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Nationalists will work harder to balance the books, says Busuttil

PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil last night. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil last night. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

A Nationalist government would work to achieve a balanced Budget “within the next legislature,” party deputy leader Simon Busuttil said yesterday.

We’ve given you a secure past and a secure present. Now we’re guaranteeing you a secure future

The party’s 2008 commitment to balance the books had been derailed by the global financial crisis, Dr Busuttil said, but, despite economic problems, the Government had brought the deficit below the EU’s three per cent threshold.

Speaking at a party activity in Mellieħa, Dr Busuttil repeatedly drew parallels between Malta’s economy and that of recession-battered Greece and Cyprus.

He mentioned Greece’s high rate of unemployment – 26 per cent – and taxation, warning that an “irresponsible government” would wreak havoc on people’s pockets.

“We had to make some hard decisions but they paid off because they allowed us to invest in work, health and education,” Dr Busuttil said as Finance Minister Tonio Fenech looked on.

Angela Merkel’s praise of the island’s economic management was another feather in the country’s cap, he noted.

Dr Busuttil repeated charges that the Labour Party’s energy proposals were little more than “a gimmick” and said that while the PN was all in favour of lower tariffs, it would only do this “responsibly and when it was possible to do so”.

Economics professor Lino Briguglio lent Dr Busuttil’s economic arguments some credence, saying that the economy had been “by and large well managed” and that criticism of this legislature was unlikely to be focused on the economy.

Prof. Briguglio, whose son, Michael, heads Alternattiva Demokratika, prefaced his comments by saying he was not there to endorse any political party.

He said that the management of public finances, coupled with conservative banks focused on the local market, had led to Malta avoiding the worst ravages of the financial crisis.

He argued, however, that a greater effort had to be made to bring more women into the workforce while noting that a relatively low percentage of adults worked in Malta.

Lawyer Mariosa Vella Cardona agreed and suggested extending school opening hours.

Tax incentives were not enough, she said. “What’s crucial is helping women achieve a work-life balance.”

Dr Busuttil agreed with the two speakers but noted that female workforce participation was up to 44 per cent and rising and that Malta had never in its history had as many workers as it did today.

Describing the PN’s educational achievements as “the greatest legacy any PN government could ever leave” he again warned that successes in the sector depended on having sound finances.

“We’ve given you a secure past and a secure present. Now we’re guaranteeing you a secure future. People showing up with gimmicks aren’t credible,” Dr Busuttil told the applauding crowd.

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