Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Times: Muscat reiterates economic growth before raising minimum wage

Saturday, September 22, 2012, 18:32

[Click on the hyperlink above to watch the video.]

Labour leader Joseph Muscat this evening spoke on the priority areas of a new Labour government and reiterated that the economy had to grow before one could discuss a raising of the minimum wage.

Speaking at a mass meeting at Ta' Qali which concluded the party's first ever congress Dr Muscat reiterated the PL's commitment to improve living standards and the business environment.
The following is Dr Muscat's speech as it was delivered:
6.30 p.m. Joseph Muscat says the purpose of the mass meeting is to look to the future. He says the PL will offer certainty which will create wealth. The choice at the election is between a past which divided and a future which unites.
6.35 p.m. Dr Muscat refers to Dr Gonzi's speech on Thursday when he said the people  knew where they stood with the PN. Muscat says many workers do, such as those of Air Malta, Sea Malta, GO and others who had lost their jobs. The PN was saying it was the party of change. What it had changed was the power tariffs, for example.
6.37 p.m. Muscat insists that the PL will not make unsustainable promises and will be responsible. The people, he says, are fed up of politicians who say one thing and do another. This, he says, is the time for unity.
6.41 p.m. The biggest challenge for a Labour government will be to bring about economic growth and fair distribution of wealth. The PL will  ensure that the economic strings will no longer remain in the hands of a few people. "We want to give the country back to all the people of Malta and Gozo." Assistance will be given to small businesses.
6.43 p.m. Muscat says Labour will lift the middle class but it will not be jealous of the well off. Labour will be careful in the management of government funds and the private sector will enjoy the best climate ever to invest, grow and create jobs.
6.48 p.m. The number of families living from hand to mouth has increased and it will be a Labour priority to raise the standard of living, helping particularly those with a low income and the middle class while not hindering those at the top.
6.52 p.m. Muscat renews promise to reduce water and electricity tariffs 'in a responsible manner' . Bills will be reduced without new taxes being imposed to make up - thanks to efficient management and new technology.
"We will find the money like somebody else found funds for the new parliament". 
6.56 p.m. Turning to education, Dr Muscat says the focus will be for more young people to further their education because that will be key for development.  Young people who leave school and do not find a job will be offered new training. Jobs will depend on merit and not on pleading to politicians.
Turning to the issue of the minimum wage, Dr Muscat says an honest discussion had been held with the trade unions on the minimum wage and he would reiterate that in current economic conditions, the priority is economic growth. Businesses also need to be strengthened.
To say that the minimum wage will be raised immediately will be popular but wrong, as people will lose their jobs and the economy will shrink. "Labour is being honest and it is siding with the people, not like those who got a raise of €500 a week." Therefore, the priority will be to reduce power bills to help families and businesses. Then as the economy starts to grow, one can discuss other matters such as raising the minimum wage and new benefits.
"We must build strong foundations first, not just for five years but for the future of our children so that growth can be sustained."
However he could assure low income families that improving their standard of living will be a Labour priority.
7.07 p.m. Dr Muscat reiterates reform in the health sector, particularly in primary health care, to ease pressure on Mater Dei and stop the practice of having patients in the corridors.
Labour is also promising to ensure there is better quality air, not least in the south, where the power station will operate on gas, not heavy fuel oil. And there will be proper waste management, and not just transferring the dump from Maghtab to Ghallis.
Dr Muscat insists social services have to be sustainable. The elderly should have a good standard of living. Parents of children with disability can rest assured that their children will be looked after.
7.17 p.m. Muscat promises civil liberties and respect for diversity. He criticises the prime minister for voting against divorce despite the outcome of the referendum. For Labour, all families are the same and Labour will recognise a union of people of the same sex. It will not judge how people live their lives.
7.21 p.m. Muscat warns of difficult times ahead in the run-up to the election. People can expect personal attacks and a fear campaign as well as favours such as in the granting of building permits. But nothing will drown the truth.
7.30 p.m. Labour will show it will be able to unite the people around it, united in diversity to bring about the best future for families, the workers, the self employed and the economy, Dr Muscat concludes.

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