Minister’s refusal to provide job loss figures frustrates PN MPs

Employment Minister Owen Bonnici refused to be drawn into stating how many jobs were lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, insisting instead on favourably comparing Malta to the rest of Europe.

Bonnici was answering parliamentary questions at the start of Monday’s parliamentary sitting when the issue was brought up by opposition MP Claudio Grech. Instead of giving figures, however, the minister chose to highlight that economic forecasts predicted that Malta would fare better than most of Europe, and provided no figures.

The minister was far less evasive when he answered a parliamentary question by Labour MP Jean-Claude Micallef on scholarships, however, opting to provide a lengthy and detailed response. The length of his answer led Speaker Anġlu Farrugia to ask him to conclude: ministers are supposed to limit their answers to no more than 3 minutes, but in practice, this limit is often breached when government MPs field softball questions.

Grech commented on this trend, stating that it was fascinating to see ministers insist that questions be submitted in writing whenever opposition MPs ask for anything, but curiously have all the data available when government MPs have a question to make.

“I did not ask for something too detailed,” he emphasised.

But Bonnici stuck to his approach, leading Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia to emphasise that Grech’s question was clear, and that he did not seek comparisons, but only the actual number of jobs lost.

This time, instead of answering the question, the minister seized on Delia’s precarious position at the head of his party and accused him of seeking to engage in hyperbole when describing Malta’s economic situation.