The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial - Budget: Prime Minister, put your money where your mouth is

Tuesday, 10 September 2019, 11:38 Last update: about 2 months ago

The upcoming budget needs to be a far-reaching one, and not just focus on a few sectors. While pensioners for example definitely need more assistance to keep up with day-to-day life, it is also the middle class who need help.

There is no doubt that Malta’s economy is divided in two. There are the higher-end paying jobs, such as gaming, and other jobs like nursing and teaching. The latter do not make near to as much money as gaming, and this issue has resulted in a bit of an imbalance, where rising prices of milk for example, fuel and of course the high property prices, make it difficult for these hard working people.

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This has also resulted in an exodus of Maltese from these jobs, and as everyone knows, nursing and teaching are both facing shortages. The government, while needing to cater for those who are on the poverty line and more-so in poverty, need to help the middle class as well.

When it comes to property, the first-time buyer scheme and the second-time buyer scheme are good, but these are not enough. More and more Maltese youths struggle to move out from their parents’ homes, mostly because it just isn’t worth it right now, and buying property at such high prices will either drive them into heavy debt, or would result in a loss of value when, inevitably, the prices drop. Till that time however, more assistance is required.

At the same time, the government cannot continue to allow developers to run roughshod over the whole country. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat pledged, just last Sunday, that the budget will safeguard the environment. This is a phrase he has used time and time again, yet has failed to keep his pledge, with the words falling flat. Put your money where your mouth is. This country’s urban areas are bleeding green, with some having nothing left.

Tourism is another area that the government needs to focus on. Malta has for too long focused on quantity tourism, with the government using the ‘quality tourism’ phrase from time to time, yet never doing anything about it. Measures need to be introduced to shift from a tourism industry based on the number of tourists, to one which attracts less tourists who spend equal to or more than the amounts of tourists coming to the islands now.

More measures to deal with the skills gap, and the low-job takeup rate in certain sectors are also needed. The government needs to, first and foremost, incentivise more Maltese youths to head into professions that are sorely lacking the amounts of people they require. As previously mentioned, nursing and teaching are two such professions.

While Malta’s economy is doing well, Malta’s current state leaves much to be desired. The government needs to start tackling many serious issues, or end up in a situation where very few Maltese would be nurses, and very few would be teachers. This runs a great risk as, should the economy eventually suffer and take a turn from the worse, third country nationals and EU nationals who come to Malta and conduct such work might choose to leave, which would end up leaving a massive gap in those areas which require large numbers of employees.

In addition the government needs to identify the sectors Malta is moving into and help incentivise the creation of the teaching courses required to educate Maltese to fill those roles.

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