Pos­i­tive sta­tis­tics prove gov­ern­ment is on the right track – Minister Ed­ward Sci­cluna

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Minister for Fi­nance Ed­ward Sci­cluna said yes­ter­day that the pos­i­tive sta­tis­tics re­gard­ing the coun­try’s deficit and na­tional debt pro­vide enough proof to sup­port this bud­get and the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion.

Pro­fes­sor Sci­cluna said that this fourth bud­get pre­sented by him as minister was only part of a big­ger plan by the gov­ern­ment to im­prove the public’s stan­dard of liv­ing.

As he was ad­dress­ing Par­lia­ment, Pro­fes­sor Sci­cluna said that the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion is to have every fam­ily in Malta and Gozo live with a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing, as much or bet­ter than the av­er­age EU cit­i­zen. He said that to achieve this, the gov­ern­ment had to help the most vul­ner­a­ble and this is the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion.

“To achieve all this, we have to have a bet­ter eco­nomic growth than other coun­tries. This is pos­si­ble only through con­stant in­vest­ment, both from abroad and lo­cally. We have achieved good re­sults so far but we are not sat­is­fied.”

The minister said that in­vest­ment means a larger cap­i­tal in­vest­ment, and this still needs to grow. Re­fer­ring to the min­i­mum wage, he said that the move by civil so­ci­ety is ad­mirable but the com­par­i­son with Ire­land’s min­i­mum wage is not ideal. “If we want to com­pare our­selves with Ire­land, then we can also com­pare the progress made by the two coun­tries.”

Pro­fes­sor Sci­cluna said that the gov­ern­ment’s chal­lenge at the mo­ment is fill­ing in the amount of va­cant places of work and that this re­quires the au­thor­i­ties to re­ceive for­eign­ers.

“To grum­ble on traf­fic or on con­struc­tion is not enough. We have to ad­dress the is­sue of debt of our coun­try. This is a bur­den which needs to be ad­dressed.”

“We have won the elec­tion with the prom­ise of de­creas­ing the deficit and ad­dress the coun­try’s debt. From 70%, Malta’s debt is now at al­most 60%. This progress is proof enough of all the good we’re do­ing.”

The minister said that the gov­ern­ment never treated poverty as a per­cep­tion and the ad­min­is­tra­tion was never afraid of fac­ing this chal­lenge. How­ever, he warned that it is not right to bend the facts and re­sults shown in sta­tis­tics. He said that Euro­stat is clearly show­ing progress, sig­nif­i­cantly from the year 2014 on­wards.

Pro­fes­sor Sci­cluna said that the Op­po­si­tion’s crit­i­cism that this bud­get ig­nored the mid­dle class is un­founded. He said that this is not true and in­sisted that the PN Op­po­si­tion for­got that the mid­dle class also in­cludes a large num­ber of pen­sion­ers.

On the sus­tain­abil­ity of pensions, the Minister said that the gov­ern­ment is en­sur­ing that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions need to be guar­an­teed that they will not fall into poverty once they be­come pen­sion­ers. “This gov­ern­ment is proud to have in­tro­duced the third pil­lar pen­sion with the abil­ity for a pen­sioner to ap­ply also for a pri­vate pen­sion.”

The minister said he can­not un­der­stand why the Op­po­si­tion keeps on say­ing that the na­tional debt has in­creased, be­cause num­bers clearly show this is not the case. “In these last three years, the debt has been go­ing down in a con­stant man­ner. Hope­fully, na­tional debt will drop to un­der 60% in the near fu­ture.”

On the deficit, the Minister said that this gov­ern­ment has man­aged to reduce the deficit from 3.6% to a record rate of 0.7%.

Ear­lier, PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco warned that the coun­try can­not be­come de­pen­dent on one­off eco­nomic events, such as the sale of pass­ports and Ene­malta shares.

Speak­ing in the de­bate on the fi­nan­cial es­ti­mates of the Fi­nance Min­istry, Dr de Marco noted that gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture had gone up from four per cent in 2012 to around eight per cent and ques­tioned whether this in­crease was sus­tain­able.

“These one-offs will not al­ways be there and if our econ­omy, even just one sec­tor, slows down, the gap be­tween ex­pen­di­ture and in­come will be­come more pro­nounced.”

Dr de Marco said that af­ter lis­ten­ing to the PM’s speech last week one would have thought that the coun­try’s econ­omy be­fore Labour was in a dis­as­trous state. Back then, the world was fac­ing the worst re­ces­sion in decades. The price of oil was five times higher than it is to­day. Not­with­stand­ing these facts, in­vest­ment was brought in, the econ­omy grew and jobs were cre­ated. The EC had praised our coun­try for the way it had bat­tled and tri­umphed over the re­ces­sion. “I would have ex­pected the PM to at least ac­knowl­edge the good work done be­fore he be­came PM. In­stead of thank­ing these peo­ple Dr Muscat made an at­tempt to re­write his­tory.”

Go­ing into more de­tail on the eco­nomic sce­nario, the PN Deputy Leader and shadow Fi­nance Minister said the gov­ern­ment had over­shot its fi­nan­cial es­ti­mates for the past four years with a to­tal of €350 mil­lion. He also crit­i­cised the PL ad­min­is­tra­tion for re­duc­ing in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture.

Turn­ing to Air Malta, Dr de Marco urged the gov­ern­ment to keep the Op­po­si­tion and all stake­hold­ers in the loop at all times and said that if a deal with Al­i­talia fails, the na­tional air­line will man­age to strike a deal with some­one else.

Next he spoke on the up­com­ing de­vel­op­ment projects in the Paceville area. Point­ing out that this area had the largest con­cen­tra­tion of five-star ho­tels he called for a co­or­di­nated plan, es­pe­cially dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase.

Dr de Marco sounded the alarm on ex­port fig­ures, which are still below 2012 lev­els.

He also pointed out that many value-added jobs were be­ing taken up by for­eign na­tion­als. This was most ev­i­dent in the iGam­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor.

In a news­pa­per in­ter­view, the Fi­nance Minister had hinted that he dis­agreed that the min­i­mum wage should be raised. He should state whether this was the case, which would mean that he was say­ing the op­po­site of what the Prime Minister was say­ing.

Dr de Marco said the traf­fic prob­lem had been a long time com­ing and was partly the re­sult of men­tal­ity. He said the mea­sures men­tioned in the bud­get were nowhere near a so­lu­tion.

On en­ergy tar­iffs, he said that since the gov­ern­ment had man­aged to reduce en­ergy prices ir­re­spec­tive of a new power sta­tion, it should reduce them even fur­ther when the power sta­tion be­comes op­er­a­tional.

PN MP men­tions ru­mours re­gard­ing a merger be­tween Cen­tral Bank and MFSA

PN MP Kristy De­bono said there are ru­mours that the Cen­tral Bank and the Malta Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Au­thor­ity will be merged. She warned that if this project is truly in the pipe­line, it risks cre­at­ing an un­nec­es­sary earth­quake in the fi­nance sec­tor.

Dr De­bono said that de­spite some pos­i­tive mea­sures, the Minister for Fi­nance failed to men­tion which new sec­tors the gov­ern­ment is will­ing to in­vest in to safe­guard the growth of the econ­omy in Malta.

She said that the ef­fect of the Panama Pa­pers is still be­ing felt un­til this day in the fi­nance sec­tor. Dr De­bono said that local banks are find­ing it hard to keep a healthy cor­re­spon­dence with in­ter­na­tional banks, all be­cause of the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal. “Our banks are los­ing their bar­gain­ing power with in­ter­na­tional banks,” she warned while speak­ing in Par­lia­ment this evening.

Re­fer­ring to the gaming and bank­ing sec­tor, Dr De­bono said that the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion is at a stale­mate.

PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco (left) and Fi­nance Minister Ed­ward Sci­cluna

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