Earlier this week, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi speaking at the AZAD premises, said that Malta has weathered the economic storm. Apart from the fact that Malta is still not out of the storm, this brought back memories of what Gonzi had said: that once the Malta economy was doing well the government would re-instate the €500 weekly increase that the Ministers had awarded themselves.
But the decision to re-instate the rise will again be kept hidden from the public in the coming election campaign. Opinion polls carried out by the PN show that this rise has been very damaging for the PN among voters. PN candidates have been briefed to evade this issue when doing their home visits.
In 2008 just after the general election cabinet decided to give the Prime Minister and Ministers a salary increase of €500 a week, an increased duty allowance of €6,000 a year and to also start receiving their honoraria as MPs.
The Prime Minister’s total pay package was €47,806 and with cabinet’s decision in 2008 it was brought up to €76,490. Ministers’ financial package was increased from €42,070 to €69,606.
A €7,000 or private car perk to ministers was also carefully concealed from the public and from the National Audit Office even at the height of the controversy over the €500 weekly salary increase.
Last March, answering parliamentary questions, ministers admitted that their financial package includes a €7,000 allowance for their personal transport needs. Till the beginning of this year it also included the salary, an increase of €500 a week, the honorarium as MPs and a duty allowance. They are still enjoying the car perk of €7,000.
Whilst Joseph Muscat, on behalf of the Labour party, moved a motion in Parliament to disapprove these arbitrary actions and the lack of transparency, GonziPN defended the decision and ensured that all Nationalist MPs vote against the opposition’s motion, even those that had disagreed.
This increase was also criticised by the Auditor General, who referred to it as ‘a good example of bad practice’.