The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

Changing the country for the better

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 11:04 Last update: about 2 months ago

Clayton Bartolo

The ongoing pre-budget consultations are clear proof of how much this country has moved forward since the change in government back in 2013. Prior to change in administration,   pre-budget consultations were consistently dominated by calls from the different social partners pleading to for the burden on their members to be decreased. Both employers and employee representatives used to speak about the need to revise certain government decisions; such as those imposing the highest energy bills in history and the continuous increase in fuel prices.

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We all remember other ongoing issues such as the infamous decision to eliminate from the vacation leave those public holidays which fell on a weekend. Workers’ rights were being dismantled, the country was in a state of deficit and industry stakeholders were worried (and rightly so), that these decisions will create further instability.  The general public was always anxious because of the possible taxes a budget could introduce.

Journalist used to wait for hours outside MCESD meetings as social dialogue was very tense and such meetings used to be both divisive and controversial. Malta, a country which should have been hailed as a successful European economy, had stopped moving forward.  

Nowadays there is a different feeling.

The ongoing consultations happen to take place at the same time that European institutions confirmed that our country is experiencing one of the best economic growths in Europe. It was recently established that Malta’s economic growth is three times, the European median. What does this mean? This means that the government can continue with its plan of implementing various social measures that leave a positive effect on the quality of life of our citizens. I would need much more than one article to mention them all however, I will refer to  two of them.

From the reduction of tax rates and tax refunds the Maltese are getting €55 million a year. Whereas, with the provision of free childcare working families getting €20 million a year.

In one of the consultation sessions  that took place during the past few days, the Minister of Finance showed that with 10 particular measures, a whopping €128 million are being left  in our people’s pockets each year.

This feeling of optimism that this government has instilled in our country has led to a situation where in this pre-budget period, the discussion is more focused on how the government can give more to help  citizens reach another level of prosperity. The result of a surplus economy is that social partners can now focus on discussing which the next infrastructural project should be, which section of the population should get an increase and where should the millions allocated for the environment be spent. It’s a pre-budget period full of expectations and that’s how it should have always been

However, for all this to be sustainable the government must not stop taking the necessary decisions, even though sometimes these might be controversial. We must consult and listen but we must then act.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed on Sunday, that his government will not rest on the successes already achieved. He is right. It would be very dangerous if we think that we can slow down. As everything in life, a country can keep moving forward only if those leading it keep pushing hard to be innovative.

At the same time, I also agree that when analyzing our accomplishments, there can be a shift in certain priorities. After all thats is what happened during these past few years. First,we wanted to get public finances in order so that now we can invest much more in infrastructure. We had to create employment and decent opportunities for everyone and now we can focus more on the environment we live in.

After we regenerated traditional sectors like manufacturing, we started exploring new economic sectors such as artificial intelligence.

I look forward to the next budget as from the discussions we also have within the party I am sure that this will be yet another budget which will be preparing Malta for the future. Our aim is to have the country’s future generations living in a better place and if we continue to sustain this inclusive growth we will succeed.

Clayton Bartolo is a Labour Member of Parliament
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