The Malta Independent 15 July 2024, Monday
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Government will not scale back energy subsidies, despite European Commission warning, Abela says

Albert Galea Sunday, 23 June 2024, 12:27 Last update: about 21 days ago

The government will not be scaling back its energy subsidies, despite a warning to do so from the European Commission, Prime Minister Robert Abela said in an interview on party media on Sunday.

Abela was asked about the recommendations from the European Commission, particularly that the government should scale back its energy subsidies.

He said that this was the best measure that government had to fight the reality of inflation, and that the government had resisted to the temptation of going towards austerity measures, because it knew that this could create an even deeper crisis.

The European Commission, he said, had recognised that while the deficit is higher than 3%, this was not due to austerity or irresponsible fiscal measures, but because the government had stepped in to help people.

He said that this is not going to change and the government is going to keep helping people because that it is how it will maintain a strong economy.  He continued that the government will be going to the Commission to continue to explain the importance of this measure due to Malta’s unique geographical and energy-related realities.

Abela continued that the government’s plans to decrease the deficit is clear and explained to the Commission, and said that the country is in line with its targets of reducing it by 0.5% per year.

“We have a plan for the energy sector to address the challenges we have, but I don’t think we should be decreasing the deficit by introducing austerity,” he said.

Abela said that the upcoming Budget will be “very strong and positive” and will address the middle class especially.

Asked about the issue of foreign workers, particularly within the context of the State of the Nation survey which found that people are increasingly at odds with multiculturalism but at the same time do not wish to do the work that foreigners are doing, Abela said that these are the challenges which need to be discussed and which need solutions.

He said that there needs to be balance and the reality is that as the population ages, more workers are needed to deal with that.

Abela continued that the government needs to invest in Maltese and Gozitan workers through upskilling and reskilling to ensure that they get the best opportunities, and to push investment and incentives to business leaders to invest in activities which are not dependent on the amount of workers.

“There is an acceptance that a number is needed, but an exaggeration isn’t.  That survey shows the need, but that excess isn’t good,” Abela said on foreign workers.

“We need to analyse the workers coming in; the skills they can contribute and the needs of our economy, and then compare.  Who cannot contribute with their skills, or meet the economy’s needs then we have to say that there isn’t the need [for them],” he said.

Speaking about his backing of PN MEP Roberta Metsola as European Parliament President – something which the PN branded Abela and the PL as hypocrites for, considering their pre-election critiques of her – Abela said that the PN’s criticism of him for this is what distinguishes the PL from the PN.

He said that the PN has in the past attacked every nomination of a person who doesn’t foster their beliefs, but eventually withdraws from those attacks when the person proves to occupy their role with integrity.

He continued that just because the government supports Metsola’s candidature, it doesn’t mean that it agrees with all of her positions, saying that there were some aspects where her choice was “clearly on the wrong side.”

“Does that mean then that because we disagree on particular areas we should attack the candidature of someone Maltese like us?  No,” he said.

“When there is a Maltese who can occupy a European role then it is our duty to support them,” he said.

Abela said that there will be subjects where the PL will disagree with the Parliament and with the positions that the President can taken, but said that nobody should use those institutions to attack the country.

He said that while the PL is sending a clear sign “that Malta comes first and that we support Maltese”, one can be sure that if the government nominates candidates for European posts that the PN do not like, “they will attack them.”

“The people will judge, and we need to create the distinction between the PN which selectively supports people who only harbour their beliefs, and us who always try to promote the Maltese and not break them down,” he said.

Abela spoke about what Europe’s priorities should be, saying that more countries are going to push for defence to be given prominence but he doesn’t feel like this is the top priority.  He mentioned social issues, energy, and particularly the single market, which he said must be seen to operate in the same manner in Malta as it does for the biggest economies.

The Mediterranean is another priority which has to be pushed, with Abela citing an agreement from the M9 summit that Europe should have a Commissioner solely focused on the Mediterranean.  This is not just for migration, but because Europe cannot afford to leave a void in Africa as otherwise it will be filled by non-European countries with their own agendas, Abela said.

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