The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

Budget 2022: a legacy for our children

Sunday, 17 October 2021, 08:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

Robert Abela

Maltese democracy started a hundred years ago when our forefathers had a vision of a nation they wanted to build for their children: a free and prosperous country able to survive on its own means, and capable of supporting its citizens in need. What they wanted to create was a sovereign nation in charge of its own present and future.

In 2021, Malta is a prosperous country that prioritises the needs and aspirations of our society and is committed to improving the quality of life of our citizens, both of present and future generations.

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The COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed moment for us. I believe that on the one hand it led to a dramatic change in mentality, whilst at the same time it brought us back to our roots. It also set us off on a journey of self-discovery, making us question what we should really strive for as a country.

In this spirit of reflection and analysis, an unprecedented breadth of consultation was carried out ahead of this year's budget. We put ourselves in listening mode in an effort to understand better how and why our society's aspirations had changed, and in parallel, become more familiar with how people want us to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.

The answers we received from our wide-ranging consultation collectively pointed in one direction: families and businesses alike want a new prosperity. They want a better quality of life and a fairer society that is just with every citizen of Malta. An economy that gives value to the environment and puts aesthetics and ethics at the very centre of the government's priorities. They called for a united political class that looks forward and tackles challenges positively.

Budget 2022 is aimed to deliver exactly this. It encompasses this vision to build a more dynamic and sustainable Malta.

It includes the most generous package of social assistance ever presented by a Maltese government. It increases pensions, supplementary assistance and access to free medicines, whilst reducing further the tax burden on pensioners.

A couple living on the minimum pension benefitted from increases of over €1,100 through the measures announced in this budget. If one looks at all the measures enacted during this legislature, this couple saw an increase of over €3,600 or 50% when compared to 2017.

Government recognised the public's demand to address homeownership and that is why Budget 2022 includes a comprehensive framework of schemes of equity sharing, provision of deposits, assistance to get a mortgage, guarantees, affordable housing, and better access to social housing. We also remain committed to support all those who rent, having carried out bold reforms that achieved a fine balance between the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.

In just two legislatures, we transformed Malta from Europe's laggard to one of the leading countries in terms of employment rates. It is now time for the next phase: a transformation of our skills so that we can be the leaders of tomorrow's economy. This transformation will enable us to raise wages even further, without negatively impacting our nation's competitiveness.

In order to do this, we need to ensure our workforce is better prepared for future demands by increasing our investment in education. We have announced the most generous rise in university stipends, the largest ever spending on education, improved conditions for education professionals, and the modernisation of our educational facilities. Budget 2022 will help deliver a system that enriches our children's holistic education, and as a result, enhance our future economy and prosperity.

Our economic success is based on making work pay. In Budget 2022 we continued to reward our hardworking citizens through another increase in the in-work benefit, a reduction in the tax on part-time and on overtime, and even more generous tax refunds, skewed towards those on the minimum wage.

 

This year, those on the minimum wage will receive a boost of nearly €450 through our realistic Budget measures. Over a whole legislature, they will have become better off by nearly €3,500 or by 20%.

To keep moving forward in the right direction, we need a stronger economy supported by better infrastructure. This is why we need our ambitious plans to improve Malta's transport network and industrial infrastructure.  This is why we are granting tax credits to firms that decide to invest part of their retained earnings in the coming two years.

Budget 2022 clearly demonstrates that a better environment and good economic progress go hand in hand.

The green transformation will be the best economic opportunity of our generation with our children reaping the benefits of our success. Hence, the announcement of the largest green investment in our nation's history. In waste-to-energy, in water treatment, in recycling, in afforestation, in electrification, in renewable energy, in greening our urban and industrial spaces. We have also taken the bold decision to make public transport free for residents of our country.   

For those who opt to buy a vacant property, a property in a UCA or a property with Maltese features, Budget 2022 introduces substantial benefits, including tax exemptions, direct grants of up to €30,000 and VAT refunds of up to €54,000.

A hundred years since our first Parliament sitting, we must continue building on the vision of our forefathers by prioritising the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and strengthening our fair and well-resourced institutions that serve justice to all. We all want solidarity, equality of opportunity, prosperity, and sustainability to be at the heart of what we stand for as a country. A healthy nation built on work and enterprise that looks forward to the future with optimism.

This is the Malta we want for our children. And this is what Budget 2022 will deliver.

 

Robert Abela is Prime Minister of Malta

 


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