The most basic of human needs are undoubtedly food, clothing and shelter. Only when these needs are secured may we move to the next level of fulfilment.
When we are younger, we dream of an idyllic future, falling in love, buying a home, raising a family. We work hard to fulfil our dreams and earn money to feed our family, settle the bills, pay the mortgage, maybe put something aside for a rainy day or a holiday.
I compare a government to a family. It provides services for its citizens’ well-being, undertakes investment to secure a better future for them. All this needs funding. Like a bonus pater familias, the Government must plan responsibly to ensure sustainability.
Like a bonus pater familias, the government must plan responsibly to ensure sustainability.
Before 2013, we were assured that Malta’s finances were rock-solid and in a safe pair of hands. Indeed, government members allowed themselves a €600 weekly increase. Rhetoric aside, the reality was somewhat different. We all remember then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi telling us that he was voting earnestly to hike our electricity bills. Pensioners never got a single increase in their pension in 25 years.
The solutions to the nation’s financial problems was to raise taxes, from those who could not evade them. Since the Retirement Pension, like so many other services, was, in the opinion of the government, not sustainable, the pensionable age was raised by four years and the contributions hiked to render the system sustainable. Privatisation of health services was on the cards.
Before that year’s election, we were told that ‘Labour won’t work’. To drive the point home, we were presented with a caricature of long queues forming up at job recruitment centres. We were even told that Malta would go, cup in hand, begging for a bailout if the people chose Labour.
The rest is history. The people chose wisely, and the Labour Government moved in earnest to repair the country’s broken finances.
The plan included several building blocks, each important on its own but contributing to the larger scheme of things.
The lynchpin of this plan was the new power station, using LNG instead of HFO, in record time. This enabled the Muscat Government to deliver on its promise to reduce the energy bills, which had a huge impact on the people’s disposable income. The diligent Maltese families spent wisely, generating more trade for the local business community.
Unlike the previous administration, the Government applied the carrot instead of the stick to encourage those who were dependent on social services to join the workforce. This it did through the tapering of benefits, thus making it profitable for the perpetually unemployed to seek employment.
Unlike the previous administration, the government applied the carrot instead of the stick to encourage those who were dependent on social services to join the workforce.
Newly married couples had a hard time balancing financial and childcare needs. The issue was addressed through free childcare for all, enabling the female population to join the workforce.
A labour movement had promised a Citizenship by Investment programme which would contribute significant income to the local coffers. Sensing the financial benefits, the Opposition did its very best and stooped to its lowest to kill the programme at embryo stage.
The proceeds of the programme were invested wisely and were instrumental in the support provided by the government to businesses and workers during an unprecedented pandemic.
The measures taken resulted in a huge influx of foreigners to fulfil the labour market needs. Since most of these foreigners do not eventually claim a pension, their contributions made the fund more sustainable. Instead of long queues forming in front of job centres and the promised bailouts, we now have peace of mind:
- Vital medicines are now never out of stock, unlike canned peas, a huge relief to those on lower incomes and pensioners;
- Pensions increased by €19 weekly during the past 6 years, improving the standard of living of our elderly citizens;
- New medicines were included in the government’s stocklist, including expensive cures for cancer and rare diseases;
- An almost total eradication of operation waiting lists;
- The national debt was reduced from +70% of GDP to c. 40%, saving significantly on the interest cost;
- Improved roads resulting in lower travelling time, environmental benefits and quality of life;
- The waiver of stamp duty on the first € 150K for first time buyers;
- The restitution of public holidays falling on a weekend;
- Budgets which do not read like an Anton Grasso horror story.
I could go on, but my space is limited.
Ask yourself the question, ‘Am I better off with a Labour government. Do I have increased peace of mind?’.
I leave the answer to your sound judgement.