A two-year review

Since winning the 2022 general election, the Government has been relentless in its efforts to prioritise quality of life despite international challenges.

Two years ago, on 26th March 2022, the Labour Party secured a landslide victory, clinching its third consecutive term.

Throughout the two years since that general election, the Government led by Prime Minister Robert Abela has been relentless in its efforts to prioritise quality of life, despite facing numerous international challenges, including the pandemic and soaring prices of essential goods.

The Government has also made good on its pledge to pursue not only economic and social welfare but also environmental sustainability. The initiatives below illustrate a comprehensive approach towards governance, aimed at fostering a resilient, inclusive, and prosperous society.

Significant pension increases

In times of widespread challenges, the Government not only ensured the protection of the most vulnerable but also made the largest increase in pensions ever recorded in a single year.

The budget for 2024 marks the ninth consecutive increase in pensions. Alongside the increase in the cost of living, Maltese pensioners are witnessing a rise of €15 per week, equivalent to €780 annually.

Enhancements in children’s allowance

The Government has always been committed to supporting families with children. As part of the Electoral Program’s pledge, the Labour Party promised to increase the Children’s Allowance by €450 per child annually, with an additional €90 per year for five years.

In 2023, this promise was fulfilled with a €90 increase. However, this year, the Government felt the need to accelerate the implementation of this measure to provide immediate support to families. Thus, instead of the planned €90 increase, the children’s allowance has been raised almost threefold. Consequently, the children’s allowance has now been increased to €250 per child annually.

This marks the largest increase ever granted in the fifty-year history of this benefit, benefiting over 41,000 families with 62,000 children. The Government is providing support of €15.5 million for this measure.

Protecting household budgets

In recent years, the Government has implemented subsidies to prevent increases in energy and fuel prices for consumers. Malta is the only country in Europe to maintain stable prices in these areas. This measure not only ensures affordable basic necessities but also provides stimulus checks to individuals, reduces tax burdens on overtime and part-time work, and introduces additional COLA benefits.

This ensures that every Maltese does not face any increases in energy prices, fuel, or cereals, thereby easing the financial burdens on households.

Stability in essential food prices

The Stabilità initiative, which aims to stabilize food prices, includes more than 400 products in twelve food categories, following an agreement between the Government and the food industry stakeholders.

The National Statistics Office confirmed that in February the Food Price Index fell by 2.3%, a decrease of almost a percentage point compared to January, the previous month.

Between January and February, inflation in food prices decreased by 1.2%. This is a clear indication of how the Stabilità initiative played a crucial role in this reduction.

Additional assistance for families’ well-being

Eligibility for the additional mechanism for the cost of living has been extended to almost double the number of families. To continue supporting the well-being of families, this mechanism will benefit nearly 95,000 families.

Those whose income falls below the National Average Equalised Income are eligible for this mechanism. This benefit ranges between €100 and €1,500 annually, depending on income and family size. The payment of this assistance is divided into two instalments, with the first instalment in December and the second in May.

Increase in the national minimum wage

Malta’s nominal National Minimum Wage in 2024 stands at €925 per month, marking a 40% increase compared to the 2010 level. This means that the increases received so far have made the country’s minimum wage the second highest in the European Union.

Compared to January of the previous year, the National Minimum Wage will increase by 10.8%, following a 3.8% inflation between December 2022 and December 2023.

Tax refund initiative for workers

The Tax Refund initiative, which began in recent years, is being reintroduced this year. The refund ranges between €60 and €140, with the highest amount going to those with the lowest incomes. This initiative benefits over 250,000 individuals, with a total expenditure of €26 million.

We need to view this in the context of the measures taken over the past two years to improve workers’ wages, such as reducing part-time tax and overtime tax.

Investment in healthcare

In recent years, the Government has heavily invested in primary care. In addition to modernising various health centres in Malta and Gozo, new services have been introduced in these centres, and new clinics have been opened.

In 2023, the Government Formulary continued to be improved through the purchasing of more medicines and effective treatments for diseases, including chronic and rare conditions, as well as mental health challenges. This year, the Government Formulary continues to expand to include medicines provided free of charge to IVF patients, those suffering from asthma conditions and Pulmonary Fibrosis, and those facing mental health challenges.

Increased support for persons with disabilities

Since 2023, parents who are unable to work due to the severe disability of their children have started receiving a benefit equivalent to half the net minimum wage.

This year, with the increase in the minimum wage, the Carers Grant has been increased by an additional €487 annually, bringing the total to almost €5,000 per year.

Investment in education

Over the past few months, the Government has been working to implement the National Education Strategy 2024-2030, focusing on pillars such as well-being, skills, and inclusion, aiming to provide increasingly quality education.

As part of this strategy, one cannot overlook the work, through the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, to develop a National Strategy for Persons with Disabilities.

One cannot overlook the importance of infrastructure for education, with hundreds of students attending new or renovated schools.

And to ensure everyone has the opportunity to educate themselves, this year existing scholarship programmes and tax credits for students wishing to advance their studies at the Master’s and Doctorate levels will continue to be strengthened through the Get Qualified and the Higher Educational Qualifications schemes. Around 4,600 individuals benefited from a total of €8 million in 2022.

Increase in stipends

Stipends are seeing a substantial increase of €64 this year. This increase is proportional to the rise in the cost of living. In addition to the general increase in scholarships, the Government is significantly increasing scholarships for specific courses to address the need for more trained individuals in critical sectors for our country’s economic transition or in important fields where the country lacks, such as primary-level teachers or teachers of scientific and mathematical studies.

Enhanced environmental initiatives

In early 2023, the Project Green agency was established. The Agency initiated several projects on different scales, resulting in the introduction or regeneration of over 45,000 square metres of green spaces.

Among the largest projects in 2023 were the Family Park in Bengħajsa, an open space of 12,000 square metres where families can reconnect with nature among 4,000 trees.

Additionally, the Youth Garden in Gudja, the Dog Park in Safi, the Green Campus at Milbrae Grove in Mosta, the regeneration of Spencer Garden, and the extension of San Clement Park in Żabbar were significant achievements. San Clement Park introduced the first public obstacle course, spreading over 2,700 square meters, offering athletes and sports enthusiasts an opportunity to practice their favorite discipline in a public park.

Current projects include a new open space of about 3,000 square metres being returned to the community of Bormla, intended to serve as a green lung filled with trees and plants. Project Green is currently undertaking 16 new environmental projects around the country, set to be completed by 2025 with an investment of €10 million.

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