Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday dismissed repeated claims by the Opposition that the country‚Äôs economic performance was due to the fact that the government was intentionally increase the population through cheap foreign labour.
Addressing a political activity in Gzira, Muscat said such suggestions were ‚Äústupid‚ÄĚ and that economic success was the basis of the government‚Äôs efforts to redistribute wealth across the various segments of the population.
‚ÄúWhat a stupid argument, with all due respect, the economy grows through work, investment, incentives,‚ÄĚ Muscat insisted, adding that there was another factor that contributed to economic growth and which one would not find in a textbook.
‚ÄúPeople‚Äôs faith, the fact that they have faith in the government and can say that along as this government is around the wheel will keep on turning.‚ÄĚ
This faith, he said, was something that no amount of scaremongering would take away. ‚ÄúUltimately the nation knows what the reality is and the government is in sync with the nation.‚ÄĚ
Muscat stressed that this did not mean that the government did not acknowledge the fact that there were still people that were struggling and pledged to continue working to address such issues.
He said there was not one person in Malta whose life was not improved by the budget announced last week. ‚ÄúThat is the biggest measure of success, how the wealth being created reaches as many different people as possible.‚ÄĚ
Muscat said that in seven budgets his administration had drastically changed the way in which the national budget is prepared and had also changed people‚Äôs perception of the yearly exercise.
‚ÄúToday the only criticism on the budget is about how we could have dedicated more funds to this or that segment‚Ä¶ and we accept this criticism, not only in a positive way, but because it is only the second budget of this legislature and so we have a lot more to give.‚ÄĚ
The government‚Äôs plan, he said, was translating into a better quality of life for all and had changed the previous way of doing things, were budgets depended on electoral considerations. Looking at past budgets one could easily tell the years in which an election was held, Muscat said.
He insisted that people had gotten used to a situation where they were given something on the eve of an election, only have it taken away immediately after.
People knew today that this would not happen, Muscat continuing, pointing out that the budget speech had not included anything about the savings families would be making through past measures, like free childcare and the reduction in water and electricity tariffs.
Such measures, he said, were here to stay because they were sustainable, and formed a strong basis for future governments to build on.
Turning to Malta‚Äôs national debt, Muscat said that rather than allowing future generations to deal with the consequences of today‚Äôs borrowing, the current administration had reduced the national debt, while also reducing taxes.
He said Malta had gone from a country where unemployment was a problem to one with record low unemployment, where six out of 10 women were working and where 70% of the working population was in employment.¬†
Turning to the agreement reached at the end of the last legislature, for employees on the minimum wage to get a mandatory increase after the first year, Muscat noted that this had only come to fruition because of the government‚Äôs support.
‚ÄúThis government, as long as it stays here, will be helping out everyone, one by one,‚ÄĚ Muscat insisted.
He said that the government would continue working to eradicate child poverty and to address segments that were not doing well but ultimately he said people needed to ask themselves whether they were better off than they were six years ago. This, he said, was the greatest confirmation that the government‚Äôs plan was succeeding.