The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Santa’s little elves

Rachel Borg Saturday, 24 October 2020, 09:39 Last update: about 2 months ago

I am beginning to wonder whether I am actually a Maltese citizen and really questioning what that means.  My Malta is becoming more and more foreign to me and it would be appear to have been taken into the hands of some sweatshop owner eager to mass produce those Chinese cat figures with their head bobbing up and down.  Rub their tummy for luck, too because you will need it.

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Many experts have been interviewed for their opinion, for the newspapers and on television, on the topic of the latest budget, its merits and its failings.  There was some mumbling about having extended the wage supplement in view of the third wave of Covid19 that the country is facing and of some other benefits, although I personally think that their time has passed now and in the current circumstances they should have been re-directed.

I speak, for example, of the first time buyers’ scheme.  We should not be encouraging more construction at this stage and a good assessment of the availability of property for sale would help to bring some order into the industry.  At this point in time, with job security becoming uncertain, I doubt how many first time buyers will have purchasing as a priority.  Many new home owners would also have invested in a few apartments on top of their family home or have invested in buy-to-rent and as the demand for rental apartments has almost completely disappeared, they may think of using the apartment for their own home now.  In any case, if the money from that incentive could have been directed towards a serious plan in helping tourism to attract tourists to our island once the pandemic has eased, that would be much more useful in saving jobs. 

The reduction of VAT on restaurants and hotel accommodation would certainly have helped our product to compete in what is going to be a highly competitive environment when it comes to tourism.  It sends the right message to the tourists too and rather than having the one off voucher commerce for restaurants and hotels, it will be a longer-term sustainable initiative benefiting not just one sector, but the whole island.

Expert after expert speaking on analysis programmes on TV (Net TV had extensive coverage with excellent professionals), all scratched their head as to why none of the proposals they had put forward to the government were taken on board.  Why were those meetings held with the Constituted bodies and organisations if there was no intention of taking their recommendations seriously? 

 

Or was it that the government, Prof Edward Scicluna and Robert Abela are way too distracted with their own affairs that they simply copied what was done before and just changed the dates and tweaked the values a bit?

So here we are, Santa’s little elves, doing all the work for Bobby whilst he finally dons his uniform, mask and blue tie and thinks he has ticked the box as far as budget is concerned. 

The glaring omission is the absence of any compensation for the front-liners, whether in the medical field, the care-homes, teachers, pharmacists and even cashiers who remained in their jobs whilst others stayed home to shelter. 

On the contrary, the nurses and staff at hospital, forced to work overtime and on 24 hour call, will have their over-time pay taxed further.  Many nurses or nursing aides and doctors had to live apart from their vulnerable relatives and rent accommodation for themselves.  Ask Adrian Delia who apparently had given up the use of an apartment for himself so that others who needed it could have it. 

A reduction in water and electricity for residents, with many consumers utilizing more by staying home and working from home, should really have been given.  Especially when we know what benefits have gone to Electrogas. 

You can find no mention, either, in the budget, about the Pre-1995 rent law and the anti-constitutional reality that property and land-owners continue to face.  Owners who still receive a pittance in rent, continue to be denied the right to evict the tenant, or to be compensated by government with the difference in the current market value.  People are forced to go the European Court of Human Rights to have a declaration in their favour, with some compensation which is not guaranteed to be passed on in full, after which, they are still deprived of restitution because of layer upon layer of anti-constitutional mechanisms.  Did the budget set aside funds for such compensation?

In one case alone this week the government is directed to pay out €1.5 million for having broken the rights of a person who had their land expropriated.  In the meantime, ordinary citizens, who are supposed to gain from the budget and have every right to do so, continue to be silent elves for the government by providing social housing.  Those people who joined the housing scheme where they put up their accommodation to the government for rent, then used as social housing, are better off than the pre-1995 rent owners.  And no mention, not a word.  Like these people have been written off.

 

Same goes with all those who passed away with Covid 19.  Isn’t it more honest for the government to have a serious, short and long-term plan on how we as a country are going to save lives in this pandemic?  Nothing.  No mention at all of any proposals, whether to directly tackle the high numbers of positive persons or to ease the negative effect on the economy. 

The wage supplement is necessary to keep people afloat in these challenging times but doing something constructive towards job security was expected. 

Pensioners are given an increase.  How about becoming a bit more efficient in collecting taxes from those who abuse (Electrogas?) and actually paying what is entitled to pensioners on time?  Personally, I applied for my pension 7 months ago and am still receiving a basic amount until they finalize my entitlement.  I have written several times to enquire about the problem but continue to be told that they are still working on it.  I can’t see what the problem is when everything should be available from the computer at the touch of a button?  Or is this another of those pre-EU accession anomalies?  So, I remain an elf who had provided National Insurance funds to the government for my pension, whilst it continues to keep them from me.  The COLA and the increase given is just another bit of empty talk for some.

The top-most discrepancy can be found in the expropriation of fertile land, open spaces and

cutting of trees in order to buy votes from the hunting and construction lobby and to keep the mafia-like businesses well organized for generating that special private income and Ian Borg gas down.  We are all suffering from the cost of corruption.  It is imperative that restitution is made and all those government projects from Electrogas to Vitals/Steward Health care pay back what was stolen on their behalf. 

As Malta struggles to survive with Moneyval reports, up comes the IIP scheme with another slamming blow to the economy.  The EU have said that the scheme infringes their policy.  In the meantime, Robert Abela said that if it were not for the money generated by the IIP scheme then we would not have been able to survive the pandemic. 

So, in other words, the government is broke and nothing is nothing.

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