[WATCH] Bernard Grech: Government failed to address today’s realities

Opposition leader Bernard Grech says ‘cosmetic budget’ did not address traffic, environmental pollution and cost-of-living

Opposition leader Bernard Grech (Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
Opposition leader Bernard Grech (Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

Opposition leader Bernard Grech has said government has failed to address the realities faced by Maltese society in next year’s budget.

“Government promised us a living wage, instead it gave us living poor,” Grech said.

Grech was delivering his reaction to the budget presented by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana last week.

“This is a cosmetic budget, which fails to address the serious problems faced by society today: cost-of-living, traffic, environmental pollution, extra costs for businesses,” the PN leader said.


He criticised government’s economic policy, saying it has continued to increase the country’s debt. “First you spent every last cent for wasteful reasons and bad decisions, now he wants you to make sacrifices.”

Grech also stated that in order for the Labour Party to win the general election, it spent public funds “excessively.” “Soon after, they told us we need to reduce public spending.”

The PN leader said government statements that no new taxes were introduced were false. “This is a budget with the worst tax possible: debt.”

(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

He said Labour governments have overseen record levels of debt, playing down declarations by governments that debt had increased due to COVID-19 measures.”

Grech said that young people are among those who are facing the brunt of excessive debt, especially those who are looking to buy a property, with increases in prices and interest.


Speaking on mental health, he said recent statistics have shown that 74% of youths aged between 13 and 18, and 56% of those aged between 19 and 25 have expressed their concern on their mental health.

“And what did Robert Abela do? He slashed the Richmond Foundation budget, a foundation respected widely for its work in the mental health sector,” he said.

The Nationalist leader slammed government for selling state hospitals to Steward. “They gave them away for free, and we continue to pay €100 million every year.”

Grech challenged Abela to declare he would be ending the contract with Steward in his speech on Tuesday. “Only that way will you be on the side of the people. If you don’t, you will side with the corrupt. This is a government which is weak with Vitals, but strong with health workers. Instead of ordering they pay back the millions they stole, they are giving them even more.”

“Why does Robert Abela insist on defending this deal?”

10 years of Labour government

He said this budget tries to make people forget “from where we started.”

“Government is trying hard to distance itself from Joseph Muscat. This is the same government,” he said. “Most of today’s ministers, parliamentary secretaries and MPs were there during Muscat’s time.”

He said they were accomplices in allowing corruption to run rampant in the country. “In the moment of truth, when you had the chance to vote against all this, you did nothing.”

The Nationalist leader said Labour had promised to eradicate corruption in the country, but instead continued to push it. “We are paying for that corruption.”

Grech stated that government continues to choose the interests of foreigners over those of the Maltese. “Corruption in Electrogas, millions to persons of trust, direct orders everywhere, large swaths of land to Jordanian developers at Smart City. Corruption everywhere from pavements to flyovers.”

Cost of living

Speaking on the Cost-of-Living Adjustment, Grech said the Finance Minister had promised a new mechanism for the cost-of-living increase. “A year has passed, and the 80,000 vulnerable people and 37,000 vulnerable families have received nothing.”

Grech said the increase in cost of living is not enough to address the “explosion in prices.”

(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

He said people from all walks of life, even those in the middle class, have had to rethink their priorities. “From going abroad on a holiday, to eating out, this all leads to a quality of life which is worse.”


On traffic, he said that after government spent a billion euro on road projects, people still have to experience long waiting times.

“Instead of coming up with solutions, they come up with excuses. Anyone but them,” he said.

He slammed the “false promises” of a metro, saying the project was not mentioned by Caruana in last week’s speech. “Why did Minister Ian Borg say that studies were finished? Are they or not? Or do you have a direct order lined up?”

Grech said government has failed to properly addressed the issue of traffic in the country.

“The traffic problem is getting even worse, and has become a threat to public health,” he said.


Bernard Grech said the energy sector can no longer be shrouded in a culture of “theft and secrecy.”

The Nationalist leader said that while government is right in subsidising energy prices, it should be transparent on the figures it is paying. “Government cannot just quote figures and pretend that a simple one-liner without any breakdown.”

(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

“How can this administration pretend that 10% of government spending be a simple one-liner without explanation and costings,” he said.

“Government must tell us where these millions are going. How much of these millions are subsidising gas from Socar? How much of these millions are going towards Electrogas’ profits? How much of these millions are subsidising the €5,000 a day we are paying for their friends at 17 Black, Hearnville, Tillgate and Egrant?” he said.

Not a socialist government

The PN leader picked up on the Finance Minister’s statements that this is a “socialist government.”

“You are everything but a socialist government. They use that term to give the impression they are a workers’ party. This is a budget of figures, which does not recognise the realities faced by Maltese and Gozitan families.”

He said that Robert Abela on Tuesday, will push the rhetoric that the opposition is negative. “What he won’t say is that thousands of euro will be given to the chosen few, what he won’t say is that large amounts of funds will be collected through taxes.”

The PN’s vision for the future

Speaking on the party’s vision for the future, Grech mentioned a number of measures the PN hopes to see introduced.

He said the cost-of-living increase can no longer continue to impact the vulnerable in society.

“We propose a new mechanism which goes beyond economic indicators such as the GDP, but is composed of other indicators such as the welfare of our societies and communities,” he said.

(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

On health he said the PN wants to improve public health services by investing in prevention, primary healthcare and specialised centres based in the community.

Speaking on education, he said it can no longer remain academic, but strives to teach young children and youths to become active citizens with skills which go beyond just skills.

On the environment, Grech said government must ensure that recycling efforts by people are recognised, and not end up mixing “separated waste into one dump.”

He also said that infrastructure must cater for new technologies for alternative energy from the sun, wind and waves.

Concluding, he said Gozo needs regional leadership with executive powers and adequate financing so that the issues of sustainable development, traffic and internal tourism are properly addressed. “Who better to do this then Gozitans themselves?”

Other measures on good governance, justice, security and infrastructure were also mentioned by Grech.

Prime Minister reaction

Reacting to Grech’s speech, Abela said the Opposition leader’s speech showed that he is distanced from reality.

“He also showed his lack of technical ability in his economic analysis, so much so there was no analysis of the budget,” he said.