5 major slip-ups from Bernard Grech’s speech

Both leaders have made their respective case in their 2-hour speeches. Opposition Leader Bernard Grech pledged a visionary change, while Prime Minister Robert Abela declared that people know where they stand with Labour – a movement of ideas, a movement for the future.

One striking factor from the past two days was the collection of slip-ups made by the Opposition Leader on Monday. TheJournal.mt looks at Bernard Grech’s 5 major slip-ups from his speech.

1. Tax credit on worker training

Bernard Grech said that the PN would introduce a tax credit for employers who invest in worker training.

Malta Enterprise has been operating and extending such scheme for a number of years. The Skills Development Scheme aims to support business undertakings to provide training to develop and update skills and knowledge of their workforce. The scheme does not only include tax credits but also cash grants. Official data show that around €1.6 million were disbursed in 2020. This figure is expected to increase this year, as until August, €1.5 million have already been disbursed. More information can be found on the Malta Enterprise website.

2. Higher COLA for pensioners

Bernard Grech said that the PN is aiming for a new mechanism, independently of COLA, by which pensioners get higher cost of living adjustment.

Point 3.2.2 in page 35 of the Budget speech makes it clear that the Government will prioritise a new cost of living mechanism for vulnerable people, over and above the present COLA mechanism.

Moreover, in point 2.1 found in page 5, we read that all social security pensions (retirees, widows, invalidity and non-contributory) will be creased by €3.25 per week, apart from the COLA.

In point 2.4 we read that widowed pensioners will start taking out the full pension with the increase in 2022 being €5 per week on top of the increase granted to all pensioners.

Service pensions will benefit from a further increase of €200 in the amount exempted for the purpose of calculating their social security pension, such that the exempted sum will now reach €3,066 per year (point 2.5). Furthermore, those over 72 years, or who will reach this age next year will receive an additional improvement because their commuted pension will now be fully ignored in the calculation of the social security pension.

3. UCA property tax waiver

Bernard Grech criticised the Government for the tax waiver on the transfer of property in Urban Conservation Areas. He argued that this will only apply for UCA properties that have been abandoned for seven years. This, he added, will lead to owners “abandoning” their UCA properties for seven years before they sell them.

This measure can be found in point 5.1.1 in page 56. It concerns a full waiver of Capital Gains tax, and a waiver of stamp duty on the first €750,000 of the price of the following properties:

  • Properties that have been built for over twenty years and are vacant for more than seven years;
  • All UCA properties;
  • New properties that are built in the traditional Maltese style.
  • Also applicable to all such properties which are currently on a promise of sale.

4. Government aid for promise of sale deposit

Bernard Grech referred to youths who cannot apply for a home loan because they are not in a position to pay the 10% promise of sale deposit. He proposed a mechanism by which Government can intervene.

The Housing Authority website provides more information on a scheme introduced last year entitled “Scheme on 10% Deposit for the Purchase of a Property”. Through this scheme the Housing Authority helps in the financing of the 10% deposit required on the promise of sale. Since the start of this scheme, 213 persons have benefitted, and 70 others are on a promise of sale.

5. Tax credit for re-invested profits

Bernard Grech declared that the Nationalist Party is working on a system whereby company profit that is re-invested in the company rather than taken as dividend will not be taxed.

This is found in page 42 of the Budget document, in point 4.9.2. Here, the Finance Minister said that Malta Enterprise will introduce a scheme whereby a percentage of the profits which are held in the business and invested in projects within that same business or in another business, will receive a tax benefit if such investment is made within two years from 1 January 2022.

Throughout his speech yesterday, Prime Minister Robert Abela called out Bernard Grech for these mistakes, claiming that he had not read the Budget speech. During a press conference, later in the night, Grech bragged having read the Budget speech twice.