The Malta Independent 15 July 2020, Wednesday

PN should apologise after EU Commission found no violation of procurement rules - Joseph Muscat

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 14 February 2016, 11:24 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Nationalist Party should apologise to the Maltese people after the European Commission found that there was no violation of procurement rules when it came to the procurement process applied to the new Delimara power station, or regarding the departure of Gasol as one of the Electrogas consortium's partners.

"After the last election, the PN realised that the people voted for a reduction in energy tariffs, and for Malta's energy to come from gas instead of heavy fuel oil". He said that the PL, following the referendum to join the EU, worked "through democratic maturity" for Malta's success within the EU. "I did not expect the PN to do the opposite and try and disrupt our roadmap".

Since at least July of last year, the Opposition has been questioning the legality of the changes in the Electrogas consortium that is to build the new power station, arguing that in terms of general procurement rules: “All partners in the joint venture/consortium are bound to remain in the joint venture/consortium until the conclusion of the contracting procedure. The consortium/joint venture winning this contract must include the same partners for the whole performance period of the contract other than as may be permitted or required by law.”

The Opposition had accused the government of cutting corners in the procurement process in order to meet the project’s two-year deadline. It has argued that the procurement process was based simply on an expression of interest and did not proceed – as should have been the case for a project of this nature – to a full tendering process.

Dr Muscat said that the Opposition Leader sent people fo Brussels to try and disrupt its implementation of the energy plan. "They went to report Malta to Europe - because we reduced energy tariffs. The European Commission this week responded, and what you alleged was not found".

"He must go before the people and admit he was wrong, and that government proceeded according to EU regulations".

The Prime Minister was attending a political activity in Qormi

No Zika outbreak in Malta

Dr Muscat turned to the Zika virus, and said that there is no outbreak in Malta. The incident, he said, involved a Maltese national who went abroad, became infected, came back and was treated. "The system worked," he said, adding that not even a member of his family is showing symptoms. "This is because we have well-trained professionals and in an emergency like this, we are up to it".

The Prime Minister mentioned Malta's strong economy and said that "we are pro business". He criticised the PN for being too selective as to where business comes from, more so than any other EU country.

He said many countries are trying to get contracts with Iran, yet Malta was the first to get such an agreement when sanctions were lifted.

Palumbo actions are unacceptable

While being pro-business, he spoke of the importance of corporate social responsibility. "business must be good business, and businesses must keep good relations with residents in their area".

On this note, he turned to the Palumbo Shipyards handling of the situation with Cottonera residents. "What they are doing is unacceptable. I appeal to these investors to show they can be good corporate citizens and turn over the page, and build relations with residents. Do not use the workers as a human shield. If you fire them, we will find new jobs for them as the economy is strong".

The situation arose when residents around the Palumbo Shipyard area began complaining about excessive noise levels.

Earlier this month, Palumbo Workers protested outside Castille.

Dr Muscat said that government is ready to act as a mediator on this issue and said that businesses must respect government standards.

The Prime Minister spoke of new apps and systems being developed, such as one where outpatient appointments could all be handled via a phone.

He indirectly poked fun at Simon Busuttil, stating that he qualifies as 'il politiku tad-dwejjaq', adding that he is always negative.

"He began his week by stating that if he would be elected to government, he would reform the judicial system as per the Bonello commission. Three days later, he puts forward a bill that was not the same as the Bonello Commission. On one day he says one thing, and on another he puts forward something completely different".  

This government is already working to implement systems regarding the appointment of judges, Dr Muscat said, adding that this is just a small part of it. "We are also working on disciplinary measures for the Judiciary. We would like to tackle the retirement age for the judiciary, judges pensions, wages, etc. in this reform. This is why we are not rushing as the Opposition did".

"I assure the Opposition that our reform will not be half-baked".

17,000 jobs created

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that over the past 30 months, there has been an unprecedented rise in persons employed, and 17,000 jobs were created.

"The Opposition, last election, would always ask what we would do to create the 20,000 jobs needed for our plan.  Since we created 17,000 in 2.5 years, we will create more when the five years end", he said.

"The majority of these jobs are in the private sector, and this is thanks to the success of the economy. We will continue working to create better jobs. The queues we now have are those of employers, who cannot find enough workers, not people trying to find jobs".

The employees with government are mostly nurses, carers, midwives, teachers, doctors etc. people needed to keep the education and healthcare sectors running, he said.

"The amount of persons working in factories is on the rise, this in a sector that was stagnant. According to the latest ETC statistics, this number grew by 300 employees.  This success comes through the decisions we took".

To bake a cake, you need the right ingredients

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna spoke of international rating agencies who have praised the Maltese government for their work on the economy.

He again compared the economy to a cake, and that government must look at the recipe that brought about its success. "To bake a cake, you need the right ingredients, energy, and a recipe".

He spoke of the Opposition. "In Parliament, all they say is that there are no incentives, they never mentioned a plan. We drafted a plan before the election and we are following it. It is, what the Prime Minister calls, our roadmap. There are no secrets to our roadmap. It focusses on investment, energy and jobs".

He said that the most important thing, however, is that when it comes to a measure the government doesn't drag its feet. "When we saw large obstacles for mothers entering the workplace, we established free childcare centres. For pensioners, government raised the minimum pension. We then saw at those who didn't benefit from this and provided measures for them".

Reforms occurred through consultation, he said. "The Prime Minister would always ask, did you consult with these, come lets go meet with them".

The Prime Minister always says "lets meet with the Opposition and practitioners".

The finance minister said that government was convinced that their plan would have positive results, mentioning PN saying during the elections, such as that of Malta going into a bailout should Labour be elected.

Property sector on the up and up

PL MP Charles Buhagiar said that Malta's economy is strong, and mentioned the property sector. He spoke of the significant rise in property sales, which totalled values of €2.4bn last year, and also the rise in promise of sale agreements.

He said that this was thanks to measures taken by this government, stating that the first time buyer's scheme as well as the IIP helped.

He also said that the construction sector saw a rise of 1,000 jobs last year. "We find a lot of foreign workers in this sector, as we find in the hospitality sector and healthcare".

"29,000 foreign workers work in Malta, that's one in six employees. This is because the economy is growing and we need these workers. Jobs go to foreigners as they are either jobs that Maltese do not want, or where a skills gap exists".

He also mentioned that the success of the property rental market due to foreign workers.

A few years back a National Statistics Office survey mentioned a large number of empty homes in Malta, he said, adding that it showed that they were empty due to high prices or inheritance issues. He said a number of measures were taken to bring these properties back on the market.

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