PM urges calm reflection to make right decisions
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday called for calm, serenity and reflection so the country can make the right decisions in the national interest.
“Disappointment and anger could lead to the wrong decisions in the coming days,” he warned, adding that, on the line were factories, jobs, investment and the country’s future.
Dr Gonzi assured the crowd at the packed Nationalist Party club in Balzan, with supporters even spilling to the square outside, that he would be taking important decisions with courage and respect for everyone.
He appealed for “no personal attacks” on those who did not agree with the PN, those who wanted to rule and go their own way. “We must respect their dignity even if they do not agree with us,” he insisted.
Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono has declared he lost confidence in the government, threatening its one-seat majority, and the opposition has presented a motion of no confidence in the government which is expected to be discussed on Thursday. If approved it could prompt a snap election.
It was a “moment of truth” for the party, which had always performed well in such situations, Dr Gonzi said.
He reiterated what he had said when the last Budget was presented: “If we get it wrong now, we will get it very wrong.”
GonziPN meant the party came first. Leaders and MPs would come and go, he said. “The bow of the boat that tackles the waves is not Gonzi but the PN.”
The Prime Minister also distinguished between populism and popularity, saying it boiled down to credibility. It was easy to try and please everyone but being popular meant taking a decision that could hurt slightly in the beginning, though not in the long term.
Dr Gonzi was given a hero’s welcome in Balzan following Dr Debono’s declaration that he would serve under anyone except the present Prime Minister and party leader. The crowd outside hardly allowed him to leave, enthusiastically cheering him on and chanting: “With Gonzi united we stand!”
He kept his address short, saying: “The less I say, the better. I do not want to give others any indication of my intentions. (Opposition Leader) Joseph Muscat says he will give us his proposals on the eve of the election. Now I will do the same. I will say what I will do tomorrow, the day after and the day after that . . .
“But whatever we do, whatever we did in this legislature and will do in the hours and days ahead will always be in the national interest,” he insisted.
“We are not bent on power. We are not tied to our seats but to the people’s trust in us!”
Referring to Standard and Poor’s downgrading, he said the rating agency did not just pick on Malta. For the first time ever, it targeted a group of countries, including the strongest, due to international realities.
According to Dr Muscat, nothing was happening in the outside world and the only change was that “a small ventilator” had opened for him to get in, the Prime Minister said to applause.
Without wanting to raise expectations, he said the “small splinter in the little finger” would somehow be solved in the coming days. But the bigger issues developing abroad had to be addressed, he said, warning “not to miss the wood for the trees”. If the country hit a wall, it would take much longer to overcome it, he said.
Finance Minister Tonio Fenech referred to Dr Muscat’s credentials, questioning what could he offer and what experience he had.
Dr Muscat was just a journalist for the Labour media and an MEP for four years. “Is that enough experience to lead the country in the height of a crisis?”
Mr Fenech cautioned about throwing away everything that had been achieved over the last four years.
“The worst thing for the country right now would be for the captain to let go of the rudder and leave it in the hands of someone who says the only thing he has to offer as the solution to instability is himself.”
We need a new generation of “humble” politicians, he stressed, warning against being led by someone incapable but presumptuous.
If different decisions had been taken in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, 5,000 more workers would be unemployed today, instead of having one of the lowest jobless rates in Europe, Mr Fenech said.
If the right decisions were not taken by the government, Malta would today be another Greece or Spain, where people were protesting on the streets and banging their heads against the wall.
To emerge from its economic situation, Greece needed 30 years while Europe required a decade to start recuperating its losses, Mr Fenech said.