The Malta Independent 25 April 2017, Tuesday

If you are happy about the budget...

Stephen Calleja Tuesday, 18 October 2016, 10:35 Last update: about 7 months ago

If you are happy about the budget, you’re a pensioner, a low-income earner or someone living off other people’s earnings via social assistance. Or someone who will applaud the Labour government even if Joseph Muscat tells you to stay upside down in a heap of mud.

It is a budget which gives more importance to Comino than to Air Malta, dishes out vague ideas without giving deadlines and fails to address pressing needs such as the growing traffic issues which are negatively affecting productivity and increasing stress.

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As I was listening to Minister Edward Scicluna read out his (too long) speech, I kept wondering when he would say something that is positive for the middle class, that large chunk of society on which the country’s recent success has been built.

But there was nothing for the middle class. The term was not even mentioned in the budget speech. Neither were animals. Maybe for this government they are one and the same thing.

There were no tax cuts to encourage more work. If last year the budget was described by the government as one that promotes industriousness, this time round the government did all it could to support laziness.

No cuts in energy rates either. And the Prime Minister was deceitful when he said that it is only Simon Busuttil who expected them. I suggest that he reads what constituted bodies had to say after the budget was presented to find out what they think. Of course, not the General Workers Union, which as expected came out all in favour of the budget, including the parent-sick leave proposal which is nothing but another subtle move in favour of those who find every excuse to stay at home rather than go to work.

It is the middle class that worked so hard for Malta’s economy to improve and for the country to get better credit ratings from international agencies the government boasts so much about, and yet the government ignored it completely in the budget for 2017.

While Joseph Muscat continues to give appointments with high salaries to people who helped Labour get into power – along with their families and their friends – workers will pocket an extra €1.75 a week which does not even make up for the amount of fuel they waste as they are entangled in miles and miles of traffic congestion every day. Not to mention the new taxes on toiletries, make-up and perfume.

People in the middle class will find out that at the end of the month they will end up with less money in their pocket. They will start to spend less and this will have a negative impact on the overall well-being of the country.

There was another word that was conspicuously missing in the budget – and this is “corruption”. In spite of the scandals that keep erupting so frequently on this island, there was no proposal to tackle this ugly phenomenon. It seems that the government is only too happy to keep the status quo in this regard.

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