Vella says bills cut in first year... then backpedals
Karmenu Vella, architect of Labour’s manifesto, yesterday said his party would cut electricity rates from the first year it was in government but took this back later in the same press conference.
After Mr Vella said Labour would keep the entire Budget if elected, a PN media journalist asked if it would also lower water and electricity rates in the first year of its legislature.
“Yes, as well,” Mr Vella replied assuredly, adding that many of Labour’s measures would save money in the long run and should therefore not be seen as a cost burden.
But when asked by another journalist to clarify whether electricity rates would be reduced from April, if an election were held in March, Mr Vella denied making his original statement.
“I did not say we would do it in the first year... What I said is that when the time comes we will say how, by how much and when we will reduce the electricity bills.”
After he was contradicted by other journalists, Mr Vella said: “I don’t know what I said... But the point is we will address the water and electricity bills immediately. We will start addressing them from the first day but I am not saying they will be reduced in the first, second or third years. I am saying that come the day we launch the manifesto, we will give all the details.”
Mr Vella was flanked by Labour MEP Edward Scicluna and MP Charles Mangion.
The three said Labour would retain the Budget in its entirety if elected to Government, because by the time an election takes places, the new Government would have to start working on clearing the next Budget with the EU.
Mr Vella said an abnormal situation had arisen because of the Nationalist Party whereby the Budget was likely not to pass. Labour was responding to this situation with a message of stability by vouching to keep the “package”.
Mr Vella admitted that this would mean retaining the tax hikes for fuel, cigarettes and cement.
He compared the situation to a cookery show where chefs got the same ingredients to make competing meals.
“We would have preferred to buy the ingredients ourselves,” he said, stressing that a united Labour team was committing to delivering the Budget’s measures more comprehensively than the Government.
Asked to mention anything which Labour would seek to redress from the Budget, Mr Vella said his party was looking into ways of addressing the “anomaly” created for minimum wage earners, who will now end up paying €60 income tax.
Prof. Scicluna gave a detailed macro-economic analysis and pointed out that the country’s biggest challenge was reducing the debt and deficit, some of which was foreign.
Dr Mangion described the Budget as a “starting point” with some positive steps but leaving out a large portion of workers.