The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Muscat initially concerned about Central Link project trees but insists more will be planted

Rebekah Cilia Sunday, 21 July 2019, 11:34 Last update: about 28 days ago

The controversy surrounding the Central Link Project, that a large number of trees will be uprooted, initially worried Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, but following changes in the plans he insists that there will be more trees once the project is finished.

Speaking in an interview with One News which was held on Saturday morning but aired on Sunday, Muscat said that there will be 220 additional trees once the project is completed and it is up to the public to believe what they want. He also said that the Central Link Project has been earmarked to be done since 2006.

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Muscat explained that there is a need to lighten the traffic congestion in the area and to eliminate the bottleneck present, which is causing high emissions. He noted that residents from Balzan and Attard have been saying for years that cars from the narrow roads of their villages need to be reduced.

He criticised the Opposition for having made the plans for the project but never actually implemented it, adding that since the 2006 plans the changes made will result in 60 precent less agricultural land being used. Muscat praised Minister Ian Borg for the way the project has been planned, in conjunction with Infrastructure Malta.

He also confirmed that Saqajja Hill in Rabat will not form part of the project.

Speaking about the recent news by credit agencies Moody's and Fitch, both of which upgraded Malta's rating, Muscat said that the merit goes to the Maltese and the decisions taken by the government.

"The decisions of the agencies are based on the government's accounts, which are solid," Muscat noted. He said that previously Malta was in deficit and the economy was not growing, whilst now the agencies are seeing an economy that is always growing.

"We now have a surplus and a budget that is balanced, with no pressure to increase taxes," Muscat said. He noted that this government, in every budget, has decreased income tax and also increased pensions in the last five budgets. There were also two budgets where taxes were not increased.

Muscat said that the fact that people are earning more money gives a spurt to the economy which in turn makes more money, resulting in a full circle. He also said that Maltese families and business are living better now than under the previous government, "something that is evident from the election results."

When asked how these results can be maintained, Muscat said that it is important that the government does not take its eyes off the ball. He vowed to keep on working, to remain focused and to continue taking decisions.

Despite it being summer, Muscat said the work does not stop and noted that work in preparation of the next budget is already in full swing. He noted that the work to continue attracting quality investment to Malta is ongoing.

 

He spoke about the recent revelation that Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, will be opening a company in Malta, saying that this is a huge advert for Malta. He did, however, mention that there is still work to be done and that problems do emerge when a country moves forward at a high-speed.

Muscat mentioned that the banking sector is limited and focused on only one or two banks. Although they have a good financial standing there is a large demand and as a result, international regulation wants them to move slowly.

During the interview, Muscat also spoke about the national strategy for mental health that was launched this week. He said that it is a sector that attracts a lot of attention but ultimately it is important that the taboo is eliminated.

He said that the strategy includes more community services but at its core is the new hospital that will be part of Mater Dei Hospital. Muscat explained that now a patient can go in through the same entrance regardless if he is there for mental health services or physical health services. "This in itself will help eliminate the stigma," he noted.

Following the new legislation for the protection of minors, Muscat said that Minister for the Family, Michael Falzon has been working on this for a long time and that the law addresses children who are in their most vulnerable moments.

 


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