Tony Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association
“The proposals submitted by MHRA were titled ‘Sharing Values’ and this in keeping with the MHRA vision that we talk about the budget in a holistic manner. Sharing values makes the point that economic growth must be seen and felt by all in society. MHRA wishes to see a larger percentage of the budget spent on infrastructure, which over the years was very much an afterthought and we are today suffering the effects of this lack of investment. The government now not only has to invest to keep up with today’s requirements but actually invest to catch up. Without this investment, Malta will lose its competitiveness.
Mr Zahra said the question on the economic scenario was related to the previous question. “We either invest larger percentage amounts in infrastructure now, to have a future tomorrow, or be more generous today and risk our future prosperity. I believe that we owe it to the generation following us to invest in their future too.”
Mr Zahra named proposals on second-pillar pensions in reply to the third question. “We have to bring in the second pillar of the pensions and we have to ratchet up the third pillar tax benefit from the present miserable tax allowance of €150 per annum to at least €2,000 per annum. These two measures will ensure that people reaching pensionable age will have other income to supplement the government pension and therefore avoid falling into poverty on their retirement.”
The MHRA President said the traffic situation is the result of a number of missed opportunities and lack of investment. “For example, in 1996 there was the ‘connections project’ which when there was a change of government was dropped. There are no easy solutions and certainly no short-term solutions without changing the way we travel. It is clear that the infrastructure and the size of the island cannot support the large amount of vehicles on the road. We doubt whether we can solve the problem even if we placed huge amounts of money into infrastructure. So we need to have a mass public transport system that works. But that might also require taking private vehicles off the road. Is this government or any government willing to take unpopular decisions? Is the population at large ready for changing their way of mobility?”