The Budget presented by the government yesterday, for 2019, is another step in the right direction, particularly in social issues. That being said, ASCS would like to express its concern regarding matters that have not been given the adequate attention. The fact that for the second consecutive year, the budget does not include any additional taxation whilst providing measures across the board, reflects Malta’s successful economic performance. ASCS feels that when analysing the major challenges being faced by both the workers and the employers, a longer-term plan is required to ensure that the economic growth is sustainable.
Economy & Work
As already referred to, the 2019 Budget does not include any new taxes, tariffs or duties, or an increase on the current ones. In addition, even when factoring out IIP Revenue, another budget surplus is projected for next year. Furthermore, students will be pleased to hear that stipends will be having a pro-rata increase in relation to the €2.33 per week cost-of-living wage raise. Another positive point worth noting is the setting up of ‘TechMT’; a new entity which will be focusing on marketing Malta as a hub for digital economy and disruptive technologies such as blockchain. This clearly shows the government’s vision in this sector and subsequently putting our name on the map on an international level. We are also pleased to hear that VAT on ebooks and musical instruments will be decreased to 5%. ASCS believes that all segments of the society should benefit from the country’s economic growth, and the fact that minimum wage workers will be getting €3 a week over-and-above COLA, is a step in the right direction. Finally, we would like to express our concern to the fact that not enough is being done to improve the quality of the labour sector. Our main focus must be to enhance the skills of our workforce rather than just increasing the labour force, resulting in an increase of output per capita.
Transport, Environment & Infrastructure
With regards to transport, free public transport will be extended to 14 and 15-year olds and all full-time students aged 20 and over. Although these are good steps in order to promote the use of public transport, we are disappointed that there are no long-term plans to tackle the traffic issue that we are facing every day. More emphasis must have been given to green infrastructure and implementation of active alternative modes of transport, not simply allocating €100m for short term road widening and upgrades. A positive measure is that all vehicle-related exemptions related to electric vehicles, conversion to running on gas, scrappage schemes and motorcycles are being extended.
With regards to Gozo, private sector workers who commute from Gozo will be eligible for a partial refund of their Gozo Channel ferry ticket. In addition, an allowance for Gozitans who work in Malta will be introduced, if they carpool or use public transport. Finally, as per Budget speech, Gozitan students will be offered affordable housing in Malta. As ASCS, we recognise the major problems Gozitan students are facing in their everyday life, and believe that much more should be done from the Government’s end to address these challenges. We are disappointed that the €500 per 3 months grant, has not been updated so as to reflect the constant increase in the rent prices together with recent price hikes in other basic necessities.
• Additional day of leave to be given to all workers;
• Pensions to increase by €4.50 a week (inclusive of COLA), to remain tax-free up to €13,000;
• Children’s allowance to increase up to €96 per year for households with less than €20,000 in annual income;
• All Matsec exam fees to be scrapped.