Labour leader Alfred Sant yesterday broke up a ‘state of the country’ appraisal into a harangue of 20 reasons why Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi should shed his ministers and give his cabinet a new line-up
Sant yesterday produced his 20 reasons why Gonzi should reshuffle his cabinet as he pointed out clear-cut figures detailing the economic ‘non-performance’ of the island since Gonzi took over the reins of government from former PM Eddie Fenech Adami.
Raging from economy and finance, to national projects, social policy and the PM’s leadership style, Sant said a cabinet reshuffle was in the national interest – that of getting the country out of “the precarious state we’re in”.
Sant said government debt had soared by 15 per cent from March 2004, resting now at Lm1,388 million since Gonzi delivered his first address as PM. Added to that is the increase of the cost of living from 1.75 per cent to 2.77 per cent, and an increase of Lm30 million (6%) in government spending increasing to Lm550 million.
Sant also pointed out how the Nationalist government under Gonzi’s stewardship had failed to attract a much touted 50,000 additional tourists this year, and that taxation had formed the backbone of Gonzi’s deficit reduction. Sant listed VAT increases on 400 products, fuel price hikes, general increases over all forms of transport, increases in telephone charges and the price of bread, the 17 per cent surcharge on utilities, the eco-tax, and the passenger and departure tax.
He also said that despite Gonzi’s lip service about increasing investment to the island, the first six months of 2005 had registered Lm460 million in revenue for the manufacturing industry – eight per cent less than the first six months of 2004.
A list of six national capital projects also featured in Sant’s ‘list of twenty’, saying how the Mater Dei increased from Lm139 million to Lm250 million, how the projects for quays, City Gate, the Ta’ Qali crafts village had to be completed by this year after Gonzi himself promised a completion date by 2005.
Sant also expressed concern that part-time employment was fast becoming Malta’s primary occupation. “In his first address to the nation as Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi declared a national plan of employment was being prepared and that his government’s commitment was to enact this plan as quickly as possible.
“Whilst the Lisbon Agenda fixes European aims at 70 per cent in terms of the labour rate for people employed between 15 and 64 per cent until 2010, and 60 per cent for women of the same age group, during 2004 Malta had almost the worst employment rate for those between 15 and 64 years (54.1%) and the worst percentage for employed women (32.8%).
“Between December 2003 and December 2004, whilst full time gainfully occupied increased by just 370, part time employment increased by 3,000. Part time employment as a primary occupation increased by 1,900.”
Sant also lambasted Gonzi’s so-called ‘new style of making politics’, his trademark in his first weeks as Prime Minister. Sant said Gonzi’s government experienced a myriad of resignations from chairpersons of authorities, pointing out how national TV station PBS remains without a head of news for more than a year and a half.
Asked about how he compared his own 22 months in government between 1996 and 1998 to the performance of the Nationalist government today, Sant quickly said his government had done more in its short tenure than the Nationalist government has done so far since 2003.
“We were the first to put into focus the problem of the deficit and the waste management problems ahead. The reason we spent 22 months in government was because a former leader of the party and MP voted against the government.”