Leaders agree on removal of time-barring on political corruption

Dr Gonzi (right) and Dr Muscat at the Xarabank studios in Qormi this evening. Photo: Jason Borg

Dr Gonzi (right) and Dr Muscat at the Xarabank studios in Qormi this evening. Photo: Jason Borg

Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat tonight faced off on Xarabank in the first TV debate of the election campaign which came to a close with all parties agreeing on Labour's proposal to remove time-barring on political corruption.

The debate began with a discussion on the economy. The Prime Minister blamed Labour for the downgrade by credit rating agency Standard and Poor's while the Labour leader accused Dr Gonzi of giving a superficial reading of the downgrade.

Dr Gonzi repeatedly stressed the importance of having sound finances and warned that Malta would not belong to everyone if the island had to ask for a bailout.

At this point, Dr Muscat criticised Dr Gonzi for scaring off investors, saying that Labour never did this in the past for years. "Is this what we should expect from a Nationalist Opposition?"

Dr Gonzi maintained his criticism of Labour, warning that a Labour Government would drive the country's finances into a wall. Dr Muscat replied: "You've already done that Dr Gonzi."

Much of the rest of the debate focused on energy, with Dr Muscat saying Dr Gonzi had no credibility on the issue and Dr Gonzi saying that experts were destroying Labour's plans.

Dr Muscat brought up the comments made by former Enemalta manager John Pace about a gas pipeline opportunity the Government ditched 10 years ago. Dr Gonzi said it was not in the country's interests because it would have tied Malta down for 25 years, to which Dr Muscat quipped: "Didn't you say it's impossible to get a 10-year deal?"

Dr Muscat said the PN was panicking because it had no plan on energy and had still not made any proposals. Dr Gonzi said this was rich coming from a party that kept silent for five years. At one point Dr Muscat asked Dr Gonzi whether he was sure all Enemalta reports were published, implying he had something up his sleeve. However, he did not follow this up.

Dr Muscat's high point was when he began asking questions on the Government's Budget proposal of succession duty. "There are millions involved... Questions are being asked and you are being irresponsible by not answering." Dr Gonzi, visibly uncomfortable, replied by saying he would clarify in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Dr Gonzi emerged strongly when asking about the kind of change in direction Dr Muscat wanted. He asked Dr Muscat to say what he meant when he suggested Malta should follow the footsteps of Cyprus, which is now asking for a bailout. Dr Muscat replied by saying that Dr Gonzi used to mention Ireland.

Alternattiva Demokratika's Michael Briguglio, who had much less time during the debate, mentioned environmental issues, gay rights and drug decriminalisation, promising a full electoral programme of clear stands.




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