The Malta Independent 22 January 2020, Wednesday

A budget that does not challenge the positive economic trends

Sunday, 20 October 2019, 09:41 Last update: about 4 months ago

Budget 2020 did not bring with it a lot of surprises and that was as far as was promised. The focus on specific pockets in society, and some measures targeting the environment, are welcome. These are two significant concerns that have started to be addressed.

From a business point of view, as a Chamber representing SMEs, every year we work hard to see the implementation of positive measures. How many of these have actually materialised is close to none, but this does not, however, mean that it was a negative Budget: that would be egoistical on our part to say.


Our interpretation of it is that the politician is seeing that business is still doing well and can work under its own steam with minimal support. That is what business is doing. The politician’s perspective does not erase the fact that there are some dysfunctional areas in the market that should be fixed and that there are incentives and fiscal measures that could be introduced to generate more wealth that ends up in everyone’s pocket.

Another fact that not everyone realises is that the scope of the Budget has changed dramatically. On Budget Day, the Minister is no longer making big announcements but mainly communicating a few figures that affect people’s pockets. Most of what is mentioned has already been discussed or is in the implementation stage.

Budget time is when we get more visibility of what we do during the rest of the year, because we present proposals all year round, both before and after the Budget. It is, in fact, easier to discuss and work with politicians and civil servants outside the Budget period because they are less stressed by all the necessary preparation of a document that eventually has to be presented to the EU.

As a Chamber representing SMEs we do, however, know and expect that the machine will not stop now that the Budget is over, to start again close to the time of the next one. There are many pressing issues that were not addressed in this year’s Budget and which require immediate individual attention.

To start with, there is the worrying situation with our banking sector. Bad news is dominating the media on a daily basis, creating a lot of uncertainty and worry. Businesses setting up in Malta are being given a hard time in respect of opening accounts and receiving basic services. Even long-established businesses are telling us that everything has become so much more difficult. What is happening to Malta’s banking sector? Things are getting worse by the day and we do not get the feeling that a solution is in sight.

There is also the whole argument of economic development and sustainability. One does not need to be at the expense of the other, but more drastic and aggressive measures are needed to safeguard Malta and everyone’s standard of living. The government has to perform a balancing act and be seen to be doing so strongly. Economic development is not a bad things at all, nor is full employment. The fact that we need to bring in such a large number of human resources is a sign that our economy is continuing to do well. There is, however, a fine line between what is necessary and what feels exaggerated. Economic figures are not enough: what is needed is a good indication of what people think of our standard of living.

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