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‘We have a roadmap’

PL candidate Konrad Mizzi is compiling the energy policy for Labour’s manifesto ahead of the forthcoming general election. He tells Christian Peregin that electricity prices will be reduced through a proper conversion from oil to gas.

Profile

Name: Konrad Mizzi
Age: 34
Profession: Energy consultant
District: 4
Residence: Paola
Status: Married

What’s your background and how did you become a Labour candidate?

When we actually publish the electoral manifesto I think you will be quite impressed

I have led major initiatives in Malta and the UK, focusing on energy, investment promotion, telecommunications and complex government change. Now I feel it is time to run for Parliament as I have enough leadership experience to contribute in a big way.

How did you start?

I worked in the Management Efficiency Unit at the Office of the Prime Minister from 1997 until 2002. I led the first private-public partnership in Malta, which was the landscaping and embellishment project on roundabouts. It was successful and is still going on today, 10 years down the line.

When I completed that project, people realised I had a good track record in delivery – I am actually a doer – and I was asked to join the team setting up Malta Enterprise.

After 2004, I joined Enemalta as chief information officer and am proud to say that during my tenure we were focusing on gas.

Why did you choose Labour?

I was always progressive and Labour-leaning. I think Labour made a lot of inroads with Joseph Muscat.

(Ex-Prime Minister) Eddie Fenech Adami’s biggest strength was his ability to use everybody’s strengths: seeing the good in a person and using him in the best way.

I think Labour has made big strides forward in this respect and Dr Muscat is a great team builder.

Did you live in Malta in the 1980s? What do you remember of the Mintoff days?

I was a kid so my recollection is very limited. I think Dr Fenech Adami summarised it well. On balance, Mr Mintoff did more good than bad.

The journey between 1970 and 1979 was quite remarkable – he transformed the country from a naval base to a diverse...

Were you less impressed by the 1980s?

Like everybody else, yes. When a Government gets tired and loses the grip on its team, things go downhill and I think that is what is happening at the moment to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

What was it that struck you about Alfred Sant’s leadership?

Dr Sant had very good intentions. His biggest challenge was that he couldn’t really focus on his priorities.

Now, I think we’ve got the right mix: a strong leader, the right vision, and good plans in place. When we actually publish the electoral manifesto I think you will be quite impressed.

Are you privy to the electoral manifesto?

Yes, I’m working on the energy policy.

If George Borg Olivier worked towards Independence, Eddie Fenech Adami towards democracy and EU membership, what is Joseph Muscat’s vision?

The next step is to be among the best in Europe and I am slightly frustrated with this legislature as I think they are lost years. The Government lacked vision and leadership.

You say we should be “the best in Europe”. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

It is a long-term vision. But remember what happened in 1971.

What exactly do you mean by “the best in Europe”?

We will have the highest political standards in Europe and will not tolerate any corruption. Standards of behaviour that have been accepted under a Nationalist Administration will not be accepted by Dr Muscat. If one of his ministers acts improperly, he will be out the next day.

We also need a better environment to attract investors. With our electricity rates, the message we are sending to investors is: don’t come here.

The World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report found Malta is the most profitable investment area in Europe.

In sectors like financial services, iGaming and e-Betting, yes. My biggest worry is that those sectors don’t represent a big portion of employment within our country.

You are quite critical of the Government’s handling of the economy, but many would argue it is its greatest achievement.

Many people follow that Government spin, but if you look at the figures we are actually struggling.

The budget deficit has increased but I am more worried about the debt figures. Government debt has risen to €40,000 per family and that excludes debt on Enemalta and Air Malta.

How does that compare to other European countries? Malta is not in a situation like many of its European counterparts. Doesn’t that say something about the Government’s competence in economics?

We did not have a banking crisis because we have a strong banking system but we have spent beyond our means and unless the budget deficit is controlled over a period of time – we will be going in that direction.

It is worth highlighting that most of the debt was created under (Prime Minister Lawrence) Gonzi.

Are you saying we’re on the same path as many other European countries but just haven’t reached that point?

We are on that path unless we change direction. While parts of the economy are doing well, other areas, like manufacturing, construction and real estate, are not.

One of Labour’s major promises is to reduce water and electricity rates. As one of Dr Muscat’s advisers in this field and someone working on the manifesto, how can this be done?

We need to start from the premise that we are paying among the highest tariffs in Europe. I get slightly annoyed when Gonzi says he doesn’t have control over the tariffs because of international pricing issues.

My view is that the current tariffs structure is a consequence of choices and decisions taken by Gonzi’s Administration.

They had clear advice, back in 2006, to go for gas but they did not.

The Government has now said it will move towards gas.

But the Government’s choice during this legislature was to go for heavy fuel oil.

Are the tariffs going to decrease because of the decision to go for gas?

The tariffs can decrease firstly by converting the power station and building a gas infrastructure. Just look at the gas prices compared with fuel prices and conversions over the next 10 years...

We also have a number of proposals for alternative technology.

Such as?

Solar is going to be one of the technologies that we will push really hard.

The Government has a target to reach 10 per cent renewable by 2018. The actual date is 2020 but things need to be in place by 2018.

Will you help to install solar panels on every house?

There is going to be an intensive push on the domestic front but there will also be a push on brownfield sites and the use of Malta’s industrial parks: roofs which are ideally structured to actually position that.

Alternative energy is more expensive than fossil fuels. How will that translate into lower tariffs?

The transition to gas will ensure the reduction in price. The baseload, the 90 per cent generation, will be composed of two components, one being gas and the rest coming from the interconnector from Italy.

Also, we need to look at Enemalta’s efficiency and procure fuel more strategically. Currently, Enemalta buys on tender.

We need to look at the way France and other countries procure electricity by having a strategic partnership with national oil companies of other countries to have stable prices. There are many things that can be done.

Isn’t this what the Government is already doing? How does this count as Labour’s main electoral pledge?

No, no, the Government has decided to go for heavy fuel oil. The Government does not have an energy policy. It is going round in circles. We have a roadmap.

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