PM: This Budget shows where the Government’s heart lies, highlights various sectors for creation of new prosperity

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that the differences between the Government and the Opposition are credibility and competence. In his reply to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition about next year’s Budget, Dr Abela said that this argument holds true in every sector – from health to the economy and even energy.

He said that there were those who thought that Malta would not be capable of overcoming the pandemic because it  is too small. He said that this sacrifice has resulted in a realistic and ambitious budget for which the Government has calculated the costs. He said that despite the fact that the Opposition is saying that Malta is in its worst recession of the last 40 years, the Government has doubled its budget for social services, infrastructural investment, health and education when compared with the Budget so Nationalist administrations.

He said that while the Opposition criticises the fiscal policy, Dr Abela referred to the International Monetary Fund which has praised the Government’s policies. He said the Opposition is scaremongering because our ratings went down, because he claims the PN does not care about the people but about sowing division. He said that this is the main difference between the Government and the Opposition because one works for prosperity while the other gloats when things go wrong.

He said the country coped well with the pandemic which could have caused a major economic crisis, however, Dr Abela said that no international institution ever warned Malta that it had the wrong policy and he explained that no one downgraded our country over the last few months. He said that the country’s ratings went down no less than three times under a PN Government. The PM said that the Opposition leader is not credible when it comes to fiscal morality because he said that for many long years the tax authorities chased after him to pay his VAT, while he said he is not being transparent because he did not say who had paid for his pending tax bill.

Dr Abela said that above all the Government depends on competence and credibility and the people know what a leap in quality has been achieved over the last few years. He pointed out that instead of 50,000 unemployed in Malta right now there are only 1,400 registering for work. He said that the movement will keep investing in people and not burden them with more bills. He acknowledged that there are those who are feeling the effects of the cost of living and like every challenge the Government will address this and offer solutions.

He said that while the Opposition is rubbing its hands with glee at the idea of inflation it was they themselves who a few years ago failed to retain stability in water and electricity bills and created more burdens for families. He said the Government never increased the price for energy, and in fact Dr Abela said that today’s bills are the cheapest in the Euro Zone. He said that under a Nationalist administration one out of every eight families was in debt with ARMs because of their bills.

The PM said that the Government has shown that with a united team it can face any storm and keep moving forward. He said that as result of this, unemployment is at its lowest level ever, as is the number of those waiting for social housing and on benefits. He said that despite the pandemic Malta has attracted new investment including from De La Rue, and the gaming ‘PressEnter’.

Speaking about the fight against poverty, the PM said that in October, Malta registered its lowest rate of people depending on social assistance. The PM said that in this Budget the Government has once again increased pensions by at least as €5 weekly. He said that the increase will be given apart from the measure which was announced for more pensioners to keep working after their retirement age.

He said that these results did not come about as a fluke, adding that the reality is that with the reforms carried out by the Government, the lives of thousands of people changed completely, because they were given the dignity of work.  He said that after the pandemic, the Government has more people working than ever before thanks to the wage supplement which saved thousands of jobs.

Dr Abela mentioned that in less than two years, there have been reforms in governance and the rule of law.  He said that they would continue to create the action plan agreed upon with the FATF, and while the Opposition has continued with its scaremongering, around 12 gaming and 15 financial services companies began operating in Malta.

During the pandemic, the PM said that the Opposition was claiming that the Government would only bring 40,000 doses. of the vaccine and afterwards the PN insisted that the vaccine was not the solution. Dr Abela said that events proved them wrong and that when the Government was facing its biggest crisis, not only were there enough doses but it was altruistic with the vaccination and administered a further 850,000 doses. They referred to 2009 when the Nationalist Government was faced by the swine flu and it had to beg the Dutch Government for a few doses.

He said that we cannot have a healthy country without a healthy environment and to this end Dr Abela promised that he would work to address the main challenges including climate change. He said that the Budget clearly shows the direction which the Government needs to take for the environmental sector and mentioned measures which enhance the village cores. While the Government is investing in new parks, Dr Abela said that the Opposition is still in the clutches of the same people who created the 2006 plans to widen the ODZ and the same people who had come up with the idea of a power station which works with Heavy Fuel Oil.

He said the study about the Metro has raised a number of points for discussion, including land reclamation. He said this was needed irrespective of the Metro and said that Government has proposals by international experts which makes economic, social and infrastructural sense. He said that these will be discussed with the people and together they will choose the way forward.

Dr Abela also mentioned renewable energy and the next step is for waste to become a resource to create new opportunities where the economy and environment support each other.  He said that the fiscal policy of the Government, especially during the pandemic, has left the required results. As for Gozo, Dr Abela said that despite the pandemic, investment has continued and is already bearing fruit because there have never been so many Gozitans working in the private sector in Gozo.

Finally, he said that the pandemic should serve as a reminder that it is important for the Government to be competent so that sacrifices won’t be in vain. He said that with this Government you know where you are, while with the Opposition instead of the country moving forward, it will go backwards.

The PM said that with this Budget, the Government is showing where its heart lies and that the measures which have been announced will serve to protect the vulnerable, and give comfort to families. It also includes ideas for a sustainable, fair and dynamic future so that a new prosperity can be built for future generations.