The 2019 Budget which will be presented on 22nd October, is all about “managing expectations and success,” according to Finance Minister Prof. Edward Scicluna.
Stating that “a balanced budget would be satisfactory now,” and that the government wanted to “spend and redistribute,” Prof. Scicluna said that success should not be taken for granted.
Several priority areas were outlined in the pre-Budget document, aimed at building “economic, environmental, human, social, and institutional capital.”
The following areas may prove to be most relevant to Malta’s business community and outlook.
Institutions and Regulatory Authorities
· Government will continue its drive to address fiscal evasion.
· Greater investment in Malta Customs though non-intrusive tools and technical assistance.
· Frameworks will be established to phase out unnecessary expenditure, reduce waste and inefficiencies.
· New directorate, the Public Sector Performance and Evaluation Directorate, has been set up with a director already appointed and officers to be recruited this year.
· An extensive training programme to improve human resource capacity, partly financed through the Structural Reform Support Programme, will be set up.
· New legislation on online gaming to be enacted.
· New niches, such as fantasy sports, will be developed.
· Blockchain legislation to be used in terms of AI and the Internet Of Things (IoT), which will both be given priority in the coming years.
· Fintech and regtech will be developed further, along with Islamic finance, to make the financial services sector more resilient to external shocks.
· Further changes are also envisaged for the MFSA, which will adopt a more modern structure, rendering it more proactive.
Competitiveness and Sustainability
· Government has pledged to support businesses to reduce costs and encourage increased investment in research and development.
· Intellectual property services to be restructured; new trademark act that allows the registry of new types of marks to be introduced.
· Several initiatives will be launched such as the risk investment scheme and the accelerator programme.
· Malta Industrial Parks will focus on further integrating business parks to accommodate clusters of industries, while also exploring vertical or horizontal expansion, and private-public partnerships (PPPs).
· Comprehensive master plan for the Luqa area.
· Identity Malta to improve performance, and simplify student visas for non-EU students.
· The Malta Residency and Visa Programme to suggest changes to the legal framework to make the programme more attractive.
· Ministry for Foreign Affairs to explore visa action plan for foreign workers.
· All waste management operations to be consolidated at Maghtab.
· Initiatives will be introduced to reduce the amount of waste generated, and promote alternatives to single-use plastic.
· Local Council Association to play greater role in waste management.
· Works will also continue on the development of a strategy on Malta's transition to a low carbon economy.
· Stakeholders to be engaged in the management of the country's natural capital.
· Legal framework for agricultural operators to be simplified.
· Open vegetable markets (pitkalija) to be reformed.
· Efforts to promote animal welfare practices, the sustainability of fish stocks, and retain/enhance the competitiveness of fishermen.
Infrastructure and Public Transport
· Initiatives to support the use of alternative means of transport will be introduced.
· Relative studies for the conceptual design of the Malta-Gozo tunnel will be carried out.
· Government to continue investing in the maritime and aviation sector.
· Lands Authority to continue digitalisation process.
Energy and Water Management
· Water Services Corporation to continue expanding distribution of new water targeting the agricultural sector, and upgrade reverse osmosis plants.
· Significant flood risk areas to be identified and maintained in Malta and Gozo.
· Government to continue decarbonising energy system, introducing further incentives to invest in renewable energy sources and increasing awareness on energy efficiency.
· Gozo Development Regional Plan to secure an innovative and connected island that delivers social and economic prosperity, while also conserving its unique characteristics.
· Invest Gozo unit being set up.
· Gozo’s infrastructure and ageing population to be addressed.
· Master plans for touristic locations being drawn-up, while others are near completion.