government will present a Budget of continuity and sustainability. You cannot give, for instance, pensioners a EUR 10 increase one year only to have to take it back next year.
At the beginning of his interview, Dr Muscat spoke about the dismantling of the power station chimney. As a person from Marsaxlokk told him in an email, all his life he had been overshadowed by this chimney and now that it is no longer there is an impressive moment.
Next, the government will tackle the pollution coming from cars. It will soon announced a long-term cut-off date after which only electric cars will be allowed in.
The health centre that has been opened in Kirkop is the first new health centre to be opened in 20 years - the previous one was in Birkirkara in 1999. 
The government is continuing to invest and upgrade Mater Dei Hospital; it built the Oncology Hospital (Sir Anthony Mamo), will build a new mental hospital within the Mater Dei area, and a new Mother and Child Hospital.
The government is investing in new health centres because these can take off pressure from the Emergency Department at Mater Dei. Some years ago it was pointed out to him there is no health centre on the other side of the airport tunnel. The new one at Kirkop will cater for the whole Fifth District who otherwise would have to go to the Paola health centre or else to the Floriana one by which time it would be more convenient for them to go to Mater Dei emergency.
The government is also planning a new health centre in Gozo along with all the developments taking place there with regards to Barts.
It is also planning extensive restructuring of existing health centres, especially the one in Gzira. It is also planning a new health centre in the North for the Mosta one is under heavy pressure and the population has increased. 
Finally, the prime minister declared that the Labour Parliamentary Group is a united and an active one. It met on Saturday and discussed the parliamentary work from here to Christmas including the Budget.  
It also discussed a government initiative to bring more responsibility to the political sphere and approved his own motion that a person from the Opposition ranks (George Hyzler, a former PN Parliamentary Secretary and one suggested by the Leader of the Opposition) be appointed as Commissioner for Standards.
He will undoubtedly be attacked for this from his own ranks, Dr Muscat said, but this is the European way of doing things.
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