Monday’s Budget will not see any tax hikes and it will start to address future challenges such as the phasing out of combustion engine cars, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
Addressing a political gathering at the Labour Party club in Għaxaq, Dr Muscat said that above all, the 2020 Budget would provide “peace of mind”. While some could complain on Tuesday that they deserved to get more, the government would keep an eye on sustainability to ensure that the services it provided would continue to be well-funded.
“The public can expect peace of mind that we will continue to deliver on our plan for this country – the plan is no secret. Our long term plan is the electoral manifesto that the public voted for in last general election and that we are trusted to implement,” he said.
Taking nothing, giving out
Dr Muscat said the government would not be taking anything away from the people, not in the form of new taxes, nor through removing benefits that were introduced over the years.
Dr Muscat said the Labour administration had inherited soaring debts from its “political forefathers”.
Previous administrations, he said, had feasted, racking up huge bills, only to pay by “credit card”.
“We got that bill, paid it, and are now providing that peace of mind to the public that there will be food on the table for generations to come,” he said.
Climate change and electric cars
Dr Muscat said Monday’s Budget would give a taste of the future changes that Malta would experience in line with the EU-wide direction on climate change.
The first change, “among others”, would be the introduction of a cut-off date for the importation of new combustion engine vehicles.
“We aren’t saying that we will outlaw these cars but we are saying that we need a cut-off date for new imports,” he said.
This, Dr Muscat added, brought with it a number of challenges for the country.
These alternative new vehicles needed to be more affordable, and the country needed the infrastructure to support them.
For example, apartment blocks would likely need three phase power systems.
Owners of these vehicles would need preferential rates for electricity, and pumping stations would also need to be kitted out with the infrastructure to charge electric cars.
There were questions about what would happen to the second-hand car sector and other matters.
The good news, Dr Muscat said, was that the government was already planning for this eventuality some 15 years ahead.
Rewarding hard workers and supporting the needy
Dr Muscat said the Budget would reward hard-working families and citizens who contributed year–in year-out to the economy and the country.
It would also support those that needed help the most.
“These are ultimately two sides of the same coin,” he said.
The property market, disabled persons, and pensioners
Dr Muscat said the government was “conscious” of the problems in the property market and the difficulties some were facing.
“And we know that the people trust us to address these challenges,” he said.
His personal priority, Dr Muscat said, was to help pensioners. These people were at the top of the list for help and would once again have a raise in their financial support.
Persons with disability were also high on the priority list. Helping these people, he said was what characterised the administration’s “social spirit”.
This, he insisted was not a matter of pity or charity, but of ensuring citizens’ dignity.
The numbers of disabled persons working was a good step forward, but the government needed to maintain the dignity to those who cannot work.
Problems of the past are in the past
Earlier in his address, Dr Muscat said that the problems the Labour government had first inherited, were now consigned to the history books.
In the next general election those who will vote for first time at 16 would have only been six-years-old when Labour first took office in 2013.
They did not know what it was like to face sky-high utility bills or long lists of out-of-stock medication.
They did not know a time before the introduction of the first-time property buyers discount and other Labour government initiatives.
“But we can’t dwell on the past, the future generations will have totally new ambitions and we have to meet these expectations? We get it and we are ready to keep questioning the status quo,” he said.