Discriminatory bus fares are this government's mess - Muscat

Government purposely delaying response to Commission query, PL leader charges

The Government has taken a political decision to not answer a European Commission query about dual-rate public transport ticket prices in an attempt to disclaim responsibility, Labour leader Joseph Muscat has charged.

Describing the issue as a "hot potato", Dr Muscat said that he expected those responsible for introducing the system to sort it out.

"Just because those responsible are PN candidates or retiring ministers, it does not mean they can now wash their hands of this mess," he said, in a thinly-veiled reference to Transport Minister Austin Gatt and his right-hand man, PN candidate Manuel Delia.

Under local public transport regulations, Maltese citizens and residents pay less for bus tickets than tourists or foreigners without proof of Maltese residency. The system has caught the Commission's attention. It has given the government until the end of March to adequately defend the system.

Speaking before a large crowd in Zebbug during a special edition of One TV programme TX, Dr Muscat said he was "not surprised" by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's assertion - made yesterday during a debate organised by The Times - that he would not resign as party leader if he suffered electoral defeat.

"It's symptomatic of a Prime Minister who's been clinging to power for over a year," he said. "I don't know why so many people were surprised. I expected that reply, without a shadow of a doubt".

He rubbished Dr Gonzi's claims that youth unemployment was not a pressing issue in Malta, saying 15 per cent of youths - 4,600 people - were out of work. In all, approximately 10 per cent of graduates did not work, he said.

Generating work for these youths would be a PL priority, he said, with the private sector fuelling the driving down of these figures.

Dr Muscat touched on the PL's energy plans, saying the party's proposals were "the most scrutinised and concrete proposals Malta's ever had" and telling his audience that the PL would also work towards a gas pipeline once EU funds were made available.

He rallied supporters by encouraging them to each "convince one person to vote for our movement" in the days to come, and made a special appeal to Gozitan youth.

"You may culturally be less inclined to speak your mind in public, but in the voting booth you will be alone. And if you too feel the need for a change in direction, then you have a group of strong PL candidates who can bring it about," he said.

That appeal was followed by a call for PL supporters to collect their voting documents and to vote early in the day come March 9.



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