The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

TMID Editorial: Not exactly a pre-election budget, but that’s not a bad thing ….

Tuesday, 12 October 2021, 10:51 Last update: about 3 days ago

For a budget that is the last one to be presented during this legislature, this was certainly not your typical pre-election budget. Not that that is a bad thing. For pre-election budgets have become a thing of the past over the past seven or eight years.

Gone are the days when pre-election budgets are something all of us waited for with bated breath, eager to learn how the government would be showering us with countless goodies in hopes of catching our vote.

No, this was a realistic budget, but a good one, nonetheless. The proposals and measures announced yesterday by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana are very much in line with his philosophy of careful spending – of not promising what the country cannot afford.

From the financial figures provided by Caruana yesterday, it is evident that the Covid-19 pandemic left a huge dent in public finances. That the government can still afford to come up with measures such as those announced yesterday is not a trivial matter.

Indeed, the government, despite decreased income, managed to sustain tens of thousands of jobs while not introducing any new taxes. Last year, we also had the Covid budget, which was over and above the normal budget for 2021.

This year, we are seeing more of the same – a sense of continuity and stability. A budget with some ambitious proposals which also focuses on the promotion of work and the social aspect.

While the COLA increase was perhaps not what many people expected, Caruana explained during a press briefing yesterday that the various measures will give many families up to an extra thousand euro in disposable income next year. The most vulnerable families will also benefit from a secondary cost of living adjustment that is yet to be fully explained.

There was also a heavy focus on pensioners, who will see further increases in their income while those who work will soon stop paying tax on their pension.

With the proposed cuts on part-time and overtime tax, the increase in stipends and the expansion of the in-Work benefit, most of society will have benefitted from this budget.

When it comes to the environment, the proposals for UCA areas are very welcome indeed, even if they should have been introduced a decade ago. Incentivising people to buy UCA properties while retaining their character, or to buy new properties built in the traditional style is certainly one way of preserving the Maltese architectural identity and at least slowing down the uglification of the country.

The proposal to build another Buskett in the south of Malta is also one which we welcome.

Apart from the recently announced metro project, the government is also making public transport free for everyone, while better schemes have been introduced to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles. One hopes that the transport measure, in particular, will lead to a reduction in traffic congestion, which is everyone’s worst nightmare, a heavy polluter and huge weight on the country’s economy.

But we must be wary when it comes to environmental proposals. Every budget announced over the past eight years included some very interesting proposals on the environment, but the situation on the ground has not improved. To the contrary, it has worsened.

So, only time will tell whether these new environmental proposals will lead to tangible positive change.

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