The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

‘This is a moment of national unity’ – Robert Abela

Sunday, 25 October 2020, 13:04 Last update: about 2 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that this is a moment of national unity, "and that is what the budget represents."

The Prime Minister was addressing a political activity in Victoria, Gozo, where he spoke of the 2021 budget and the Covid-19 situation

He looked back over the past nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that Last week was meant to be his first budget, but in reality it was his fourth this year, referring to the Covid-19 support measures the government introduced since March.


He said that the government saved 100,000 jobs through the measures it introduced. "We introduced one measure after another... and today we have the lowest unemployment rate in the Eurozone."

"Where everyone expected our economy to fail, we introduced the best budget in Maltese history," he said.

He spoke of a number of budgetary measures, adding that no new taxes were introduced. He said that the budget includes the in-work benefit, the first-time buyers scheme, free childcare, reducing income tax. He said that in moments of difficulty, the government further divides the benefits among the people.

Abela said that the government took nothing in return, while giving a lot. "It is a budget of principle as today's circumstances can be compared to the 2009 financial crisis. Today we have an economic, social and medical crisis.," he said, while adding that in 2009, there was an economic crisis

He said that the difference is that in 2009 there was a PN government and today there is a PL one, adding that there was a difference in how both acted and looked at the circumstances. "In much easier circumstances (referring to 2009), the weight was thrown onto the people. Today, in more difficult circumstances, the government is carrying the weight."

"In 2009, the PN government had promised to reduce the income tax ceiling, but then said that the circumstances changed." Abela said that, to the contrary, the PL always remained optimistic throughout the current crisis.

The Prime Minister said that while giving a lot to the people over the past budgets, it worked carefully. "We had a full warchest at the start of the pandemic, and that is the result of seven years of a PL government, always thinking ahead for when the country might face a difficult moment."

He spoke about now incentivising businesses and helping people. "We looked at foreign countries. In the UK there is a debate as to whether they should raise taxes. We did the opposite, we introduced measures and did not increase taxes."

He said that last week's budget created trust. "People trust and have peace of mind. People are serene knowing that the government knows what it is doing."

"If the PL wasn't in government today, would things be as they are?"

"There is a new Opposition Leader, who, according to him, the solution for Covid-19 is to create a committee that will decide never to decide. They will give us, according to them, the solution for everything."

He said that the government opened the country for jobs and the PN criticised this and for allowing feasts. "Then they go and organise an election with celebrations."

He referred to the recent image of people gathering in St George's Bay, saying that while people are making sacrifices, others are being irresponsible.

"So we restrict bars and then instead of going home they congregate in a bay."

He said that the situation is under control, "but we cannot relax."

He said that it is what the people, collectively, do that will determine what will happen in the coming months.

"There are no compromises when it comes to people's health. I always stressed on the balance between health and the economy. How that balance is held depends on how responsible we all are."

He spoke about solidarity between each other, and thinking about society.

Abela referred to a Parliamentary session this past week, where he asked Bernard Grech what he would have done differently. "He said nothing."

"We have a reserve that allows us to do more If needed. That is a PL government that, in a pandemic, showed its best qualities."

This wasn't a pandemic budget, he said, but one that defines the coming ten years.

"The Opposition Leader said that this budget does not think about tomorrow. I agree, it looks to the coming ten years."

He turned to pensioners, and spoke of the increase given to them being three times higher than the COLA.

The social measures were central to the budget, he explained, adding that it targeted pensioners and those most in need. The wage supplement, he said, was aimed at saving young workers and those with low skills who would have been the first people that businesses would have cut.

He also mentioned the government's vision for Gozo. "Our vision is clear, day-trippers will remain part of Gozo's tourism, but our vision goes beyond. We want Gozo to serve for quality tourism." He said that he wants Gozo to offer opportunities for youths to have a choice whether to work in Gozo or Malta, for the island to offer the same opportunities. Abela mentioned the need for a permanent link, slamming the Opposition for being indecisive on this issue.

Prime Minister Abela also spoke about the 2022 general election. He said that the electoral test is edging closer, and said that it is more important than ones in the past. "This will be the moment where people not only decide on which party is capable of  leading... but on what style of politics we want, from 2022 onwards."




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