The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

Updated: Budget for 2019 will be presented on 22 October

Julian Bonnici Monday, 10 September 2018, 10:23 Last update: about 4 months ago

The 2019 Budget will be presented on 22 October, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has announced.

Speaking at the pre-budget consultation meeting at the Phoenicia, Scicluna said that the government was now at a stage where it needed to manage expectations and success.

"A balanced budget would be satisfactory now - we don't need a big surplus, and whatever extra revenue comes, we want to spend and redistribute," he said.

Scicluna added that it was important to be 'watchful' of the successful economy, warning that success should not be taken for granted but rather studied and interpreted.

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The minister, who also presented a review of the current year, said that real estate, mining, and quarrying were the top industries in terms of growth in 2018, explaining that he would only be worried for the industry if supply was not responding to the demand.

Referencing foreign workers, he said that the influx is crucial to previous and future economic growth.

Conceding that the IIP scheme had a positive effect on the budget's surplus, he said that the government is always aiming to balance the books.

Focusing on the goals of the pre-budget document, Scicluna said it was crucial to build economic, environmental, human, social, and institutional capital.

The pre-budget document outlined the following priority areas:

Environment

All waste management operations will be consolidated at Maghtab, including the waste to energy facility. This, the report says, will provide a national waste management nucleus and will avoid unnecessary vehicular movements.

The government, whose target is to mainstream a greener economy, will be looking at into initiatives which will reduce the amount of generated waste and promote alternatives to single-use plastic, while an agreement has been reached with the Local Council Association to strengthen their role in waste management.

Works will also continue on the development of a strategy on Malta's transition to a low carbon economy.

Addressing public concerns, the document says that the government is committed to conserving Malta's natural assets, and will take the necessary action to enhance their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. With regards to Ambjent Malta, stakeholders will be reached out to engage them in the management of the country's natural capital.

Concerning agriculture, the government will provide a clear direction for all stakeholders, saying that it will simplify the legal framework for agricultural operators and implement reform of open vegetable markets (pitkalija).

The government will continue efforts to promote animal welfare practices, the sustainability of fish stocks, and retain/enhance the competitiveness of fisherman.

Infrastructure and Public Transport

The document said that investment in the country's infrastructure (through Infrastructure Malta) remains a priority for the government, referencing the newly created authority's mandate to upgrade the country's infrastructure in seven years.

Initiatives, which supports the use of alternative means of transport, will also be introduced.

Relative studies for the conceptual design of the Malta-Gozo tunnel will be carried out, while the government will continue to invest in the maritime and aviation sector.

The Lands Authority has also started a rigorous process of digitalisation.

Energy and Water Management

With regards to energy and water management, the Water Services Corporation will continue to expand its distribution of new water targeting the agricultural sector, and upgrade reverse osmosis plants.

Meanwhile, significant flood risk areas will be identified and maintained in Malta and Gozo.

The document says that the government will continue its focus on the decarbonisation of the energy system, also introducing further incentives to invest in renewable energy sources and increasing awareness on energy efficiency.

Institutions and Regulatory Authorities

Following the government's transposition of the fourth anti-money-laundering, the report says that the government will continue its drive to address fiscal evasion, with Malta Customs also given greater investment though non- intrusive tools and Technical assistance.

The report also highlighted the work done at the stock exchange, and the Malta development bank, which targets SMEs and infrastructure projects that contribute to national or regional development.

Comprehensive spending reviews are also establishing frameworks to phase out unnecessary expenditure, reduce waste and inefficiencies, while a new directorate, the Public Sector Performance and Evaluation Directorate, has been set up with a director already appointed and officers to be recruited this year.

An extensive training programme, partly financed through the Structural Reform Support Programme, to improve human resource capacity will be set up.

Scicluna also said that a fiscal transparency evaluation by the IMF has been conducted and will be published later in the year.

Digital Innovation

When it comes to online gaming, the document says that new legislation will be enacted, while new niches, such as fantasy sports, will be developed.

The blockchain (distributed ledger technology) legislation will also be used in terms of artificial intelligence and the internet of things, which will both be given priority in the coming years.

"The new sector will enrich human resources and increase productivity, and attract skilled workers to Malta," the report said.

Fintech and regtech will be developed further, along with Islamic finance, to make the financial services sector more resilient to external shocks

Further changes are also envisaged for the MFSA, which will adopt a more modern structure, rendering it more proactive.

Competitiveness and Sustainability

Through Malta Enterprise, the government will support businesses to reduce costs and encourage increased investment in research and development.

The government will also restructure intellectual property services and launch a new trademark act that allows the registry of new types of marks.

Several initiatives will be launched such as the risk investment scheme and the accelerator programme.

Malta Industrial Parks will focus on further integrating business parks to accommodate clusters of industries, while also explore vertical or horizontal expansion. MIP will also look at private-public partnerships (PPPs) in the development of such parks.

MIP, together with the Ministry for Tourism (which is also responsible for PPPs) is also working on a comprehensive master plan for the Luqa area.

Identity Malta has embarked on a business process re-engineering exercise to heighten performance, also simplifying student visas for non-EU students.

The Malta Residency and Visa Programme will suggest changes to the legal framework to make the programme more attractive, with the Ministry for Foreign affairs exploring a visa action plan for foreign workers.

Tourism

Nothing the continued performance of the tourism sector, the document said that the government will continue adopting a multiple approach strategy to tourism growth and also pushing for further efforts to maintain the proper upkeep of public facilities, beaches, infrastructure, and security.

Several capital projects are also in the pipeline.

Cultural tourism will be focused upon to attract tourists all throughout the year.

Gozo

The document reads that that the design of the Gozo Development Regional Plan, by the Gozo Ministry, will secure an innovative and connected island that delivers social and economic prosperity, while also conserving its unique characteristics, adding that an Invest Gozo unit is being set up.

The island's infrastructure and ageing population will also be addressed.

Tourism will see a significant investment, with several master plans for touristic locations being drawn-up, while others are near completion.

 Education

The government will invest in educators and their continuous professional development, with further training in the education of gifted students.

The classification of courses offered at the University of Malta, MCAST, and other licensed educational institutes will be revised.

The document also references the free school transport initiative for the upcoming scholastic year.

Social Justice and Social Inclusion

The document says that the government will continue to attach greater importance to a fairer distribution of income, adding that the measures in pensions, minimum wage, and the tax refund will ensure that the rate of poverty will decline.

The income of pensioners will be improved.

The white paper on the property rental and sales market is referenced, along with the 50 million euro investment to build around 700 social housing units.

Healthcare

The Government National Formulary will be expanded to increase the availability of free medicine, while the Malta Medicines Authority will be working with stakeholders to transform the pharmaceutical industry into an innovative, patient-focused sector. 

Justice, Culture, and Local Councils

Various measures will be implemented to create a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, with a view of including traditions, activities, and practices already recognised to have national importance.  The cultural policy shall also be updated to address challenges such as multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion.

The Malta Medicines Authority will be working with stakeholders to transform the pharmaceutical industry into an innovative, patient-focused sector.

National Security

During 2019, the Malta Police force will pursue evolving into intelligence-led policing and the set up of regional hubs.

On migration, the document says that it will continue to ensure that the country's concerns are voiced at a European and International level.

Human Rights, Equality, Social Dialogue

The document states that the government has the mandate to discuss prostitution, with its main objectives being combating sexual exploitation and the identification of exit strategies for vulnerable persons.

Cannabis reform is also on the agenda for 2019. A harm reduction approach for adults above 21 will be explored, through measures such as the regulation of the market, and investment in rehabilitation services.

A technical committee will embark on a two-year project that aims to foster a gender-sensitive Parliament through a package of initiatives and amendments.

 

 

 


 

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