Current Affairs
How was the 2021 budget received?
There was a positive reaction from social partners and constituted bodies to the measures announced by the Finance Minister for next year’s budget. What stood out in comments to TVM was the degree of satisfaction that their requests for extensions of the voucher scheme and wage supplements were heeded, although concern was expressed by some about the uncertainty which can be created in the country until the pandemic is over.

In their first reactions with TVM, workers’ and business representatives praised social measures, among other factors. In the words of Chamber of Commerce President David Xuereb, the measures tie in with the Chamber’s vision for the future.

“A very strong budget at social level. I am glad we are talking about areas which are important to the Chamber, such as digitization of the economy and the green economy.”

Malta’s two biggest unions, which collectively represent over 80,000 workers, appear satisfied with the measures, particularly the extension of the wage supplement and the vouchers scheme, among others. UHM Voice of the Workers, however, is not satisfied with the cost of living increase, C.O.L.A.

General Workers’ Union General Secretary Josef Bugeja stated that “many of the proposals which have been accepted had been based on four points: peace of mind, confidence, stability and security, leading to people having the confidence to start living and spending again.”

UHM Chief Executive Josef Vella stated that “we have seen positive things in this budget, such as the day’s leave, tax refund and the vouchers, but obviously we feel that the COLA, 1.75 euro, does not reflect what the workers are telling us.”

On measures aimed for Gozo, the Chief Executive of the Gozo Tourism Association Joe Muscat stated that these measures will diversify the Gozitan economy.

“There is an emphasis on the Green Economy in this budget, and it will continue with its mission as an ecological island in this context so that we will no longer continue to depend on tourism.”

Both MHRA President Tony Zahra and Matthew Pace from the Association of Catering Establishments expressed satisfaction that the budget measures will help tourism.

Paul Abela, President of the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, expressed satisfaction that the wage supplement will continue to be given, saying it should be extended until the end of the year, and added that the vouchers scheme is now more adequate. Abela told TVM, however, that there is a need for continued investment by local businesses.

“Businesses have to invest. Obviously, what we invest today will show results in three years’ time. I appeal to the banks to roll up their sleeves and help us.”

Employers’ Association Director General Joe Farrugia stated that the budget has positive measures, but expressed concern about how long the pandemic would go on for, as well as on the Moneyval report, which he feels can both have a devastating effect on the economy. On the other hand, Malta Developers Association President Sandro Chetcuti welcomed positively the Budget measures, saying everyone would benefit as a result. Marco Bonnici on behalf of the Forum Unions Maltin said it is a budget which addresses present challenges and does not burden the workers.