Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a radio interview on Sunday that he does not want to resign neither before, nor during, nor after the next budget.
He said that the budget is so important not to just write, but to implement, and that he can assure everyone that his thoughts are on working to do what is needed to keep raising Malta’s standing.
His statement comes following reports that a leadership campaign within the Labour party for his position had begun to heat up, with various newspapers reporting on Sunday that Muscat had called in the people in question – Health Minister Chris Fearne, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg – to put a stop to the campaigning.
Speaking about Helena Dalli’s designation as nominee for the Commissioner for Equality of the European Union, Muscat sad that he was proud to see that Dalli would be the EU’s first Equality Commissioner, noting that her portfolio is an extensive one and is one of very high political visibility.
He said that he has no doubt that Dalli, if accepted into the role, will try and replicate what she has done on the equality front in Malta in the wider European sphere.
He noted that the government will meanwhile continue working on improving equality in Malta, saying that it seems like the opposition are in agreement with the proposed reforms for Parliament, and noting that the party aims to have 40% of its ballot sheet for the next general election “in three year’s time” made up of women, and that come the general election after that, this figure would rise to 50%.
National conference on public cleanliness in November
Asked whether he was satisfied with the state of cleanliness on the island, Muscat said that while he is pleased to say that the Cleansing Department is “extremely efficient”, he noted that he is not satisfied with the lack of coordination between certain authorities.
He said that what irritates him – and people – the most is when local councils and government entities lay the task of cleaning at each other’s feet, to the point that the cleaning is not done as a result.
He felt that cleaning of the locality should remain the responsibility of local councils, but noted that there has to be a better strategy for it. He said that he had spoken to Culture Minster Owen Bonnici and Parliamentary Secretary Deo Debattista – who is responsible for the Cleansing Department – about the idea of organising a national conference on this subject this coming November, with all stakeholders invited so as to explain the systems which are in place and take suggestions in order to improve them.
He noted that private contractors also had a responsibility to make sure that if they win a tender for four or five localities, then they must have the resources to provide for those localities simultaneously and without having to siphon resources from one locality to another to meet the requirements of the tender.
‘The Opposition does not know what it stands for – it does not know its principles’
Muscat was critical of the Opposition and their views on the recently tabled rent reform, noting that “they do not know what they stand for, or what their principles are,” calling them a vane which turns whichever direction the wind blows from.
He said that the government had spoken to the Opposition and it seemed like they had agreed with the reform, but said that now that the Malta Developer’s Association and the Chamber of Commerce have come out with concerns on it – concerns which the Prime Minister described as being genuine – the Opposition had decided to do an about-turn and criticise the bill.
“They were criticising us for not defending the tenant enough; now because we put in measures to defend the tenant, they are saying we are putting too harsh measures on the landlord”, Muscat said before noting that in his eyes these are balanced measures.
Muscat noted that there had been articles claiming that the government can enter into anybody’s house at any given time, and noted that this is completely untrue. He said that this law was placed by the Nationalist Party when they were in government, and that while the law may need to be clarified a bit more, it allowed the government to – with a 24 hour notice period – inspect the conditions of a property that it is being rented out.
2017 General Election manifesto is government’s plan – Muscat
Speaking in more general terms about the government’s work, Muscat said that summer had shown that the government does not rest.
He said that the upcoming budget will continue government’s work to create a new middle class in the country, but at the same time lift people out of poverty. “Unlike previous governments, we recognise the presence of poverty and our aim remains that of not having a single person who is at risk of falling into poverty”, he said.
He also noted that the budget will aim to make sure that enterprises keep having the courage to invest money, adding that the government was, is, and will remain pro-business.
He spoke about the need to continue improving the country’s infrastructure, both physically and legally, noting that the government had accepted the measures that had been suggested by Moneyval – which, he said, had always been critical of Malta – and will be working to implement them.
He added that discussions were underway with the allied health professionals who are currently on strike, and said that – pending the same good will – he looked forward to similar discussions with regards to the situation in Air Malta.
He said that the economy will keep doing well, and noted that the Leader of the Opposition made him laugh when he suggested that the PN was going to draft an economic plan as if the government did not have one already.
He said that the government’s plan is Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto; “That is not going to be shelved like the PN used to do with their manifestos”, he said.