Opposition leader Adrian Delia accused the government of selectively quoting figures to obscure the reality in the country, as Parliament continued its budgetary debates on Wednesday.
Following Dr Delia’s official reply speech on Monday and the Prime Minister’s rebuttal on Tuesday, the back-and-forth between the two leaders picked up again during a debate on the OPM’s general estimates.
Referring to Dr Muscat’s description of the Budget as “all treats, no tricks”, the Opposition leader said: “The government thinks of the economy in terms of treats. It sees the people as numbers at the polling booth and the Budget as a ‘package’ to be handed out.”
In a half-hour speech touching on the issues he has previously made key - immigration and the lack of economic benefits for the most vulnerable - Dr Delia repeatedly called for the government not to confuse people with figures but to address realities he said were evident.
Read: Budget 2019 at a glance - all the key measures
On immigration, he said the 8,826 foreigners Dr Muscat said came to Malta over the last year were only those who had been given work permits, rather than those given residency. He again called on the Prime Minister to state clearly how many migrant workers the government wanted to bring in.
“Beyond the numbers, it is clear to everyone that the population is growing significantly and in a very short period of time,” he said.
‘Government doesn’t care about small businesses’
On the economy, Dr Delia said figures on GDP growth could not give the whole picture of what was happening in the country, as the government’s trickle-down economic model focused only on those at the top.
We cannot understand how a socialist government can become so cut off in just five years
He said Dr Muscat had shrugged off concerns about business closures, and the individuals who were suffering as a result, by simply pointing to the new businesses that had opened at the same time.
“We cannot understand how a socialist government, a workers’ party, can have become so cut off from daily realities in just five years. This government has made a clear choice. Whoever is in government in this country will always be pro-business, but this government has stated clearly that while it wants to work with big business, it has no interest in small.”
Meanwhile, he said, the government was simply refusing to admit other realities, including that its economic model was bound to lead to continued rent prices as more people arrived in Malta.
He questioned how housing would be provided for new residents, and whether more virgin land would have to be sacrificed.
On the environment, he said it was clear to everyone despite the government’s claims that the situation had worsened, and that people were spending more and more on inhalers due to declining air quality levels.
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