The Malta Independent 16 June 2019, Sunday

Indepth: ‘Cruising’ economy can be managed on an ‘even keel’, says Finance Minister

INDEPTH online Friday, 26 October 2018, 08:41 Last update: about 9 months ago

Infrastructure needs a ‘radical change’ - Mario de Marco

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Opposition spokesperson for finance Mario de Marco exchanged metaphorical blows on areas of interest surrounding the recently announced budget for 2019 in this week's edition of Indepth.

Scicluna said that as the economy is "cruising" it can be managed on an "even keel," particularly by focusing on the issues currently being brought up by the populace.

"This budget was planned to give a bit here and there, but also to incentivise work. And till today we are incentivising people to work regardless of their wages as we would supplement those wages."

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Scicluna was reminded that, last September Dr Yana Mintoff said that "our economy is built on cheap labor and precarious work".

De Marco also said that although the majority of working foreigners come from the EU, 30% come from outside the 28-member strong bloc. He insisted that whilst companies were making more profit, they were not raising the wages or recompensing their employees - although he did mention that it is good that companies use that profit to invest more and grow.

When asked for comment on Mintoff Bland's remarks, Scicluna stated that 19% of the labor force is foreign, and they are at the "very top of iGaming and tech companies". He also insisted that for us to arrive at the level of other countries, our economy must grow by 3-4% up until we converge with the economies of other nations.

He again insisted that individuals who are being paid minimum wage are gaining many benefits to make up for their below-average earnings. Scicluna also pointed out that there has been an overall increase of €350 million in salaries in Malta. "The Government must be graded depending on where they came from - what they had in the beginning."

In his opening comments, Mario de Marco explained that the criticism from the Opposition was that whilst the economy was moving forward, the challenges of the Maltese were not being addressed entirely.

"It's pensions and infrastructure - when you have a growing population and 40 new cars a day, the infrastructure is not adequate for the present."

Scicluna retorted that in this situation it is all about changing lifestyles, the same way obesity has to be dealt with in a way that influences individuals' decision on how to lead their lives. He brought up that apart from providing free school transport, the government had announced that 14-16-year-old children will be provided with free tallinja cards which would allow them to benefit from free transport after school for their other activities such as sports.

De Marco insisted thegovernment was not addressing this impact of the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. "We need a radical change; a radical incentive."

The PN MP suggested 3 different solutions - incentives for people to make better use of the public transport system; planning, constructing, and putting into action a new form of mass transport like a monorail; and thirdly, expanding the maritime transport available similar to the one between Sliema and Valletta.

He insisted that although alternative modes of transport have been on every budget for the past 25 years, different issues cropped up at the time and transport had to be put at the back of the line.

The Finance Minister promptly retorted that the main difference between the parties was that whilst they agreed on many of the issues at hand, it was the Labour Party that actually implemented measures.

 


 

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