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Government's focused on assisting those in most need - PM

The government preferred spending millions to attract investment rather than to subsidise waste, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said this morning.

He insisted, in a recorded interview on Radio 101, that the Maltese government was focused on helping those in most need and the the country was doing better than others.

The PL, he said, was doing the strategic mistake of giving the people the impression that the government was creating the increases in the cost of fuels and gas.

But oil was bought from an open international market and the government had no control on its price.

Malta and Cyprus, he pointed out, were the only two European countries which exclusively depended on oil exportation.

To help ease the situation, the government had decided to hedge oil. As a result the price of electricity last year remained stable. For this year, it also hedged for a number of months when oil cost $80 a barrel. There would come a time when it would have to buy again and new decisions would then have to be taken. One also had to keep in mind, the Prime Minister said, that the price depended on the strength of the dollar.

The price of gas was also set internationally but the government’s decision to liberalise the market was paying since the competing operators were selling at a price cheaper than that established by the regulator.

Referring to the controversial increases to ministers’ wages, Dr Gonzi insisted that the decision had been taken two-and-a-half years ago when he had also decided on a smaller cabinet.

With the increases ministers were getting, the country was still saving €1.5 million a year.

Dr Gonzi said it was not true that this had not been a public decision. Ministers were obliged to publish their income each year and these figures were all public.

Asked about the restructuring of Air Malta, Dr Gonzi said his indications were that all involved in the discussions were giving a positive contribution.

He hoped they would continue to do so for a decision to be taken in the interest of all.

The Prime Minister said that challenges this year were to keep coming so the government had to keep acting wisely.

The Marsa power station has to be closed down and the new extension had to replace it. The supply would then be consolidated with the cable connecting Malta to the Sicilian pipeline.

The government also had to keep improving Malta’s competitiveness for the sake of employment and the health sector remained a priority.

Dr Gonzi said that 2011 would also see the continuation of the debate on the family and divorce for the best choices to strengthen what was good in society to be made.

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