Monday’s Budget will include an increase in the price of soft drinks, with an automated return system introduced in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic polluting the environment.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the system would replicate the one that existed before glass bottles were phased out, with consumers eligible for a small refund for each plastic bottle they return to a number of machines at shops and petrol stations.

READ: Muscat targets 70% return rate for plastic bottles by 2019

Speaking at a political event in Għaxaq, Dr Muscat highlighted the huge damage plastic caused the environment and marine ecosystems, describing the current situation as “intolerable” and attacking the EU pressure that led to the end of glass bottles as a “victory of profit over the environment”.

“This will be a small burden on the consumer which will pay off in a cleaner environment and a healthier population,” he said.

Surplus projected for next year

The first Budget of the new legislature, Dr Muscat said, would consist of 70 per cent of measures drawn directly from the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto, and would aim to deliver another surplus next year.

“We are the only political party in with the credentials to move the country forward,” he said. “The Opposition leader asked where the surplus is going. It is clearing the debt your predecessors left us. It is bringing in more doctors, nurses and teachers, and provide childcare, essential social services, housing and IVF. To that I add: wait until tomorrow and you’ll see where the surplus is going.”

Dr Muscat also promised that despite the party riding high on an “unprecedented show of faith” so soon after the general election, the Budget would not be one of austerity or unpopular measures.

He said the government’s plan was not to make decisions on the basis of elections, but to give the people as much as the country could afford at any moment, without risking excessive debt.

“Stupid” Opposition stance on IVF

Dr Muscat also took aim at the Opposition’s proposed changes to a law granting additional leave to lesbian couples and infertile women travelling abroad for IVF treatment.

“The motion is as stupid as determining whether someone qualifies for a hip replacement based on the colour of their eyes,” the Prime Minister said. “Who are we to decide whether to help a woman raise a family through modern technological means based on their sexual orientation? This is not acceptable in the sort of society I want to live in.”

Claiming that the Nationalist Party’s stance on the issue was being driven by a small ideological minority, Dr Muscat said the issue made clear the difference between the two parties.

“The Opposition is the conservative establishment that wants to hold the country back. This is a progressive movement that doesn’t want to wait for things to change, but to be the ones that lead the change. Both parties have picked up the pace since the election: us to move forward, they to move back.”

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