The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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‘Election or not, you received that cheque every year… election will not stop Budget measures’ – PM

Albert Galea Sunday, 5 May 2024, 11:52 Last update: about 22 days ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela told a crowd of supporters that nothing will stop the Labour government from continuing to fulfil its Budget measures and improve people’s lives by putting money in their pockets.

Speaking in a mass rally in Zabbar, Abela referred to the government’s tax refund measure – a cheque sent to every registered worker in the country – and said that it is an initiative which across seven years has put 130 million in people’s pockets.

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This year’s cheques started to be distributed over the past few days, prompting people to note the irony of their timing: on the one hand, Abela has said that an inquiring magistrate timed the conclusion of her inquiry into the now annulled hospitals concession to interfere with the election; but on the other hand his government had issued these cheques in the run-up to the same election.

There was similar critique in the run-up to the March 2022 general election: these same cheques were distributed just two weeks before Malta went to the polls, an act which brought criticism from the OSCE – which Malta is currently chairing.

But Abela brushed off any criticism of the timing: “If some expect that we will not implement what is promised in the Budget just because an election is coming, then they are completely mistaken.  Election or not, we fulfil every single Budget measure year after year.”

“Election or not, you received that cheque every year,” he said, referring to the tax refund measure.

“Look back to when the PN was in government: election or not, you never received that cheque because it was never in their manifesto. Instead, you always received higher bills because they are the party of austerity,” he continued.

Abela said that the government’s additional Cost of Living Allowance measure had left 46 million in people’s pockets and suggested that when this mechanism is paid out again, “those who say they have your wellbeing at heart will come out against it.”

Likewise, he said, when the first of three 500 cheques will be sent to parents whose children continue their studies at post-secondary level – perhaps indicating that this cheque too is to come in the coming weeks – there will be criticism.  “But we will still pay you,” he said.

The Prime Minister did not reference the now concluded hospital inquiry, which many believe has recommended criminal action against former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his sidekicks Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, but continued his campaign against the “establishment” that he had said was behind the timing of this inquiry’s conclusions.

“Some said that the Labour Party is finished.  They attack us in places we can see, and they attack us in places that we cannot see,” Abela said.

“This week, they asked me who the establishment is.  You know full well who they are because you know how they treated this side of Malta,” Abela told supporters, in reference to the south of the island.

“For them, these parts of Malta were for landfills. Here, they built the projects nobody wanted: a heavy fuel oil power station with chimneys spewing black smoke into the lungs of your children; a recycling plant with smells so bad that you couldn’t open your windows.  Of course you know who the establishment is: these are the decisions they took, and you kicked them out,” he said.

He called for unity, saying that unity is important not just as a party or a movement, but also as a country. 

“I believe that what is coming is not an election between parties, it is one which determines what Malta we want,” he said.

He said that when the country has faced challenges, he never blamed one or the other but told people to keep working and taking care of their families and leave the government to face and overcome the challenges itself.

“Today, however, I come and I ask you for what I always asked: for you to remain united as one country. Don’t let anyone divide us – our country is strongest when it is united,” he said.

“For them, the lust for power comes first.  For us, Malta comes first before everything else.  That’s why we succeed,” Abela added to a standing ovation from the party faithful.

He referred to Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force as an example, saying that the Nationalist Party leader had written a letter “filled with damage” to the country to the FATF on the eve of the decision, because the country was united, the challenge was overcome.

“While they enjoy discouraging you, we focus on encouraging you,” he said.

Finally, Abela said that every election starts at 0-0, and said that nothing can be taken for granted.

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