Update 2: Gonzi avoids Debono's Budget threat
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi avoided the thorny issue looming over the Government's last Budget that may not make it through Parliament.
Speaking to Nationalist Party supporters this morning, Dr Gonzi said nothing about backbencher Franco Debono's latest statement that he will vote against the Budget.
The meeting held in Qrendi, which forms part of Dr Debono's constituency, focused on the health service.
Dr Debono has been threatening to vote against the budget if Transport Minister Austin Gatt remains in cabinet for a long time and on October 4 filed a no confidence motion against the minister.
In passing reference to the Budget the Finance Minister will read out on Wednesday, Dr Gonzi said it was not an election exercise but a long term plan for financial sustainability.
The Budget is expected to introduce a gradual income tax cut, partially fulfilling a PN electoral pledge.
Dr Gonzi criticized the Opposition for not saying how it will finance its pledge to lower electricity tariffs.
"It is easy to promise people more money in their pocket," he said with reference to a Labour Party billboard carrying that slogan. But it all boiled down to making responsible choices, he added. "If all it takes is putting up billboards, I would go to the Greek Prime Minister and tell him how to solve his country's problems."
Dr Gonzi kicked off the meeting on a light note by referring to the hard negotiations he had in Brussels last week on the forthcoming EU budget. "It was really cold in Brussels but here the sun shines bright," he said eliciting a smile and applause from his audience.
Noting his Government's hard stance against a reduction in EU funds for Malta, Dr Gonzi ridiculed former Labour leader Alfred Sant's decision to stand as a candidate in the European Parliament election for 2014.
"He is the same man who campaigned for partnership and hit out at the EU," he told a cheering crowd, adding the Labour Party could not be trusted.
Dr Gonzi praised the health service and insisted Malta was the only other country with Germany to increase its spending on health services despite the EU crisis.
He pledged a Nationalist administration would continue to invest in the health service, referring to Mater Dei hospital as the previous PN administration's finger print.
Dr Gonzi announced that dementia sufferers would be able to start receiving an expensive medicine for free on the national health service from next week.
He was answering a question by a doctor on the medicine Axura that costs sufferers some €500 a month. The medicine was not available on the free medicine's list.
Dr Gonzi said the medicine was approved and from next week consultants could apply on behalf of their patients to get the medicine on the national health service.
PN deputy leadership contenders Tonio Fenech and Simon Busuttil were also present but did not speak.