Prime Minister Robert Abela warned businesses on Sunday against taking advantage of the global economic situation to artificially gouge prices and place a further unnecessary burden on consumers. 

He was taking questions from members of the public during a political activity in Valletta when pensioner Joseph Sammut asked what the government is doing to prevent consumer prices from climbing in a “free for all”. 

A similar appeal was made in mid-December by former minister Carmelo Abela.

The prime minister said the government had managed to rein in inflation as much as possible, by measures such as the freeze on energy prices. Most price increases were caused by overseas factors including global inflation, but there were other causes too.

He noted that shipping costs, particularly from China, had risen steeply for a time. But, he said, they were now practically back to their former level. But local consumer prices, had not necessarily gone down.

The government, he said, had worked well with businesses and they had kept the economy going strong in difficult times. But he wanted to warn some within the business sector against taking a short-term view and seeking to take advantage of the global crisis of war and inflation to artificially increase prices. 

“In the past year, we have seen our exports increase and local consumption strengthened, let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot by raising prices to the point of killing competitiveness,” he said. 

“We have to look at the long term and not an immediate profit and we must look toward moving on from this situation sustainably, in a way that keeps the economy going and consumers can keep up with the price of goods.”

Trailer operators had claimed in December that shipping lines that carry cargo to Malta had increased their rates despite global shipping rates declining.

Measures to prevent false claims of ill health to justify termination of pregnancies

Asked about the amendment to the Criminal Code that would permit the termination of pregnancies when a mother’s life or health are in grave danger, the prime minister reiterated that accusations that the amendment was a backdoor to abortion were false. 

He said the amendment at its core aims to address the realities of many families who have had to suffer heartbreaking situations in silence and shame for many years. 

Abela told people not to give in to scaremongering and misinformation being peddled by the Opposition. 

“All dispositions in our law that prohibit abortion will still be there,” he said. 

He insisted that the amendment would not permit frivolous late-term abortions, as some had claimed. Indeed, the bill now before parliament would make clear that in situations where the fetus was viable then it must be birthed. 

“It is not the case that parents can decide by themselves to terminate a pregnancy, but only that doctors may consider the option when the mother’s life is in danger,” he said. 

He noted concerns that people may abuse by claiming that the mother's health was in danger, and said the government was listening to all people of goodwill and would consider introducing a structure to ensure there was no abuse of this possibility. 

Investment in Gozo

Fielding a question about planned investment in Gozo, Abela said that the government has a €50 million plan to regenerate an area of the capital Victoria, which will include embellishment of the main parking facilities, which would go underground. The surface would be an open green space.  

Abela also said that a budget proposal to grant €10,000 to first-time buyers is set to be implemented in the coming months and will be backdated to all first-time buyers who took out a property loan as of January 2022.

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