‘It’s not just about the economy’: A look inside the PN’s pre-budget proposals 

1st October 2019 

PN Leader Adrian Delia stresses that while GDP growth is important and welcome, GDP measurements are not good enough to gauge the wellness of society.

Nationalist Party (PN) leader Adrian Delia has called for the Government to take a closer look at issues of sustainability, lamenting that Malta’s economic growth pains have left a feeling of discontent among Maltese society.

Dr Delia observes that while an increase in population, the largest in the EU with an added 70,000 residents between 2013 (422,509 – Eurostat) and 2019 (493,559 – Eurostat), is contributing to economic growth, it is also contributing to a host of issues such as environmental degradation, inflation, risk of poverty and strain on the country’s infrastructure.

adrian delia

PN Leader Adrian Delia / Facebook 

Mario De Marco

Shadow Finance Minister Mario De Marco 

Shadow Minister for Finance, Mario De Marco, in his foreword highlights how the PN is “the only opposition in Europe that presents a comprehensive pre-budget document.

Also noting that economic growth has its limitations when gauging the wellness of society, Dr De Marco observes that “Malta needs to start taking bigger advantage of its size.” He adds that “we can make things better quicker and [sic] faster than others.”

Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Director General Kevin J Borg was in attendance for the launch of the pre-budget document on 27th September. He remarked that many of the PN’s proposals echo that of the Chamber, mainly regarding sustainability, however he cautioned that rising cost of labour is due to increased leave allowances and benefits, which is harming Malta’s competitiveness.

The following is an extract of the PN’s proposals. The full document may be found here.

The Economy and Work

The Opposition is proposing that:

• Private sector workers who work with companies which tender for government work should as a minimum have the same working conditions as their equivalent government employees. Outsourcing should not be used as a means of saving money to the detriment of workers’ rights.
• Enforcement of labour laws is presently almost close to nonexistent. This shortcoming needs to be addressed.
• All work contracts are to include the basic rights of employees as a default. All employers should be obliged to submit an electronic copy of the contract of engagement of work. Work regulations orders are to be complied to ensure that all conditions of work such as leave, sick leave, allowances are provided to all workers.
• Union Membership: Partit Nazzjonalista is in favour of the introduction of measures that will encourage all workers to join a Union.

Proposals related to Work:

• Sick Leave: The sick leave not utilized by an employee during the past 6 years can be carried forward and utilised by the same employee, in the cases of serious illnesses.
• Sick Leave: Sick leave not taken by parents during the past 6 years, can be used to stay home to care for their children and or elderly parents in cases where there is no one to care for them.
• Teleworking or working from home: Government should create more opportunities and initiatives for workers to be able to work from home. This will benefit employers financially as well as have a very positive effect on traffic, especially during peak hours.

Income distribution and Poverty

• Income tax rate paid on part-time work be reduced from 15% to 10%.
• Income from work carried out beyond the 40 hours stipulated by law is to be considered as part-time work and therefore subject to a flat rate of 10% income tax rate.
• NI paid by an individual between the ages of 16-18, can be used to compensate for any missing NI payments made during the subsequent years of employment.
• Alimony and other child related payments paid by single parents are to be considered as tax deductible expenses.

Education

• Government dedicates more resources to education research.
• Long-term planning is required in designing and developing education systems which meet the varying needs of our evolving society.
• More efforts are carried out to develop our students’ abilities and skills that will enable them to grow and succeed in a highly competitive, IT-enabled, media saturated world.
• The teaching profession is given more assistance to overcome the stress brought about by the relentless pace and scale of change to every aspect of their profession.
• Government introduces a balanced legal framework that includes the necessary guarantees so that teachers can exercise their duties without fear, intimidation and coercion. Teachers and the teaching profession deserve and require their due respect.

Environment

Many of the PN’s proposals relate to the environment, including:

• Introduce clearly, by legislation, the right to institute actio popolaris in all environment matters;
• Government should establish a digital, publicly accessible Knowledge Platform, where professionals, academics, graduates, social partners and NGOs can contribute their experience and scientific research;
• Planning Authority must provide easy and transparent access to information on decisions affecting the environment;
• Planning Authority, in granting any development permit, to set and establish reasonable timeframes for the works to be concluded in order to decrease the inconvenience to the community and neighbours.
• Finance Ministry to ensure that government tenders are adjudicated on green public procurement criteria, and ensure that quality criteria are given more importance, thus moving away from the practice of adjudicating solely on the basis of the cheapest price, which does not always achieve the desired quality;
• Environment Resources Authority to be given veto powers in Planning Authority board in major development applications in environmentally sensitive localities;
• The need to update the SPED to a more long-term vision up to, say, 2050, eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty from it, and translate it into a spatial plan which will form the basis of all land development application decisions. The revised SPED to place emphasis on the importance of the urban regeneration of degraded areas as a priority and that it valorises quality as an important driver in our spatial vision for the country;
• Introduce fiscal incentives towards high energy efficiency standards in new buildings and for the restoration of properties in areas crying out for regeneration such as Marsa, Hamrun, Qawra, Bugibba and Cottonera;
• Financial incentives for buildings which are designed to meet the NZEB (NearZero Energy Buildings) targets, such as reductions in Environment Fees due at the planning permit stage;
• Launch a consultation process to address situations where new building heights overshadow adjacent existing neighbouring solar energy installations, and will propose measures for discussion such as the idea that the state should compensate

Gozo

• PN commits to taking a stand on the tunnel once all the relevant studies are finalised and published.
• Carry out upgrading and embellishment works in Xlendi, Dwejra and Marsalforn areas – three key tourism spots in Gozo.
• More bus routes to and from destinations that are heavily frequented.
• Private sector companies should be given fiscal incentives to organise communal transport services.
• Government should consider introducing a carbon-neutral transport system for its employees, particularly those that work in and around Valletta.
• There should be a comprehensive review of Malta and Gozo’s transport inland and inter-harbour network in order to design a network-for-tomorrow.
• Introduce a mass transportation system that will reduce travelling time between main zones in Malta. This system in conjunction with other mass transportation system, including sea ferries and public transport will provide a viable and eco-friendlier alternative to the private car.
• Schemes in favour of eco-friendly vehicles should be extended.
• Designate more pedestrian zones in localities.

Agriculture

• The PN would like to see less agriculture land lost to speculation for development purposes and is therefore calling on government to protect all bona-fide farmers by giving them a stronger title on their land.
• Land used for agriculture purposes should be given special protection also as a means to control the urban sprawl that is decimating our limited countryside.

Tourism

• Introduce carrying capacity limitations
• Upgrade Malta's tourism product.
• Recognise that government's projections on eco-tax for accommodation were way off-target.
• Strengthen niche marketing efforts