(Adds PN's statement)

Malta ended last year with a deficit of 2.8 per cent of the GDP, down from 3.3 per cent at end 2012, and a debt of €5,243 million, up from €4,871 million the previous year, according to figures published this morning by Eurostat.

Government expenditure rose from 43.1 to 43.9 per cent of GDP and revenue from 39.9 to 41.1 per cent of GDP.

In a recorded comment, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna expressed satisfaction at the figures.

He noted that the European Commission had been sceptical that Malta would go below three per cent but the government had been determined.

The Prime Minister believed and saw how important it was for Malta to meet its targets for the sake of its own credibility.

The cabinet had stood behind the Prime Minister and the government achieved in a year what had not been done in previous years.

Eurostat said government deficits in both the euro area and the EU28 decreased in absolute terms when compared with 2012, while the government debt rose in both zones.

In the euro area the government deficit to GDP ratio decreased from 3.7 per cent in 2012 to three per cent in 2013, and in the EU28 from 3.9 to 3.3 per cent. In the euro area the government debt to GDP ratio increased from 90.7 per cent at the end of 2012 to 92.6 per cent at end 2013, and in the EU28 from 85.2 to 87.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, the National Statistics Office said in a statement that in the last quarter of last year, the government recorded a surplus of €34.4 million.

Total revenue between October and December 2013 stood at €885.3 million, an increase of €109.9 million when compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. Total expenditure amounted to €850.9 million.

Figures raise more questions than they answer - PN

In a statement, the Nationalist Party accused the minister of hiding behind a recording to avoid public scrutiny on what was happening with the country’s finances.

This was because the Eurostat figures raised more questions than they answered, he said.

The party asked for an explanation as to how, while the figures showed that the deficit had gone down to 2.8 per cent, debt increased by 5.2 per cent.

The minister, the PN said, should also give details on how and where the Arriva losses being reported.

The government had so far refused to say how much this loss was. It should also say how it intended to cover the subsidy it would be giving the new public transport operator, since this was to be substantially higher than €10 million.

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