When we say that the government lacks vision, we mean it. The 2022 budget, as read by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, was self-lauded as a ‘social budget’. This statement is hard to digest. I would rather describe this budget as one which is conveniently designed to look at the here and now.
This is not surprising from the minister as, in the past years, the Labour government has not really satisfied any of our calls to plan ahead.
The government said it was going to start distributing social housing units. Finally, the so-called social administration has made a move on social housing after eight years in government.
As the end of the second legislature approaches, Minister Roderick Galdes entertained an exorbitant press conference to announce a substantial reduction in housing waiting lists. He talked about distributing housing units and slashing the waiting list.
However, these properties are still under construction, so one wonders whether this distribution will simply be in the form of a letter from the minister, rather the actual housing unit.
The policy by which social housing will be allocated and the ways and means by which applicants will be stricken off the waiting list is an interesting aspect which remains to be seen.
Some of the government press conferences on the subject are happening on the site of social housing units which are far from complete. Such an amateurish approach goes to show how Labour has failed in the realm of social accommodation. These pompous press conferences only confirm that an election is looming.
On the other hand, those who are suffering due to housing needs and are eagerly anticipating social assistance cannot wait for the general election in order to be looked-after.
Those depending on social benefits were struck off from ‘unemployed’ status. We are seeing a similar situation with social accommodation. Playing with numbers may make things look better but people in need will continue to feel the pinch. People are not merely votes.
As an alternative government, we are presenting a different vision for social accommodation in Malta. We will sustain measures directed towards buying your own home and we will do so without unnecessary red tape. Instead, we will facilitate the renovation of properties which are characteristic of urban conservation areas.
This will help preserve the heritage and beauty of our towns and is also intended to attract more young families towards town centres.
The budget surely lacks the vision to give the various sectors of the economy a brighter tomorrow
We will develop practical solutions for more young couples to own their own home and provide the needed support in view of higher property prices, where some salary levels do not allow banks to issue loans. The solution here would be the proposal for the state to issue a guarantee for part of the bank loan so as to make a property purchase more possible.
Fundamentally, we need to ensure that the Housing Authority becomes an entity which is trusted by the people it is supposed to assist.
Another proposal is the VAT exemption on a capped amount spent on property finishing and furnishings, tied to energy-efficient properties. With this measure, we feel that we would be truly rewarding people’s effort, another electoral promise that the Labour government has fallen short of delivering.
Talking of empty Labour promises, there are quite a few to mention. Allow me to start with a few prominent ones.
Labour promised to eradicate poverty but are now realising that this was too bold a claim to make. They also promised a discussion on the living wage, a subject to which only lip service was paid during the last budget speech.
The good old Malta Tagħna Lkoll movement promised us a number of commendable values such as transparency, accountability, zero tolerance of corruption and meritocracy. I leave it up to the reader to draw conclusions about the level to which these values have been diluted and degraded.
On the contrary, Labour has accumulated a voluminous portfolio of bad practices and scandals, leading to the worrying situation we are in today.
In his budget reaction speech, opposition and PN leader Bernard Grech said the budget lacked vision and credibility. The 92-page budget speech leaves space for only three pages which speak of Malta of the future.
This budget also shows that the government has already failed to meet its financial targets by the projected doubling of the deficit. It is key to underline that only two-thirds of the 2021 budget measures were implemented.
The deficit continues to rise and the pandemic is not the main culprit. The country is paying the price of corruption and lack of direction.
We are not saying that the budget lacks any positive measures. In fact, a Nationalist government would continue to build on some of them.
However, the budget surely lacks the vision to give the various sectors of the economy a brighter tomorrow.
For example, the government offered no consolation to industries facing considerable challenges in the logistics of import and export.
The country’s deficit is growing by €4 million a day while the government could only afford rises of €0.71 for pensioners and €0.25 for the rest.
The budget generally lacks a vision for the environment and does not care about improving the quality of life.
The country to which the PN aspires is certainly not reflected in the latest budget. The Maltese population seeks, and deserves, something better, a vision which was laid out by Grech.
The Maltese certainly do not deserve a government which sidelines the problem of FATF greylisting. The greylisting is a corner into which this government has pushed us. The least we can except is every effort under the sun to get Malta out of it and back where it belongs.
A PN government looks to the future and will collectively guarantee a strong and sustainable country for our people.
Ivan Bartolo, PN spokesperson on social housing and poverty
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