Prosperity with a purpose
That is why my government focused on achieving a healthy, stable economy as the foundation of everything we do. This is not a story about dry, economic statistics – it is about building a stronger, more sustainable future for every Maltese family by taking responsible decisions.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Maltese people voted for a change of direction for our country. They voted for an end to out-of-control living costs, expensive and polluting energy sources, whole demographics of society being ignored, and an economy weighed down by downgrades and debt.
That was the first part of our economic roadmap: To open up the economy to business investment, to slash bills, and cut taxes, while incentivising more people to work, and cracking down on benefit fraud. The results are clear today with record levels of growth, economic stability and a record number of people in employment. All this was mainly thanks to your choice threeand-a-half years ago.
People confirm that their quality of life is better than it was then. And they know that if we keep moving in this direction, their future will be even better, that Malta’s best days lie ahead of us.
What we have achieved so far is only the beginning. The prosperity our country is experiencing has a purpose. This budget was planned with the intention of sharing the proceeds of Malta’s record growth fairly, so that nobody gets left behind.
That is why in this year’s budget we are supporting lower-income workers by giving them a 20 per cent increase in in-work benefits and allowances; doubling rent subsidy for nearly 3,000 families; prioritising environmental conservation by preserving our water supply, transitioning out of heavy fuel oil to renewable energy sources and new incentives for producing solar energy; and cutting taxes for pensioners and removing the tax altogether for 9,000 while increasing pensions again.
We are once again helping first-time buyers by removing the stamp duty altogether. We have also put forward education measures to improve social mobility – from increased stipends to three brand new schools.
Over the past years we have fought those abusing our social welfare so now we can help those who really need to be protected by our social net. Because we believe that everyone should play by the rules, we are also getting tough on tax-evasion with a dedicated new Task Force to oversee that everyone is paying their fair share.
2017 will also see new economic niches starting to take shape. The American University of Malta, the new hospitals in Gozo and St Luke’s and another private hospital at SmartCity, as well as the logistics hub which will all be well under way.
All this was achieved while reducing the country’s deficit from almost four per cent a few years ago, to 0.7 per cent this year, and we pledge to keep reducing it to break even in a few years’ time.
We are proud of what our country has achieved. There is genuine pride felt by all Maltese people every time we top the European league in economic growth, jobs, business sentiment and optimism. When still in Opposition, I used to say that we can be the best in Europe. Indeed, we are now already among the best countries in Europe.
Of course, we have not reached our destination yet. To be the best in Europe, we must reach new heights. And we have the vision to get to the next level.
When I stood in Parliament on Tuesday I not only spoke about our achievements. It may have been a first for a Prime Minister, but I also sought to address a number of concerns which are still on people’s minds. We still have a lot of work to do on the traffic situation, finding the right balance between preserving our environment and developing the country, as well as fighting corruption across various sections of society. I am the first to speak candidly on these issues and will work even harder in the months and years to come.
In the end, numbers and statistics only tell part of the story. The evidence of a strong economy does not only come from rating agencies; the most valuable approval is from families that know and can feel the difference in their day-to-day life. An extra few hundred euros means more security for a Maltese family – a nicer holiday, or a better meal together. More important than any data is confidence – that magical ingredient that turns ‘downgrade’ into ‘upgrade’, ‘acceptable’ into ‘excellence’ and a ‘good’ future into a ‘great’ one.