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‘Energy plan is the most scrutinised in history’

Labour leader Joseph Muscat yesterday described his party’s energy plan as the most scrutinised proposal in Maltese political history, adding he was proud of the outcome.

He spoke at a well-attended meeting for social partners and civil society held to discuss the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto.

The energy subject was broached by Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president Tony Zahra, who praised Labour for tackling utility tariffs and called for more transparency in the energy sector.

He called for more accountability, including at ministerial level, saying its lack could give the country a bad reputation internationally.

Mr Zahra also spoke about the importance of moving away from a deficit, saying that he recalled times “that (Labour’s) Karmenu Vella would remember” when people who spoke about a deficit were “kicked out of the room in no uncertain manner”.

He complained about the proposal by both parties to allow parents to take sick leave to stay with their sick children.

Mr Zahra argued that this would have a very bad impact on industry and jokingly asked whether the next step would be to extend sick leave to pets.

At the end of his animated intervention, Mr Zahra asked Dr Muscat to schedule a shorter election campaign next time round.

Representatives of Birdlife, the hunters’ federation, the asso­ciation of arts practitioners, the associations of pensioners and the elderly, the consumer association, the motorsports federation and the national foster carers association also contributed through comments.

Sitting on the front row was the General Workers’ Union’s general secretary, Tony Zarb, who vowed to keep “standing up for workers despite some people’s wishes”.

Mr Zarb, who the Prime Minister said should resign in the wake of controversial comments he made at a lunch meeting last year, praised Labour for including in its manifesto more than 20 electoral proposals made by the GWU and pledging to reduce energy costs. Dr Muscat responded to most of the questions fielded – though not to criticism about the sick leave proposal – pledging to work hand in hand with civil society on practically all initiatives.

He said that Labour’s manifesto was doable and would cost less than that of the Nationalist Party, which was unaffordable.

“We are not assuming growth, we are working for it,” he said.

About pensions, Dr Muscat said he could not do in five years what was not done in 40 but promised to accelerate the process and set a schedule once in government on how to tackle services pensions.

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