2017 Budget - The day after
Most eyes and ears, if not all, were yesterday glued to the Parliament Channel. Save for a national disaster, God forbid, the announced Budget measures will, this morning, feature prominently and remain on the national agenda for a while. Most other local
The announced budget measures are expected to be the result of a long process – at times behind closed doors – and consultations with the public and at the MCESD. This is the fourth budget for this legislature. Yesterday, the Finance Minister outlined both Malta’s current economic performance and projections for 2017. As in previous years, the Budget 2017 measures will be analysed in depth and official reactions will be released from interested quarters, including the Opposition. Highlights from the 2017 budget are reproduced on all news webportals, including this one. Many readers will take to the comment boards to express their views. Some will be clamouring positively, others will be reluctant to endorse some of the initiatives, and still others will dismiss the budget proposals completely.
The Budget 2017 speech was delivered after the timely press release issued by Standard & Poor’s, wherein Malta’s credit rating improved from BBB+ to A-. This is certainly positive news. It is also very encouraging that Malta is expected to continue to experience an average of 3% real GDP growth between 2016 and 2019.
With such positive economic projections, people expect a fair portion from the generated wealth. People shouldered and made huge sacrifices when some years back the world, including Malta, experienced economic woes comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s. But now that the world has emerged from that economicly turbulent period, it should be of no surprise that Malta is riding high. With such positive economic trends, it is time for the people to reap their fair share of the wealth created.
The list of budget initiatives should include monetary measures aimed at alleviating the hardship which those close to the poverty trap have to endure, while workers should see their take-home pay increase significantly. It can’t be otherwise from a self-proclaimed Social Democratic Party.
A Social Democrat Party is expected to address social injustices with well-defined, targeted initiatives that can hardly be matched by any other political grouping. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the past three years. Inequalities have grown wider.
In recent years, a number of non-governmental organisations have publicly expressed their concerns and published reports with their findings as disposable income disparities within our society grew wider. Along the way, they pushed for measures to combat poverty and for the fairer distribution of wealth.
The monetary at-risk-of-poverty is corroborated by a recent press release issued by the National Statistics Office of Malta. The Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey revealed that, during 2014, the monetary at-risk-of-poverty rate stood at 15.9%. This figure has increased to 16.3% in 2015. One may argue that an increase of 0.04 is marginal and hardly of any significance. But it would be wrong to dismiss the increase. With the current economic growth, none of us should be at risk of poverty, much less at a growing rate.
Nonetheless, the 2017 budget should not serve as bait in the light of the coming general election, which cannot be held later than June 2018. Neither should the budget be good fodder to keep at bay the various cases of alleged corruption which this administration is infested with and alienate the electorate from broken electoral promises.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is well aware that he has an uphill struggle when he faces Opposition and Nationalist Party leader Dr Simon Busuttil in the coming general election. Their political credentials are miles apart. One has served the local electorate in the European Union Parliament on the basis of his political conviction; the other has served on the basis of convenience. The incumbent has promised accountability, transparency and meritocracy yet made a mockery of these values; the aspiring one is promising honesty.
Taking people for fools is not helping the PL earn political credibility in any way. To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister wanted the electorate to believe that he has taken severe action against Dr Konrad Mizzi by stripping him of his ministerial duties in the energy sector, yet Dr Mizzi continues to perform ministerial duties directly related to energy.
Cash handouts may buy the silence of a select few. But in the long run, those who opt to remain silent in the face of serious allegations of corruption, will only have themselves to blame for not speaking out.
In recent years, a number of nongovernmental organisations have publicly expressed their concerns and published reports with their findings as disposable income disparities within our society grew wider