Postponing is not an option, Fenech insists
Postponing the revision of electricity bills to March would be merely shifting the problem to the future, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said yesterday.
Escapism was not the solution, he said, in reaction to an appeal by the social partners on Friday to put off the decision for more consultation to take place.
Mr Fenech said the proposed tariffs were based on the prices Enemalta had already paid for the fuel that would be used until the end of the year and a good part of the next.
The first challenge of the economic situation was to face it immediately, he said.
Speaking at the Tarxien Nationalist Party club, Mr Fenech insisted that Malta's response to the global financial crisis was investment in economic growth, not subsidies. Tourism, in fact, would be allocated more funds for marketing in the forthcoming budget.
Monday's budget cannot ignore the difficult global circumstances, which have changed from earlier on in the year.
The reality was that international consumption was decreasing. The "clouds on the horizon" looming during the electoral campaign had turned to rain and it was impossible to think Malta would not be affected.
Other forms of investment included the Delimara power plant, which would use energy efficiently, a submarine cable to Sicily to be able to buy cheaper electricity and alternative sources of energy, Mr Fenech said.
Acting Prime Minister Tonio Borg said Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat's words that Malta should be like Iceland and stay outside the EU would haunt him, given the Nordic country's recent collapse.
One of the reasons why Malta was withstanding the global economic crisis was because it had joined the EU and the eurozone, Dr Borg insisted.
While Mr Fenech said Malta's economy and tourism would be hit by the recession, Dr Borg said the first was alive and strong, giving as an example the 7,000 commercial licences issued over the last two years.
He also said that the number of cruise liner passengers grew by 17 per cent, with 79 per cent of such visitors coming from the EU.
Dr Borg said that from January 1, the Maltese would be able to travel to the US without a visa.