Hare-brained schemes

Opposition’s Economy Spokesperson against initiatives to reduce the prices of essential products.

In a speech in Senglea, Nationalist MP and Opposition Spokesperson on the Economy, Ivan J. Bartolo, confirmed that the Nationalist Party does not have the interests of Maltese and Gozitan families at heart. After being one of those who attacked Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba’s call for an investigation into whether importers are making excessive profits, now Ivan J. Bartolo criticised another initiative, this time spearheaded by Minister for the Economy, Silvio Schembri.

Bartolo said that it is not right that the Minister is meeting with food importers to find ways for them to reduce the price of fifty essential products. This is because, according to Bartolo, this reduction in prices will lead to a loss in their income. He claimed that this initiative, which is like those done in countries like France and Italy, is not business-friendly because importers have been burdened by the increase in the COLA and in the minimum wage.

Instead of arguing against greedflation, Bartolo said that importers cannot reduce prices at present. Instead, he reiterated that Government should hand over €40 million in grants to importers, with no strings attached.

To understand how substantial a sum this is, €40 million is equivalent to how much the Government allocates each year to social and affordable housing programmes. Instead of clearly stating that he supports Government’s current assistance on energy prices – which costs one million euros each day – Bartolo is calling for handouts to a few firms which would fall foul of EU competition laws.

Bartolo’s speech was replete with attacks on the Prime Minister who, he said, made a very negative speech when he responded to Bernard Grech’s Budget reply. Bartolo, in fact, said that it was a punishment for him to have to hear this speech. This assertion came after he had stated that the Nationalist Party is fighting against a monster.

Besides his complete support for food importers, Bartolo referred to the Prime Minister’s warnings to temping agencies and to landlords who are renting to an excessive number of tenants as populist measures.

Bartolo argued that, instead of being regulated and fined, those who are currently renting their property to 30 or more people should be provided with a financial solution. He said that this should be the case because when the number of people they can cram into their properties reduces, it will make it more difficult for them to earn rents of thousands of euros. Therefore, according to Bartolo, the Government should step in to pay the difference.

The vision of the Opposition on the economy is well and truly monstrous: the government handing over millions to food importers without asking for any price cuts, while granting a subsidy to those landlords who are currently renting out their property to more than six people. This is exactly the opposite of what the people need and want, which is more control by the Government so that businesses do not overcharge customers and landlords do not abuse their tenants and make life difficult for their neighbours.

Let us hope that the hare-brained schemes of Ivan J Bartolo remain just that – schemes that never see the light of day. 

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