Updated: Budget 2020 – Despite surplus, 90,000 people living in poverty – Delia

Despite claims of surplus, poverty is increasing and will reach 90,000 in 2019, leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia said in his official reaction to the budget, in Parliament on Monday evening.

“Is the individual actually benefiting,” Delia rhetorically questioned. He said that those on the brink of poverty have remained so. He also noted that the number of foreigners is increasing per year and although the opposition has no objection in the exchange of skills, especially of those from the EU, the government is basing the country’s economic growth on the number of foreigners coming to Malta.

The increase in wages, at 1.1%, does not compare well to the economic growth, which is 5%. Delia explained that the economic growth is not being reflected in the wages. He also noted that the increase in population causes pressures on Maltese rents, roads and the environment.

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20:30: The American University of Malta was meant to cater for 4,000 students, Delia said, noting that not even 60 students were brought. 

Delia quoted Prime Minister as saying that youngsters who voted for the first time in last election, due to the 16 plus vote, do not remember a time when there were sky-high utility bills, amongst other things, as they were very young when Labour came to power.

Delia, however, said that these youths do not remember a time when a journalist was not killed, when Malta did not have a bad reputation, when one was proud to be Maltese, when a Minister was not caught with accounts in Panama, when corruption was not institutionalised, where justice is done and seen to be done, when property was affordable, when a new school was opened each year, when government contracts were made public and when the Prime Minister and others were fighting for Malta not to become a member of the EU.

Concluding his speech, Delia said that the Opposition wants an economy that works for the Maltese, not an economy that grows because of foreigners in the country. “A country where everyone is secure in their own home and not being scared to go out in the streets. We want a country with clean air, where youths have an education that is the best in Europe. A country that fights corruption, not by stopping those who uncover corruption. What belongs to society should remain within society. Government should help society, not take from society.”

20.20: The government had promised transparency, accountability and meritocracy but these were three promises which were the most trampled on, Delia noted. He also listed a number of deficiencies which were not dealt with by the government.

Delia mentioned a number of those who attained Maltese citizenship through the IIP scheme, who were accused or arrested for crimes they committed. “These are the rich Maltese of Joseph Muscat,” he exclaimed.

Delia tabled 100 promises that were not carried out by the government, mentioning a number of sectors.

20.15: Quoting a Malta Independent article which quoted the Prime Minister saying that “this is a land of opportunity for blockchain,” Delia said the industry has failed as no licences were issued.

Gozo seemed to have be forgotten in the budget and only added as an after-thought, Delia noted. “The government does not believe that Gozo should be autonomous and a region in its own right. The fourth ferry seems to have lessened the problem but the fast-ferry, thanks to the incompetence of this government, has not been introduced.”

20.10: Mentioning the recent motion put forward by the PN declaring a climate change emergency, he said that youths and NGOs should be heard and listened to. The PN will be voice of these youths, Delia noted.

“Let us declare that we have a climate change emergency. We would then need to pass a law that will protect our children,” Delia exclaimed. “The country needs to be given to our children better than when it was passed on to us,” he added. “You removed a cancer-making factory but now the whole country is polluted.”

He urged the government to work together with the opposition with regards to the motion passed and to change anything necessary to declare a climate change emergency.

“What is the vision?” Delia questioned, despite noting that a number of measures were introduced. The measures were not of direction but of maintenance he said. The PN wants above all, a small but courageous Malta, that does not increase its economy by importing precarious work but to export a wealth of skills.

19.50: Delia mentioned the concession made to Vitals Global Healthcare, saying the three hospitals were given to someone unknown. “Now the Health Minister has noted we have the ‘real thing’”, Delia said, referring to Steward Health Care. He continued to say that after this move, huge investments were expected but nothing of the sort was done.

The government must now give a breakdown of its action and what was done in these three hospitals, he said.

Quoting the President of the MUT saying “what about education?”, Delia said that Malta does not have any natural resources but todays youths need to be invested in to be a great resource.

In a fiery exchange, Delia said the Education Minister noted that teachers are paid well, exclaiming that this is not the case but that Kurt Farrugia is paid well, as much as nine teachers.

19.45: In the pre-budget document, the PN made a number of proposals Delia said, mentioning a few with respect to workers.

The number of food banks have continued to increase, Delia noted, adding that this is a serious deficit and “this is a metropolitan Malta, of Joseph Muscat.”

Speaking about the health sector, Delia said although improvements have been made in the past, he noted that “we have failed with regards to mental health”. In the budget speech, he highlighted that mention to mental health was minimal.

The inclusion of people who suffer with fibromyalgia in the budget was positive, Delia said but added that people suffering from Parkinson’s should be considered in the future.

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19.40: The number of pensioners at the brink of poverty is increasing, Delia said and noted that it amounts to quarter of the elderly population.

Property has increased by 25% but wages have only increased by 1.1%, he said. The pressure on property will continue to increase since more foreigners will be brought to Malta, he added.

Speaking about the scheme presented in last week’s budget, that the government will lend the property deposit for those who cannot afford it, Delia said that whilst it was good to help those in need, it was a problem that people could not even afford the deposit.

“How can we have a surplus but the number of people who cannot afford housing continues to increase?” Delia questioned. “The right to have a roof over your head is a fundamental right,” he continued. The PN will guarantee that every Maltese and Gozitian person will be given a roof over their head, he promised.

The gender wage gap is still one of the highest in Europe but despite the government making claims to be a feminist government, no mention to this issue in the last budget was made.

19.35: The two principless that need to be seriously discussed about pensions are their adequacy and the sustainability, Delia explained. Poverty is increasing and this year will reach 90,000 people, he noted.

19.32: Delia took aim at the PL back-benchers. He said that this government gave them a cheque to keep their mouths shut. He asked the Prime Minister to withdraw the law that resulted in the back-benchers themselves unable to criticise the government, referring to the law passed last legislature that allowed back-benchers to be chairmen of authorities. 

19.28: Quoting an article from The Malta Independent detailing an interview with Judge Emeritus Govanni Bonello, Delia said to move forward today it is all about “friends of friends”. Speaking about the Attorney General, not referring to the individual but the office, he said that those who are supposedly looking out for the interests of the Maltese, look out only for the interests of the government, Delia noted.

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19.20: The government, over the last few months, has covered up a problem by calling it a problem of success, Delia said.  Delia once again said that he hopes the Prime Minister removes those close to him which are harming Malta’s reputation.

19.10: Youths need to be taught the skills to get jobs which pay well, Delia said, adding that the best paid jobs are being occupied by people from abroad.

The Opposition is willing to work with the government on these sectors to make sure they continue to grow. Speaking about the banking sector, he noted that the government did not want to intervene because they noted it is not their prerogative.

Delia, however, said that the regulation and budgeting of what is coming to Malta is the government’s onus. “Although every private bank has the right to make its own decisions, the government needs to tell the Maltese what is being done to attract established banks.”

19.05: The Finance Minister noted that Malta is being faced with challenges, although he did not identify them, Delia said. He noted these challenges are institutional, environmental and social.

Mentioning the Moneyval report, Delia said that never in the history of Malta has the country risked being blacklisted. He called for the government to recognise that there is a problem, mainly because of bad decisions made by the same.

After speaking to all stakeholders in the gaming and financial services, which form a large part of our economy, Delia said they are concerned about the report. This report, he added, is not insignificant and if Malta is blacklisted no one will want to investment in Malta.

Quoting from the report, Delia said that officials in the police force themselves, who are meant to safeguard the country against money laundering and criminality, felt a sense of helplessness.

“Let us recognise our mistakes,” Delia said, adding that “Malta’s reputation needs to be safeguarded by making tough decisions.” He also highlighted the fact that the Prime Minister should remove those people in government who had caused harm to Malta’s reputation.

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18.57:  Delia noted that the increase in population causes pressure on Maltese rents, roads and the environment. This dependence on one sector of growth is having its consequences, he added. Commenting about the lack of labour mobility of foreigner workers, as quoted in a report by the Central Bank, Delia also said the government should heed advice from this report to look to a more diverse future. 

Dependence on foreigner workers for the economic growth has never been this large, he continued, noting that economic growth is not a new occurrence but has also happened in past years.

“Economic growth can be increased by increasing the skills of Maltese workers and adding new sectors which are more profitable,” Delia explained. “Nowhere in the whole budget discourse did the government mention a new sector.”

18.50: Comparing the increase in wages, which is 1.1%, to the economic growth, which is 5%, Delia explained that the economic growth is not being reflected in wages.

18.40: Addressing parliament, Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia said that the economic model that the government has chosen is based on the increase in population. This is not necessary, he noted, and apart from the GDP, the social and environmental wellbeing needs to be considered. “Is the individual actually benefiting,” Delia rhetorically questioned. He said that those at the brink of poverty, have remained so.

Delia also tabled the pre-budget document noting that the government does not have a long-term plan, and that the PN is proposing a plan for longer than a year.

Going back to increase in the economy based on the increase in population, Delia said that the number of foreigners is increasing per year. Although he noted that the PN has no objection in exchange of skills, especially with regards to the EU, he noted that the economy is growing because of the number of foreigners coming to Malta, and not the other way round.

18.35: Prior to speaking about the budget, Delia made reference to the Hal Far Open Centre riot, and said that he was disappointed by the statement issued by the government. “We need to do something so that this does not happen again.”


Photos: Alenka Falzon

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