The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Budget Day - As the country waits

Monday, 11 October 2021, 08:30 Last update: about 10 days ago

The unveiling of the budget for the year 2022 is upon us. Finance Minister Clyde Caruana will, this evening, stand up in Parliament and present what will be his first budget speech.

It is also the last budget before the next general election.

The country is feeling the impacts of the Covid-19 situation, primarily through the rising costs people must pay for groceries and dining out. Increased freight costs due to restrictions, production issues due to the same, and even Brexit have had an impact on the price of imported goods.

Restaurants are finding it hard to find staff, and so costs in that department are also rising. The government has done well to support businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and had introduced measures to keep people employed.

But we are still not through the problematic effects the pandemic brought with it. Indeed, one hopes that this budget will see some form of support given to families to meet these rising costs, and the rising cost of living in general.

One also hopes that certain tried and tested measures, like the first-time buyers scheme, will also remain, or perhaps even be expanded further, given the trouble young people face when trying to find a property of their own for the first time due to the high property prices on the island.

Normally, pre-election budgets will have a lot of ‘presents’ for the people, but the government must take care not to overspend. Let’s not forget, the funding for the Covid-19 wage supplement, the support for businesses and all the other measures the government has taken were very costly, and keeping the country’s finances in order, ensuring the deficit shrinks, is also important.

The Finance Minister has hinted at the importance employment and skills will play in the budget, as a topic the government wants to tackle. Indeed, this is as a promising aspect. After all, it is no secret that Malta has a skills shortage, so upskilling the workforce, and measures to incentivise that, would be most welcome.

We also need to incentivise youths to remain in school longer, in order to fill those higher paying jobs that become available. So one would also expect that the education ministry would have some hard work ahead in order to tackle that.

The environment is also something that has been on everyone’s minds. One hopes that the budget gives due importance to this, and includes items which would help investment in greener infrastructure, among other things.

The government recently announced a Metro, and so one expects that funding will also be allocated for further studies on this front.

It was undoubtedly not an easy budget to put together for Minister Caruana’s first, and the nation eagerly waits to hear how the government intends to spend the taxpayer’s money in the coming year.

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