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MaltaToday 30 October 2022

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maltatoday | SUNDAY •30 OCTOBER 2022 9 INTERVIEW ing much more than that in in- come. Don't you think that this effort to insulate Malta from rising energy and fuel prices can en- courage waste because people feel the government is there ready to pump millions? At some point, prices will rise but it makes a difference whether this fluctuation is just a few cents like we were accus- tomed to, or whether this is a €1, or 50c, hike at one go. The latter can hit the economy hard and destroy part of the struc- ture. Eventually, the market will calm down because that is what always happens and when that occurs, we'll announce that all the support mecha- nisms will be withdrawn. This is what happened with the wage supplement – the assis- tance was there for two years and when the pandemic ended the wage support was stopped. Electricity prices today are practically frozen at 2014 lev- els. The stability mechanism agreed with Electrogas had to expire in April this year and af- ter that tariffs would fluctuate according to international pric- es. But we have been isolated from all this. Don't you fear that when the time comes for you to withdraw the subsidy, people will be faced with a substantial difference in price? The budget contains a par- agraph on renewable energy and this could be the next big thing… It's a small paragraph that does not say much, though. It is a small paragraph but one that can mean a lot. And as [Energy Minister] Miriam Dal- li announced during the week, this country has very big po- tential to tap into wind energy. This can be the solution in the not so distant future that keeps energy prices stable… If part of our energy mix comes from floating offshore wind farms that can be the solution to hav- ing stable electricity bills. There is consensus that the budget has provided adequate support for pensioners and vul- nerable families in these trying times. But what is there in this budget that targets the hard- working middle class? A budget has to be social- ly just… those on the bottom rungs, who are worst hit by in- flation, were given more impe- tus apart from benefiting also from stable energy prices. We did this because organisations like the Anti-poverty Alliance, Caritas and unions have been telling us for years that this category of people are being disadvantaged… As regards the middle class, the strong- est measure to benefit them is an income tax cut. There is no such measure in this budget but I will see to it that this will happen, and not on the fifth year of this legislature. But a typical middle class family with two cars will be saving around €700 in fuel on each car and around €1,400 in savings on a typical electricity bill. The sub- sidies translate into a saving of between €1,500 and €3,000 for these families. But I do under- stand people who have arrived at a certain stage and wish to move one step up. We will eventually help them take that step… You were not bothered to use the word 'socialist' in describ- ing this budget. This is a word that within the Labour Party fell out of fashion since Alfred Sant's time. It was almost a dis- honour to use the word social- ist. Why do you use the word? I have been active in the La- bour Party since I was 14 years old. After the 1998 election de- feat I wanted to be active with- in the party. I lived for a good number of years in a party that was in Opposition. I can com- pare the mentality back then to the mentality when Joseph [Muscat] came along and af- terwards. Over time we start- ed associating being a socialist with election defeats. This is not the case. You lose elections because you do not present clear, concrete ideas that per- suade people and not because you say you are a socialist. I come from a working-class family from Żabbar and I feel part of that class to this very day. I am not ashamed to say in my credo that I harbour that belief (socialism)… I don't be- lieve the Labour Party should be ashamed to say it is a so- cialist party… there are many within our grassroots who have been longing for that word to be used; wanting the Labour Party to be more socialist in its outlook. But is your credo representa- tive of the party? I am one of many in the par- ty… This is what I believe in and once I do so, I will contin- ue working for it. Don't you think the word social- ism risks shattering that coali- tion of moderates and progres- sives Joseph Muscat built up and which delivered the party significant electoral victories? I don't think so. After all, this party's foundations were built on offering representation to all workers – manual and non-manual workers. And this is etched on the plaque out- side our headquarters. What I always learnt in life is to never forget from where I started. Was it responding to the cry of the party grassroots? This party always turned to its grassroots in its hour of need… Being a socialist in the past was associated – in Mintoff's time – with grabbing other peo- ple's wealth to give it to some- one else. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Being a socialist means creating wealth and using it to support those who are most in need but also emphasising the need for fairness and justice and ensuring that everyone is doing their part. There were a number of meas- ures the government adopted such as the wage supplement, pandemic vouchers and energy subsidies where no distinction was drawn between those who are rich and those on the lower rungs. The final aim of these meas- ures is to protect the economy. If the economy slows down because those who spend the most in this country, stop do- ing so, workers will be the ones to suffer most. A distinction has to be done between eco- nomic support measures to ensure workers remain in their jobs and income support meas- ures like the second COLA mechanism and higher pen- sions, which are intended to help these categories. Watch the full interview on "Over time we started associating being a socialist with election defeats. This is not the case. You lose elections because you do not present clear, concrete ideas that persuade people and not because you say you are a socialist"

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