The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Budget talk

Rachel Borg Saturday, 16 October 2021, 07:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

You’re not a pensioner.  You’re not employed in the hotel and catering industry.  You don’t send your children to free day care services.  You don’t travel by bus. You won’t be inheriting a classified property.  You may be an owner of a post-1976 lease property.  You may work in health care or education.  You are not from Gozo, employed with the public sector.

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You are aware of the rising increase in prices for food and restaurants, or hotel accommodation.  You are experiencing set-backs in doing business and facing growing costs to service your clients due to the grey-listing of Malta.

Transport remains a headache for deliveries and getting to work and the 12 fold increase in the rate of freight means you cannot continue to import certain goods as you were doing before and may need restructure.

Any day now you may face major infrastructural projects on your doorstep and under your bedroom balcony just as you were nearing a nervous episode after the road works or excavation.

Farmers remain tossed from one basket to another. 

A green project there means a black one here. 

Move to the side please, we need to make way for buses. 

You try to explain to your hard-won tourists, why there is an industry-sized aluminium tent on the plaza of the well publicised Triton Fountain, or what the reason is for the dry planters in-front of the Parliament building.  Those platforms on the side or in the middle of the streets of Valletta have now taken on a topic for themselves as guides have to explain their purpose and value in a UNESCO heritage city.

You wonder how many parking spaces are to be lost to electric chargers for the rental agencies.  Or how much longer you can continue to enjoy swimming from the shore of your town or in the little bay. 

But you may be a Maltese buying a flat in Gozo with reduced stamp duty.  You may have a culture of spending on leisure and goods.  Both persons in a couple or family are working.  That retirement you were looking forward to has now been over-shadowed by the chance to work without paying tax on your pension.  After all, that flat that you built to rent out and is still empty cannot pay for itself in these times.

According to The Times’s survey on the Budget 2022, 24% voted Good, 15% voted Bad and 62% said it had no impact on them.

So, we are largely back to square one.  We are mostly where we were but still facing the same problems and issues that matter, as before.  Only we have a more pursed-lip Finance Minister who presents as the next best thing after sliced bread.  The Joseph Muscat anti-dote.  The one who stands apart and thinks that Konrad Mizzi should testify at the PAC Committee.

Whom does the budget benefit?  What does it reveal and what does it hide? 

Definitely it hides the mounting and unsustainable deficit.  It leaves the Steward hospitals’ deals at an advantage to them.  It does nothing to address the exploitation of workers.  There is a scheme to be set up to register employees but it had been mentioned before. 

It helps staff who work in the leisure and restaurant industry by reducing tax on their part-time or overtime income.

It does absolutely nothing to ensure that Malta will come out of the grey-listing.  What about the court delays and the exaggerated bills for utilities?  How about the cost of property and getting a loan? 

How are our elderly protected from the closure of bank branches in their vicinity?  What happens to single mothers needing to work and find a place to rent or to the terrible situation at Corradino Correctional Facility?  What schools will children find and how will they endure the heat waves without AC?

Will those victims of the construction incidents receive justice?  How are others going to be protected in future?  Will you still need to have sleepless nights and unbearable days when the contractor moves in next door?  Are our sky-scapes and sea-views lost forever?

Fingers crossed that a residence hosting 11 people in one house will not be licensed next door to you or that the hotel at the bottom of your property will not become another venue for entertainment or change to an apartment complex.

The result is that Malta is quite likely to face a financial crisis because the budget does not address the fundamental problems of the economy and it leaves the private sector to pick up the slack.

In the past, privatisation versus nationalization was the political game.  Nowadays it is how much can we dump onto the tax-payer of the cost of corruption and the milking and commercialistion of our assets and national heritage without them noticing?

A small increase here will hide a big portion of take, there.  Some planting of trees there will distract from the desertification of Malta and a rubble wall in Gozo will overlook the ODZ projects mushrooming all over the island.  You may be forgiven for confusing Eco Gozo with Echo Gozo.

Air Malta will bounce from CEO to CEO until it finds a forever home and the ITS (Institute of Tourism Studies) will join MCAST as the rubber duck in the bath.

Both MCAST and ITS have been very important in training students and getting qualified but they are dis-regarded by this government and tossed about in the same way our farmers are.

There are many families in Gozo that are facing possible eviction and land grabs like you have never seen before by that medieval organization clause.  But we are to be impressed by a tunnel or a metro.

Maybe the convoy of Santa Maria will come to save us.  Malta in the past found ways to benefit from its size, friends and its good name.  Unfortunately, it may soon disappear under concrete and stone and its good name is now worthless.

Not all is bad though.  We can take courage from the fact that some hitherto untouchables have found themselves having to face some uncomfortable truths whilst others jaunt in and out of Parliament at their leisure and holidays to Italy by Joseph Muscat are marked safe, along with offshore accounts.

 

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