Labour Leader Joseph Muscat said yesterday he would step down should a government led by him fail to deliver on its pledge to reduce water and electricity tariffs.
The statement came casually, in response to a comment by hydrologist Marco Cremona, who argued at a Labour Party electoral campaign activity yesterday that Dr Muscat was taking the biggest risk by making such a pledge.
“If there is no interest in this proposal from the private sector it is really the Labour Party and Joseph Muscat who will be taking the biggest risk.
“He has said that he will be taking personal responsibility for this project. I think what this means is that he would resign,” Dr Cremona said.“That’s right,” Dr Muscat replied.
He was speaking from the floor during a debate with a panel that included only one party affiliate, Konrad Mizzi, the party’s spokesman fronting the energy pledge.
Earlier, Dr Cremona said he found Labour’s pledge to be interesting and well presented but criticised the element related to water, his specialisation.
He argued that the price of water, which was already “ridiculously cheap”, should not have been reduced further because this would take capital away from the Water Services Corporation, which it needed to improve water conservation.
Dr Muscat said the point was legitimate but argued that Labour’s plan did not burden the WSC because the party was proposing an investment that would cut the cost of energy generation.
Moreover, he said, Labour could have lowered water rates even further but did not to allocate more money for WSC investment.
However, the main emphasis of Dr Muscat’s argument yesterday centred around the health benefits of the cleaner gas-powered plant that his party was proposing for Delimara.
Shortly after an advertising break, Dr Muscat introduced a woman whose family is plagued with lung cancer and asthma.
The woman said three family members had died of cancer, two of them with lung cancer, eight of her nine grandchildren suffered from asthma and another child had cancer.
“We spend our days at health centres and now we have a three-year-old grandchild with cancer,” the woman from Marsa-xlokk said.
Dr Muscat pointed out that he had not met the woman, who was sitting right behind him, before but felt that he should encourage her to speak after she told him her story during the break.
“I found her story shocking,” he said, arguing that Labour was duty-bound to do something about the Delimara plant on the strength of the health as-pect alone.
Earlier, the party’s proposal got a corporate endorsement from another member of the panel: Malta Hotel and Restaurants’ Association president Tony Zahra.
He argued that unless there was another proposal to reduce water and electricity bills “it’s obvious that we are going to choose” the proposal on the table.
He said that it was vital for his sector for water and electricity bills to be reduced and he called for more such pledges.
Mr Zahra also made a veiled comment on the fact that the Government had not taken up his association’s complaints about the adverse effects of energy prices seriously enough.
“I was just saying to my friend that for the roads to be done in this country we have to wait for a visit by the Pope or the Queen.
“In this case, we had to wait for an election. Perhaps, we should have one every six months,” he said.
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