Updated - Adds Labour's reaction

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said this evening that Labour appeared to have deeper pockets than the PN, and he wondered where its money was coming from.

Speaking in the second press conference of the day, this time at PN headquarters, Dr Gonzi highlighted the government's work in education, health and job creation and again criticised the Labour Party for not returning properties it took from private owners to use as its clubs.

He said that in considering their choice at the forthcoming general election, the people should see how this country in the past five years achieved results which were better than all of its neighbours. The situation was such that the Opposition had issued an unprecedented certificate by saying that it would adopt the government's Budget.

Speaking on the PN's fund-raising activity on Sunday, he questioned whether the Labour Party had some new source of revenue. One wondered, he said, where the PL's money were coming from, given its huge spending on billboards, for example, far exceeding that of the PN. 

"It appears that the PL has a substantial amount of funds, which the PN does not have," he said.

Questioned on this point, he said he hoped that a future PN government would be able to move legislation on party funding in the future.

He said that soon after January 7, when the electoral campaign kicks off, the PN would issue its electoral manifesto outlining its view of the future. That would be followed by the electoral programme.

Replying to questions, Dr Gonzi said it would be wrong to say that the PN had been in power for 25 years. Labour was in power for 22 months between 1996 and 1998. It was given half a chance to run the country, and it ruined it, running up a huge debt, freezing Malta's application for EU membership, as well as replacing VAT with higher taxes. Joseph Muscat was an active participant in those changes, which had humiliated the country.

It was insulting, Dr Gonzi said, that Dr Sant, who campaigned so strongly against EU membership, with Dr Muscat on his side, now planned to seek election to the European Parliament.

Asked about the PN's divisions, Dr Gonzi said the past was past. It was no longer relevant to the current situation and he wanted to look to the future.

Dr Gonzi would not be drawn into going into specifics when asked what he would have done differently in the past five years. He regretted, however, that the Cohabitation Bill had not been enacted.

Questioned on a propaganda leaflet mailed anonymously to civil servants which had apparently originated from the PN, Dr Gonzi said the information was selected at random from the electoral register. What was important, he said, was what Labour MP Helena Dalli had said on the civil service, particularly the audit which she said would be carried out.

Would the workers be subjected to an audit? Maybe this leaflet would elicit  a clear reply from Ms Dalli, he said, but workers were right to be worried because of Labour's record when it was last in government.

Replying to other questions, he said there were issues which needed to be addressed including accountability of the judiciary and possible political influences.

He said Labour was falling for populism, which was the last thing that the country needed, given the challenges ahead.

Dr Gonzi also insisted that there were no difficulties in the President dissolving Parliament on January 7, with the election being held on March 9. He said that following his meeting with President Abela this morning, he had phoned him again in the afternoon to confirm that there were no problems.

On the fact that the PN is trailing at the polls, Dr Gonzi said he would use every ounce of energy to convince the people that it was the PN which could offer the best solutions for the country.

PL REACTION

In a reaction, the Labour Party said it appeared that the prime minister could not understand how, with good management, an organisation's finances could improve. It was therefore no wonder that government finances had been weakened. 

The PL said it was the only party which published its accounts. The PN, it said, had failed to move legislation on party funding and had not reacted to allegations about the funding for the building of its headquarters.

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