The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

We will never let Labour trump the people

Adrian Delia Sunday, 10 February 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

Last Thursday, on behalf of the government, Minister Konrad Mizzi withdrew the Parliamentary resolution to hand over a massive piece of land to Corinthia Group. From the day that the resolution was made public last December, the Opposition has fought tooth and nail against this deal. The St George’s Bay deal was a Robin Hood-in-reverse deal: it stole from the many to give to the few.

Our battle is certainly not against the Corinthia Group. Corinthia was – and remains – a strong pillar of our tourism industry.

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Neither is our battle against investment in tourism. It was the Nationalist Party in government that opened the gates for mass tourism and set the foundations for the success registered today. We will always welcome efforts aimed at upgrading our tourism product.

And our battle is surely not against private initiative or profit. How could it be? The Nationalist Party continues to support entrepreneurs in their commercial ventures as it did when the Labour regime threatened the notion of free trade and liberalisation.

Our battle is to protect the interests of the taxpayer. Our battle is to stand up for the rights of every Maltese citizen. Our battle is to ensure that the country gets the right deal.

The resolution put forward by the government last December was skewed. It gave away prime public land for a fraction of its value and camouflaged what was, to a great extent, a high-end residential development project and tried to sell it as a high-end tourism product. In the same way as happened in other deals entered into by this government and fronted by Konrad Mizzi, the tax-payer was going to subsidise private profit to a level that is not acceptable. The give-away price set by government was nothing short of daylight robbery. For us, the party of social justice, this is unacceptable.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tried his best to push this unsavoury deal through. He said that it would attract tourists who would be willing to spend “€5,000 a night” on accommodation. He said that anyone opposing the deal was ‘against progress’. He championed this deal, even going as far as saying that projects such as this one were necessary to upgrade Malta’s economy.

This was a strange admission from a Prime Minister who, time and time again, boasted of how he had transformed Malta’s economy. If we are having it so good, why do we need to sell our family silver on the cheap? If the economy is performing so well, why are our industries still paying low wages? If we are having it so good, why do we need to give away prime coastal land?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is churning out such incongruous, baffling statements with regular frequency. He said that our workers and pensioners risked losing their pensions if we stopped importing labour. He said that our banks should adopt a laxer attitude when taking on customers. The truth is that Labour’s economic model, based on generating growth through inward migration, is unsustainable. We are fast-reaching breaking point and the Labour government is panicking.

This week, the European Commission said that while Malta’s economy is expected to maintain relative high rates of growth, it is doing so at the expense of the working class. Today it seems that these words – ‘the working class’ – are no longer in fashion, particularly where Joseph Muscat’s government is concerned. Past administrations focused on growing the economy through active dialogue with all the social parties: unions, employers included. Under this regime, that social network model has sadly withered away.

The government has not totally given up on the St George’s Bay deal. Together with NGOs, local councils and constituted bodies, the Nationalist Party forced Minister Konrad Mizzi to go back to the drawing board and come up with a revised deal. While he is at it, he should also revisit the hospitals deal. That was another obscene deal, like others of its kind that have one thing in common: they are all piloted by Konrad Mizzi.

I have challenged this deal in court and will continue to fight to ensure that the people regain ownership of three of the country’s hospitals: three hospitals that have been given away for the princely sum of one euro: not even the price of an espresso. They were given to an unknown company with no experience of any kind in the health sector: a company that eventually passed on the concession to another company – making hundreds of millions of euros profit in the process. Their gain was the Maltese taxpayers’ loss. This is not only unacceptable, it is not only objectionable: it is highly offensive, irregular and corrupt. I fail to comprehend how other Cabinet Ministers such as Chris Fearne and Edward Scicluna, who are responsible for Health and Finance respectively, agreed to this deal.

The Opposition can – and is – making a difference. We stood for the people and against the government in the St George’s Bay deal. We stand for the people and against the government in the Vitals deal. We stand for the people and against the government in the way ARMS Ltd are overcharging customers in respect of utility bills. This week, the court dismissed preliminary arguments put forward by ARMS Ltd in a case which we hope will end up changing the way consumers are being billed.

We will continue to fight the battles that matter: the bread-and-butter issues that matter to the working people. We will be the voice of reason when the government acts irresponsibly. We will be the voice of those whose voice is being drowned by the government’s arrogance. This is the duty of any Opposition worth its salt and we will carry out our role without fear or favour. We are here for you.

 

Adrian Delia is Leader of the Opposition and of the Nationalist Party

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