The an­swer, my friends, is not blow­ing in the wind

The Bud­get has come and gone, with most peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions judg­ing it on how it hits them di­rectly. As in most bud­gets, I would say that there are good mea­sures, bad mea­sures… and the lack of mea­sures where ab­so­lutely needed!

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Arnold Cas­sola

The in­crease in work ben­e­fits are im­por­tant be­cause th­ese help peo­ple on low salaries to im­prove their spend­ing power. Work ben­e­fits make work pay. The help given to peo­ple with dis­abil­ity is also laud­able. Like­wise with pen­sion­ers.

On the other hand, it is shame­ful that the min­i­mum wage is still be­ing cal­cu­lated on pa­ram­e­ters es­tab­lished in the sev­en­ties. I am also greatly dis­ap­pointed that the COLA bas­ket has not been re­viewed and re­vised. The bas­ket mak­ing up the COLA should be re­viewed pe­ri­od­i­cally. It is thus more than wel­come that Joseph Mus­cat has taken up an­other leaf from AD’s elec­toral man­i­festo, made a U-turn and an­nounced that dur­ing the next 12 months he will ad­dress the is­sue of the re­vis­abil­ity of the min­i­mum wage.

With re­gards to hous­ing poli­cies, in­cen­tives for rent sub­si­dies are in­ter­est­ing be­cause rental is be­com­ing a pro­hib­i­tive thing in our coun­try (buy­ing for first time buy­ers is al­ready a prob­lem!). How­ever, as AD we be­lieve that such in­cen­tives might not be enough and could end up be­ing just to­kenism.

When it comes to so­cial hous­ing, it is good that the gov­ern­ment in­vests €50 mil­lion on this (but wasn’t this mea­sure al­ready an­nounced last year?), but it would be crim­i­nal for it to take up new vir­gin land for build­ing. By all means, spend €50 mil­lion –and even more- on so­cial hous­ing but do not take up new un­built land… make use of the thou­sands of prop­er­ties that are al­ready left empty.

The de­crease in stamp duty on prop­erty bought in Gozo is ab­so­lute folly. Not con­tent with hav­ing screwed up so much of Malta with over­build­ing, the Mus­cat gov­ern­ment –tak­ing a cue from Si­mon Busut­til- is now en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to over­build in Gozo. A bad move which could en­cour­age sav­age de­vel­op­ment and spec­u­la­tion in Gozo to the detri­ment of peo­ple’s qual­ity of life! What we re­it­er­ate, in­stead, is hav­ing a mora­to­rium on all large scale res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment projects through­out the coun­try un­til such time that a sub­stan­tial amount of the va­cant dwellings are in use.

Gozo seems to have been par­tic­u­larly taken for a ride in the bud­get: fi­bre-op­tic cable, swim­ming pool, fast ferry ser­vice… th­ese are all rep­e­ti­tions of pro­pos­als we have been get­ting year in year out, some­times since the 1990s. In­stead of wast­ing mil­lions on the pie-in-the sky tun­nel project, the gov­ern­ment should spend th­ese mil­lions by im­me­di­ately start­ing works on the cable and swim­ming pool and in­au­gu­rat­ing the fast ferry ser­vice.

The free bus card for 18 year olds is very pos­i­tive and should be ex­tended to older young­sters… on con­di­tion that they do not ap­ply for a driv­ing li­cense for at least ten years. But other mea­sures on traf­fic and trans­port –apart for the gov­ern­ment tak­ing up AD’s sug­ges­tion of in­cen­tivis­ing mass pub­lic trans­port for in­dus­trial ar­eas, etc- are con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence. With­out in­creas­ing dras­ti­cally the num­ber of pub­lic buses and im­prov­ing their fre­quency, punc­tu­al­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, we will not take pri­vate cars off the road. In­stead, what does the gov­ern­ment pro­pose? Build­ing junc­tions, new roads, car parks in the cen­tre of Mosta… all proven to at­tract more pri­vate cars onto the road.

As Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika we again in­sist on an in­fra­struc­ture that in­cen­tivises the use of bi­cy­cles and ped­elecs; gov­ern­ment needs to in­cen­tivise the build­ing of show­ers in pri­vate firms, in in­dus­trial es­tates, in gov­ern­ment of­fices to en­cour­age more peo­ple to leave their car at home; the Au­to­buses de Leon should also be or­gan­is­ing mass pub­lic trans­port dur­ing rush hours to the most fre­quented work­ing places in Malta: Val­letta, Flo­ri­ana, in­dus­trial es­tates. This is the real way for­ward if we do not want to be grid­locked in traf­fic for the rest of our lives.

What was, how­ever, most re­veal­ing for me was the Mus­catBusut­til de­bate on the bud­get in Par­lia­ment, where they traded in­sults, left, right and cen­tre. The ques­tion the Mal­tese elec­torate should ask it­self is: “Do we want to have such low stoop­ing Prime Min­is­ters gov­ern­ing over us with ab­so­lute power, or do we want some­one else in par­lia­ment to con­trol them”?

The an­swer, my friends, is not blow­ing in the wind. It all lies in your power to de­cide.

Gozo seems to have been par­tic­u­larly taken for a ride in the bud­get: fi­bre-op­tic cable, swim­ming pool, fast ferry ser­vice...

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