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Muscat's speech full of mistakes, contradictions - Tonio Fenech

The speech by Labour leader Joseph Muscat yesterday did not include any economic proposals but listed strategic measures given "in a vacuum" to the global economic situation, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said.

Speaking to the media soon after Dr Muscat concluded his speech in Parliament, Mr Fenech criticised him for failing to deliver Labour's promised proposals to the government's water and electricity tariffs.

Dr Muscat had asked why the regulator had not commissioned an impact assessment of the tariffs.

Replying to this point, Mr Fenech said this was not done in other countries adding that Malta had a unique situation where the company that produced energy was owned by the government.

Had the regulator been brought in, he would have tried to reconcile Enemalta's expenses with the tariffs and this could have led to higher tariffs, he said.

"I am impressed at how Dr Muscat cannot distinguish between an economic and a strategic plan," he said adding that, in his speech, Dr Muscat spoke about the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and information technology but did not go into economic measures.

It seemed Dr Muscat had no idea as to the global economic situation and that the budget aimed to take measures to address such a reality.

The budget aimed at ensuring a strong economy that guaranteed employment while trying to strike a balance and put money in people's pockets by reducing the income tax bands.

Dr Muscat's reaction to the budget, he said, was based on "a rainfall of mistakes and contradictions".

While Dr Muscat called the government irresponsible for allowing the deficit to rise to €200 million, if his "so called proposals" had to be taken on, the deficit would shoot up to about €400 million, he said.

Turning back to the water and electricity tariffs he said it was irresponsible of Dr Muscat to suggest postponing the problem as that would only make the situation worse in future.

Dr Muscat also mentioned that the government planned to invest €5 million in industry over the next five years when the real figure was €40 million apart from the €5 million in energy incentives, he claimed.

Dr Muscat's reaction was based on unfounded comments backed up by unverified newspaper reports that, for example, stated that before the election, the government employed 500 people.

These were fabricated figures, he said, noting that National Statistics Office reports showed that between June 2007 and last June, the number of civil servants dropped by 600 people and some 4,000 jobs were created in the private sector.

The Opposition Leader had also made proposals that the government was already implementing such as the day-time and night-time tariffs. Some proposals were made without any knowledge of the expense involved such as the reuse of drainage water.

Mr Fenech said he was disappointed that education and the environment, which were two of the pillars of the Labour Party's vision, were only given two minutes at the end of Dr Muscat's speech.

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