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Fenech, Busuttil hit out at Labour

The two contestants for the PN deputy leadership election, Tonio Fenech and Simon Busuttil, held a joint press conference today focused on hitting out at Labour's promises on the economy.

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said that the PL had made many promises before it last took office in 1996 but the people were deceived. Instead of VAT they found a more complicated and higher tax system. They also found many other new taxes including a tax on medical prescriptions, increased water and electricity rates when the oil price was just $12 a barrel, a tax on credit cards, the departure tax, and others.

In contrast, the present PN government had reduced taxes or given tax rebates to women returning to work and other sectors of the population including SMEs and parents. Other bonuses and allowances were given to those who turned 80 and those, while those who became pensioners could continue to work without losing their pension.

All this was achieved while the minimum wage was raised and more jobs were created.

Dr Busuttil said the PL was promising to leave more money in the people's pockets when its track record showed toe opposite. Indeed, it was the present government which left more money in the people's pockets. This was borne out also by EU reports which showed how the Maltese economy was doing better than the economies in most other EU countries.

Furthermore, nothing left more money in the people's pockets than job creation. The PN government held the record of job creation, while Labour governments held the record for unemployment.

Labour, he said, was not saying anything on how it would maintain the country's economic momentum. Indeed, the little it said was cause for concern. What it was saying, vaguely, was to that it would reduce utility tariffs, implying a return to subsidies which would mean an added burden on taxpayers, whether or not they reduced their own energy consumption.

Replying to a question on this morning's comments on TVAM that he was writing the PN electoral programme and the contents would be announced when the election was called, Dr Busuttil said the difference from the PL was that the people already knew where they stood with the PN because it was already in government. In contrast the PL was an unknown and was not detailing its plans.

The PN programme was being written, and he was not alone in writing it. It would be approved by the party organs and then it would be published, but the people knew where they stood with the PN.

Asked how he was coping with the presentation of the Budget while he campaigned for the PN deputy leadership election, Mr Fenech said the Budget was a process which took several months and it was not in the finishing stages and therefore it did not interfere with his other activities.

Asked about the forthcoming Budget and possible tax cuts, Mr Fenech said that the fact that the EU had lifted the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Malta meant greater tranquillity for the country in its planning of the Budget. The Budget, he said, would be prepared in a way which did not endanger the financial stability of the country or its people.Decisions, he said, would be announced in due time after consideration of the current situation.

Dr Busuttil said measures such as reducing power and electricity for everyone in the manner that the PL was indicating would create a €75m black hole and therefore require an increase in taxation and run the country's finances into a wall which would then see people lose their jobs and the country adopt austerity measures.

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