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MaltaToday 20 October 2021 MIDWEEK

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3 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 20 OCTOBER 2021 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Speaking on the COVID-19 pandemic, Abela said it was the greatest challenge faced by the country since the second world war. "Because we were united, as Maltese and Gozitans, today we can speak with optimism on our future," Abela said. The PM said government approached the pandemic with its own model, insisting the country could not wait to see what other countries were doing. "We knew what would happen if we remained static." Abela said the way govern- ment drew up its wage supple- ment model, helped in pre- serving jobs, and showed its competence on the sector. "During the pandemic, in- stead of one budget, we issue four," he said. Greylisting Speaking on the Financial Action Task Force's greylist- ing of Malta earlier this year, Abela said government will be carrying out the FATF's action plan in full. "I will not make immature dec- larations, like statements that we are getting the country out of the grey list in 90 days. What I will say is that the county has accepted the FATF result, and the action plan will be carried out in full," Abela said. Abela said he would not be making any "immature dec- larations like the opposition leader". "In less than two years we carried out the biggest govern- ance and rule of law reforms in the country's history. What didn't happen since the Inde- pendence, we carried out in a few months, and during a pandemic!" he said. He also hit out at the op- position for predicting the "country will drown" and for insisting authorities will be hard with the weak and with businesses. "It's only the opposition who wants to paint Malta as the worst country in the world," he said. "We will continue pushing for fiscal morality. Mr Opposition leader, be careful." Environment On the environment, Abela conceded the environment was sidelined for a number of years. "I will not point fingers, but as PM, I have a duty to look ahead," the PM said. He said eight years ago, Mal- ta's top priority was to "stop the economic stagnation faced by the country." "But today priorities have changed," he said. He said government has out- lined its vision on the environ- ment. "That is the legacy we want to leave behind." Abela slammed Grech's state- ments on the environment on Monday. "Look at who is his right-hand man, George Pullicino's right-hand man, the mind behind the 2006 ration- alisation policy." Cost of living The PM said government has recognized the challenges faced by people, and that is why it did not increase any taxes. "Your political style is clear – higher prices and instability," he told the opposition. "We did not increase energy bills like they did." He also said the Nationalist Party has €4 million in pend- ing payments to ARMS. "Your reaction to the budget? You erected billboards saying that we had the worst reces- sion in the last 40 years. Let's say this is true, why did you spend 25 years with a better economic situation, and all you did was burden people with more problems?" he said. THE Prime Minister Robert Ab- ela has refused to set an election date, despite stating the budget would need the people's man- date in his speech on Tuesday. "The legislature ends in June, and so for that budget to be implemented in full, it needs the people's mandate," he said outside parliament after his budget reaction speech. During his speech, Abela dropped a hint of a possible election, suggesting Budget's approval could be followed by a popular vote. "It's the people who'll decide if this budget gets implement- ed," he told the House. Fielding questions from jour- nalists, Abela refused to set a general election date, but re- fused to confirm that it would not be held in November. "The date for the general election will be motivated by a single reason – the national interest," he said. Robert Abela sets no election date despite poll tease 'The biggest governance and rule of law reforms in the country's history' Prime Minister Robert Abela labelled Opposition leader Bernard Grech (pictured) 'a serial tax evader', accusing him of failing to pay his dues until the day before he contested the PN leadership election

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