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Updated: Oil tenders - Gonzi stands by Austin Gatt's statement

PM visits Merit Precision Tools in Gozo. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi reiterated this morning that he stood by Transport Minister Austin Gatt's statement that he never met George Farrugia or anyone to discuss oil or other tenders.

“I accept his statement,” he said adding that his government  used the strongest legal tool available to expose corruption  – the Presidential pardon. This was done on the advice of the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner.

“This decision clearly shows we are determined  to fight corruption, no matter who the person or people concerned are,” he said.

He was replying to journalists' questions during a visit to Merit Precision Tools factory at the Xewkija industrial estate in Gozo.

Later, during the programme Qalb il-Familja, that was aired from Mgarr Dr Gonzi reacted to a statement by Dr Muscat that endorsing Austin Gatt’s version of his meeting with oil trader George Farrugia, he had become become directly responsible for this case.

He said he was surprised by Dr Muscat’s superficiality and that the crucial point was that government used the Presidential pardon to expose corruption.

“At this point we have to give space to the Police Commissioner to investigate without any political pressure.... The head of the Opposition is doing nothing other than putting political pressure when the investigators should he left to do their job serenely,” he said adding that he stood by Dr Gatt’s declaration.

He described the factory as one of the most important ones in manufacturing in Gozo adding that the PN government was committed to ensuring that Gozitan youths were provided with training and education.

Part of the 25,000 jobs that the PN was committed to create over the next five years would be in Gozo, he said adding that over the past five years the ETC made 880 job placements in Gozo.

He said that 264 employers employed 617 people through the EU funded employment aid programme through which half the salary of employees was covered for a year.

When Malta obtained its EU funds covering the years up to 2013, 10 per cent of cohesion funds were dedicated to Gozo.

The same would be done with the funds for 2014 to 2020. Apart from this, 20 per cent of the new funds obtained for the rural and education sector would also be allocated to Gozo, he said.

Turning to the PN electoral programmme, Dr he said the PN government would turn the Xewkija industrial estate into a business park.

New small businesses who employed more than two people would get up to €200,000 in tax exemptions over three years and a business centre in Gozo would facilitate the process of setting up new businesses and expanding existing ones, he said.

Dr Gonzi said that if the PN was trusted to lead the country again, a large amount of the €1.1 billion in EU funds would be invested in young people to ensure they got the best education.

The PN would work to broaden courses at the University of Malta and the Malta College for Arts Science and Technology.

The money would be used to ensure that stipends increased every year in line with the cost of living. While other countries were increasing burdens on young people, 19,000 Maltese students, including mature students over 30, had stipends, the Prime Minister said.

Dr Gonzi said that over the past years the PN government gave 2,000 scholarships and over the next five years a further 3,000 scholarships would be given, he said.

He again stressed the importance of sound finances and said that only a government with sound finances could reduce taxes and attract investment.

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