Deputy Leaders in mild debate
The last public debate before the electoral campaign starts next Monday saw the recently appointed deputy leaders of the PN and PL, Simon Busuttil and Louis Grech, mildly debating various issues while defending their respective track record and positioning their party as the best to govern following the March general elections.
The programme, Dissett, presented by veteran journalist Reno Bugeja, failed to reach any notable levels of debate with both deputy leaders accusing each other of more of the same. Expectations for the programme had been considerably increased following the intervention of the Broadcasting Authority to ensure that Dr Simon Busuttil also participates in the programme after only Louis Grech had initially been invited.
Dr Busuttil said that the people cannot take for granted what they have today since this might change after the March election depending on who is elected to govern the country. Not everything was perfect during this government’s tenure but records have been achieved including in tourism, the minimum wage has been increased, 5,000 jobs were saved from unemployment through government intervention and the country’s finances have been certified by the EU. On the crucial matters of jobs, health and education the government delivered.
He admitted that government made mistakes when it agreed to grant the honoraria of €500 per week but the Prime Minister took it upon himself to rectify the mistake.
Mr Grech disputed Dr Busuttil’s assertion on economy and finances saying that the economy will probably grow by not more than one per cent. Besides, the government did not correct its mismanagement as highlighted by the Auditor General and there are economic and financial problems which need to be addressed.
He wishes that the way politics is done changes after the election. The government is perceived by the people as intransigent and arrogant hence why Simon Busuttil was designated as a special delegate to listen to the people and understand their disenchantment with the party in government. He added that despite the investments made by government, in certain circumstances these failed such as the waiting lists at Mater Dei Hospital. The same occurred in education were despite the investment made certain youths still end their schooling years illiterate or semi illiterate. Moreover, families are struggling to cope with inflation and despite the wage increases their disposable income does not suffice for a decent standard of living.
Dr Busuttil replied that the parties have to distinguish themselves and with the PL in opposition for the past 25 years the people could still judge the party on the basis of what has been achieved such as the opposition by Joseph Muscat to EU membership and Alfred Sant’s position against low cost airlines which have helped the tourism industry to achieve record tourist arrivals.
On the issue of EU Membership, Dr Busuttil said that Mr Grech’s opposition to EU membership for fear of negatively affecting the financial services industry was baseless as financial services are today an important pillar of the local economy.
Mr Grech explained that the PL was not against low cost airlines but insisted that Air Malta should be safeguarded due to its importance for the country. He added that the party felt that at the time it did not feel that it was the right time for the country to join the EU.
Dr Busuttil said that the PN has a vision for the country contrary to the PL which has no vision and policies are drafted by simply calling someone to propose an idea.
Mr Grech said that the PN’s strategy was that of scaremongering and instilling fear against the PL and this was wrong.