The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Budget to include targeted measures to eradicate poverty – Prime Minister

Sunday, 21 October 2018, 12:26 Last update: about 25 days ago

The budget for next year will include targeted measures aimed at eradicating poverty in Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday morning.

Speaking in Hamrun, Muscat said the number of people who were at risk of poverty had decreased by over 17,000 over the past few years. “But we we have still a lot to do to completely eradicate poverty in this country. This is not a perception – we will face this challenge directly.”

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Muscat said part of the solution was incentivising people who are currently on benefits to find employment. The government already has a target where no children in a family where at least one parents is in employment should live in poverty. The aim is to ensure that no children live in deprivation or poverty. Pensions will be increased once again, and these will be new incentives for families to take care of their elderly.

Muscat also spoke about the White Paper on rent regulation, explaining that the government cannot regulate rental prices. “We have to find a balance between two very genuine realities –that of the landlords and that of tenants.”

The PM said both Caritas and developers have described the white paper as balanced and heading in the right direction. He appealed to all parties to send detailed, and not just generic answers to the questions posed in the White Paper.

Muscat spoke at length about the situation the government had inherited from the previous administration, saying that the country had gone from deficit to surplus, which was allowing the government to improve people’s lives.

“Before, budget day was trouble day. Today I see people smiling. People used to be afraid of tax hikes. Now they ask us by how much we area increasing the cost of living adjustment. We introduced the concept that the budget does not take anything away, and gives out as much as possible to everyone.”

The PM said that announcing the budget was one thing, implementing it was another thing entirely. “Previous governments would ignore most of their pledges and only introduce the tax hikes. We have started publishing a document about the progress of the previous year’s budget – we have a system of checks and balances to see what progress we have made. If a particular ministry seems to be falling behind it will be warned to pick up the pace.  This week the government announced that around 80% of last year’s budget measures have been implemented. By the end of the year we should be closer to the mark.”

Muscat said that main point of departure of the upcoming budget is that we have to keep generating work and employment. “We cannot put the economy on auto pilot,” he said, adding that the moment the economy is trusted into the hands of people who do not realise that decisions have to be taken all the time is the time the economy starts failing.

He spoke about an agreement – not part of the budget - by which next year, thousands of people who have been on the minimum wage for a long time will automatically be increased by €3 a week.

He also spoke about the increase that has been given to Home Help workers - €28 a week.

He also referred to the recently signed police sectoral agreement –the first of its kind – adding that the armed forces and the civil protection now wanted something similar for themselves. “The police were the starting point. I am sure that we can also improve the working conditions of our soldiers and fire fighters,” Muscat said. 

 

PN statement

Reacting, the Nationalist Party said that while Muscat was saying that we are the best in the world, over 3,000 people are still waiting for social housing.

There are hundreds of families living in garages, and more than 72,000 people at risk of poverty.

 

Muscat had promised, before the 2013 election to eradicate poverty. He is in his second term and has not started a single social housing project, the PN said. 

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