PN MPs challenge government to slash utility bills

Miguela Xuereb

A number of Nationalist MPs challenged the government to reduce utility prices in parliament this evening, arguing that it had its hands tied because of the “corrupt” energy deal reached with the Electrogas consortium.

Today’s sitting was dedicated to the financial aid package announced by the government to address the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stating that the government’s financial position made it better able to address an inevitable economic downturn.

In their speeches, opposition MPs argued that in its latest package, the government was finally recognising the validity of the proposals the Nationalist Party had made in recent days, having met them with ridicule only days before. Nevertheless, they argued that the measures were insufficient, with entrepreneur Ivan J. Bartolo stating that the “package was a step in the right direction, but a few steps too short.”

But they also flagged two controversial deals – the Electrogas contract, as well as the three public hospitals placed under the management of Steward Healthcare – as they lamented that funds that were sorely needed elsewhere were being wasted.

MPs wonder who is benefiting from oil price drop

Oil prices have fallen sharply recently, amid expectations that they will drop further, as in spite of a drop in global demand, supply is increasing as Saudi Arabia and Russia are ramping up their production efforts.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia estimated that the drop in oil prices would translate into savings of €70 million this year, but questioned whether these savings went to the country or to “Azerbaijan or China,” a reference to Azerbaijani state company SOCAR’s involvement in Electrogas and Shanghai Electric’s acquisition of the BWSC plant in Delimara.

In his own speech, MP David Thake urged Prime Minister Robert Abela – who announced he is foregoing his salary this month – to encourage his friends to forego “the €5,000 they are taking every day due to the 17 Black Electrogas deal,” in a reference to allegations surrounding former minister Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. He also noted that financial services had already been dealt a blow due to the actions of people who are still in Parliament, but were not benefiting from any financial aid.

David Agius said that in spite of pledges to improve governance, Abela did nothing to address the Electrogas deal, stating that Malta was thus still paying heavily for corruption.

€140m ‘lost to corruption’

Agius also referred to the €70 million being allocated to Steward Hospital, stating that due to these two deals, Malta was losing €140 million that could have been used to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Delia argued that the Steward Healthcare deal was not just Malta paying the price of corruption, but also the price of immorality.

De Marco said that as a result of the deal, which he described as “the most corrupt deal in the history of the country,” six years which could have been used to upgrade the three public hospitals in question were lost.

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