PM cautions against election mode
It would be a "mistake" for the country to switch into election mode, even if the Nationalist Party has just announced its first batch of election candidates, the prime minister warned yesterday.
"We intend to govern for the full legislature and see this country flourish through the next year, which I believe is an important one," Dr Gonzi told The Times last night.
He had just addressed a crowd of supporters at the Granaries in Floriana in connection with the celebrations of Independence Day which falls on Thursday.
On Sunday, the PN published the names of its first 58 candidates, prompting many to believe that the government intends to go for an early election, well before the August 2008 deadline.
But Dr Gonzi smiled broadly at the suggestion, saying this was not the case. He said it was a normal process for a political party to start identifying candidates so soon, as, after all, the Labour Party was probably doing.
"The country still needs to develop and there are still several plans we have to execute, and which we will carry out," he said.
On Sunday, opposition leader Alfred Sant said the Labour Party was well prepared for a general election, no matter when the Prime Minister plans to hold it. Is the Nationalist Party geared up?
"The Nationalist Party is well prepared," Dr Gonzi replied. "We've heard Alfred Sant saying a lot of things since his election to party leader in 1992 - and we know his track record by now."
Earlier, Dr Gonzi was given a warm welcome by the crowd who turned up to listen to him answering questions by l-orizzont journalist Glenn Bedingfield and Net TV journalist Nathaniel Attard.
Asked about the upcoming tax reform in the next budget, Dr Gonzi said it was too early to say who would benefit from the proposals laid out in the pre-budget document.
It was, however, encouraging to see the thousands of people who have actually put their suggestions in writing to the document.
Dr Gonzi made it clear that his party was guided by the principles of social justice, but was nevertheless determined to introduce measures to stimulate the economy.
Official statistics were enough to prove the government's track record. In 1997, the recurrent expenditure in the health sector was Lm48 million; this year it has reached Lm80 million, apart from the cost of the new hospital. The total cost of social benefits in 1997 was Lm150 million; this year it will reach Lm227 million.
Dr Gonzi appealed to the Labour Party to work hand in hand with the government to create jobs and to stop trying to derail investment, as it was doing with the SmartCity project. No less than 3,000 of the 5,600 jobs in the SmartCity project are IT related and yet the Labour Party persists in saying that only 19 per cent of the project is earmarked for IT, he said.