The Malta Independent 12 December 2018, Wednesday

Reaping success

Anton Refalo Sunday, 30 October 2016, 08:43 Last update: about 3 years ago

A couple of weeks ago, the budget for 2017 was presented to Parliament. This act is the final step in a process that takes months during which constant feedback is sought from stakeholders. As a line Ministry, the Ministry for Gozo is involved in various discussions and planning sessions throughout the year to put forward our ideas and plans for the coming years.

On a more local level, this was another positive budget for Gozo. Among the most notable was the installation of second fibre-optic cable at a cost of around €3 million which will help attract more IT companies to the island. It was also announced that a public consultation process will start on how to tackle parking problems in the centre of the island. The budget also confirmed the start of a fast ferry service between Gozo and Valletta. The government has also launched the process in which proper feasibility studies are to be started in order to verify whether a subsea tunnel is doable or not.  

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Before going forward, it is important to restate again the role that national budgets play. A primary role is to map the way forward for the next year in terms of priorities and vision. As the Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions, each one of the yearly budgets is part of a road-map. Each one is part of a vision that aims to make Malta a country where effort is encouraged and where wealth is distributed fairly. To be able to distribute wealth, it must be created first. This is often ignored by some with an agenda or with a naïve world view. This is particularly relevant for this year’s budget because its main terms concern the distribution of wealth.

Coincidentally, a few days before the presentation of the budget, it was announced that the international credit agency, Standard & Poor’s, has upgraded Malta ratings; the implications of this goes beyond simply rhetoric. The underlining reason why S&P decided to take this decision was motivated by Malta’s declining deficit and debt ratio on the back of a strong and sustainable economy. These two conditions, that is, robust macroeconomic development and strong fiscal consolidation, were missing for most of the last quarter of a century. Instead, under this administration budget targets have been reached, thus enhancing the credibility of the Maltese government in the eyes of external institutions. Moreover, the real economy has registered impressive performance year in, year out since the change in government. This did not occur by chance but as highlighted by the same credit agency, it was the result of institutional reforms, huge investment in the energy and health sectors, as well as measures that encourage work effort.

This is the exact opposite of what the Nationalist Party spokespersons used to forecast before the last election. We all remember the scenarios they used to depict in which a labour government would mean economic stagnation and high unemployment. Their then deputy leadership managed to summarize their thoughts in the now infamous ‘bail-out’ phrase.

When the Opposition realized that they could no longer use such argument, they switched to something more subjective. And in they kicked with a series of unfounded corruption allegations. All of a sudden, economic ineptitude was no longer an issue. However, while corruption cannot be measured, its effects can. Strong economic growth and sound management of public finances simply do not take place where policy makers and institutions are corrupt. It is only natural to ask what level of corruption existed under the previous administration given the results they managed to achieve in terms of economic growth and public finances.

As this budget has again shown, this Labour government delivers. It is what really makes a difference to the daily lives of those that live on these Islands. We are aware that the success achieved in the last years has raised expectations, but we are committed to continue working even harder to better the opportunities for a better quality of life.

 

Dr Refalo is Minister for Gozo

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