The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

A budget of sods, freebies and emptiness

Victor Calleja Sunday, 25 October 2020, 08:25 Last update: about 2 months ago

A few days back Minister Edward Scicluna regaled us with his latest budget. It is always a day of momentous doings when the high and mighty map out our life for the coming year. When the mighty minister of finance opens up new pathways to a better life.

A life which has been often described by Labour goons as l-aqwa żmien (the best of times) so I have no clue what can follow. How can the best be bettered?

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In his speech the minister piled on the words and largesse, handing out his stuff to the anxious populace.

Let’s put the minister in charge of our national purse in proper perspective. When grilled by the judges in the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry he publicly and unashamedly admitted he never had much clue what was going on in the “kitchen cabinet” (his words) lorded over by his mighty highness, Kink Joseph Muscat – but he was aware of its existence.

How a minister who admits these things can still face his own kitchen wall and not die of shame is beyond me. How he still struts on the national stage is totally beyond belief and any level of humour.

Let’s go back to the excitement of budget day.

It’s the day where men’s grey suits – always men – tell us what is in store for the country. Greyer minds pontificate and prove to most around them that the ones holding the purse strings have little grey matter there where it matters most.

The budget, said the Chamber of Commerce, was good on social measures but bad on economic recovery. In reality they used the word ‘vague’ not ‘bad’. The ever-vague Chamber and other associations use words like ‘vague’ to cushion the blow of what they really mean, that is they think the government was utterly bad.

I’m no economic pundit. (Some twits will say I’m no pundit, period.) But I must say the Chamber is spot on.

This Labour government is always in election mode. This budget is another attempt at “let’s dish out the ċejċa(easy handouts) so that the bleating sheep will vote us back in.

The vouchers are a good idea. They represent money for us, the people, to go out, eat and drink or populate hotels. I can assure all Labour-leaning sheep that I will definitely use those vouchers, eat my little fill and drink merry. I will also cheerily raise a glass to the hopeful demise of the labour stronghold on government. Yes, I will cheer to that, and far from thank Edward Scicluna or Robert Abela.

Putting aside the fact that by giving us these vouchers the chances of viral contagion grows, the money spent is a good incentive. But stops there. It does not generate new style business for restaurants, bars or other establishments. It gives them the cash but opens no new door. It’s a tenuous lifeline which does not propel workers or workplaces into more action or new avenues of entrepreneurship.

Sound ideas need to be aired, discussed and put into place. Giving the hospitality industry a brief reprieve does not solve the long-term problems it faces.

The budget offers more stuff to help the economy, or rather to let it chug along, a mere crutch for a limping sector. Property sales and some other measures will obviously inject more cash into the banks, prop up sellers and whoever can make use of these budgetary ideas.

But what new ideas are being sparked into the property market? What new ways to stop the mad despoliation of the country without halting development? What new ideas are being touted to turn developers from predators to people who can make our country a better place?

This is election-mode gear so who cares about the changes really needed?

Oh, I forget. The honourable minister did come up with a scheme to reduce the use of plastic. Our environment can breathe easy - it is safe. The minister for the environment can go ahead and defend the felling of trees as we, tiny wee-sized Malta, will now be doing enough to save the planet.

The Chamber of Commerce is obviously not the only association that should be heeded. The last thing this country needs is more business-friendly measures, the likes of which Joseph Muscat and his gang foisted on us. There should be many more social measures to reduce the suffering of the marginalised and the poor.

Without a proper plan and a new impetus as to what the country should do to create wealth, we will descend further into the shambles we have become.

The Chamber of Commerce should raise its voice and tell the government and its cabinet of kitchen vegetables that the corruption in the Electrogas and Vitals deal should be tackled immediately.

The money saved could be used for propelling new ideas, new schemes, not to win a few sad votes but to reenergise this country into something that works, that provides work in a cleaner way.

Only sustainable, new ideas can save us. Handing out some dosh to perpetuate what is already there will not change the way forward.

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