Anthony Manduca takes a look at the highlights of the campaign’s second week.
• Sunday, January 13
Lawrence Gonzi says in Nadur that the Nationalist Party has learnt from its mistakes. However, he adds, the PN has delivered and Malta is “among the best in Europe”. He promises Gozo new schemes to promote incentive travel, financial incentives for upgrading hotels and farmhouses, tax cuts for new businesses in Gozo as well as the setting up of a Gozo Regional Council to pass by-laws.
Joseph Muscat reiterates his pledge, at a Labour mass meeting in Victoria, to close the Delimara power station, which he calls “the cancer and asthma factory”. He says the €77 million saved by consumers through lower tariff rates would be pumped into the economy. To Gozitans who might not share his backing for gay civil unions, he says: “We should not interfere with people’s choices”.
• Monday, January 14
Tonio Fenech says a KPMG report commissioned by Enemalta shows that Labour’s energy proposals would raise tariffs by five per cent. Cardiologist Albert Fenech dispels rumours of ill-health and says he will be a PN election candidate. Lawrence Gonzi says in Mosta that Malta will aim to balance its public finances by 2015.
Joseph Muscat tells journalists from The Times that is not against adoption by gay couples. He also says he expects a party financing law by the end of the year and that he has identified a person to chair a judicial review committee. He later tells a press conference that Labour would lift the time-bar on corruption cases involving politicians and pass a law to protect whistleblowers and that MPs would be paid according to the number of sittings they attended.
• Tuesday, January 15
An OPM spokesman says Lawrence Gonzi believes the important thing in adoptions is that the child has a loving caring family, irrespective of the adoptive parents’ sexual orientation. Dr Gonzi proposes a fortnightly Prime Minister’s Question Time, a fortnightly debate on a subject proposed by the opposition, more parliamentary time for the Auditor General and the Ombudsman and a revision of how judiciary is appointed and dismissed.
Joseph Muscat tells a press conference Labour would issue an open call for ideas on capital projects, set up a bipartisan expert action group to advise the government on how to stimulate economic growth, cut bureaucracy by 25 per cent, appoint a commissioner to cut red tape and introduce ‘sunset clauses’ which would give laws an expiry date to ensure revision.
• Wednesday, January 16
Standard and Poor’s downgrades Malta’s credit rating to BBB+. Tonio Fenech, who has adopted a high profile role for the PN in the past two weeks, blames this on Labour’s “irresponsible” decision to vote against the Budget. Speaking at a press conference with Tourism Minister Mario de Marco, Mr Fenech says Malta continued to invest in jobs, healthcare and education while other countries introduced austerity measures. Health Minister Joseph Cassar assembles six experts to deny a Labour claim of a link between power stations run on fuel oil and cancer.
Joseph Muscat denies Labour is to blame for the Standard and Poor’s downgrade, saying this is due to Government and Enemalta debt. During a visit to Nexia BT accountancy firm Dr Muscat says there will be no policy change in financial services. He reiterates Labour’s opposition to a common European corporate tax and a financial services tax. Later Dr Muscat promises developers that Labour would introduce a final withholding tax of 15 per cent on rental income, revise the permanent residency scheme and reform Mepa.
• Thursday, January 17
Tonio Fenech accuses Labour of being a “copycat” party saying the PL’s idea for a 15 per cent final withholding tax on rental income was taken from last November’s Budget. Lawrence Gonzi says during a TV interview he is confident Standard & Poor’s will upgrade Malta after the election once the Budget is approved. He also says, during a PN activity at Villa Arrigo, that Labour is “just an experiment, a risk the country cannot afford”.
Joseph Muscat says in Paola that Labour has gone back to its roots and reintroduced the value of social justice. He also tells potential new Labour voters: “We listened, we understood, we changed.” During a visit to St James Capua Hospital in Sliema the Labour leader says he remains committed to the principle of free healthcare. He also says there is space for more cooperation with the private sector in health.
• Friday January 18
Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat face off on Xarabank in the first debate of the campaign. Energy and the economy dominate. The Prime Minister agrees with Dr Muscat’s proposal to remove the time-bar provision on political corruption. Earlier in the day Dr Muscat says Labour will give toddlers with parents in full-time employment free childcare.