It’s that time of the year again. The Budget speech, highlighting the Government’s financial plans for 2024, will be delivered on the 30th October.
A few days prior to the much awaited speech by the Minister for Finance, the Journal deemed it fit to take a quick look at several significant Budgetary measures put into effect in 2023.
Helping people unlock their first home
This Government started to implement a €10,000 grant over a span of ten years to every first-time buyer who purchases a property with a value that does not exceed €500,000.
This measure applies to every purchase made as from 1st January 2022 and is not subject to a means test. A total of 2,742 first-time buyers have benefited to-date.
Shaping our infrastructure landscape
Work continued to implement large-scale projects that are significantly improving local infrastructure.
The Kirkop Tunnels & Airport Intersection and the Mrieħel Underpass projects are now complete, and the Luqa Junction Project will be ready before the end of the year.
Transforming health centres
A major budget measure implemented during 2023 was the modernisation of the Birkirkara Health Centre, which covers the localities of Balzan, Iklin, and Lija with an overall population of circa 35,000.
Besides boasting a completely new ambience and modern environment, as of July, the Birkirkara Health Centre started offering 21 primary health care services, several of which are new.
Two other salient milestones for 2023 were the new Iklin Community Clinic and the modernised Dingli Community Clinic.
Works on the new Victoria Health Centre, Qala Community Clinic and Siġġiewi Community Clinic are also progressing rapidly and are earmarked for this year. Works on the Birżebbuġa and St. Julian’s Community Clinics, and Qormi Health Centre, are at different stages of progress.
So far, 22 Community Clinics have been newly established or modernised. The Gzira and Birkirkara Health Centres were also modernised, whilst 3 Centres of Excellence were established (for Speech and Language Pathology, Podiatry Services, and Primary Eye Screening).
Investing in the well-being of the elderly
This year was big in terms of investiment in senior citizens. At the St Vincent de Paule Residence for the elderly, a garden specially designed for dementia patients was inaugurated. A one million investiment will be anounced by the end of the year, which will see St. Vincent de Paul introduce motorised beds for its residents.
Additionally, a new Vascular clinic opened in Dar Padova, Għajnsielem Gozo. The Silver T service, which provides vital transportation for the elderly, has been expanded nationwide, ensuring more seniors can access essential services.
A dedicated Directorate has been established to provide comprehensive support for individuals living with dementia. The Home Helper of your choice scheme has been initiated, enabling elderly citizens with approved Home Help services to select their preferred private helper.
The Case Management service was launched, offering dedicated staff who coordinate and provide personalized care for the elderly in the community. A training programme in collaboration with ĠEMMA has been launched to educate seniors on financial management, empowering them with valuable skills. Moreover, an agreement with the Legal Aid Malta Agency is ensuring that elderly individuals can access free legal assistance.
Palliative care services have been extended to all Government Residential Homes, enhancing the level of care and comfort provided to residents. New ECG machines have been deployed in Government homes for senior citizens, and an eye screening device has been acquired to facilitate eye health checks for seniors in Gozo. Night shelters started running with the aim of offering overnight shelter to elderly people living alone or who feel insecure at home.
Doing justice to the justice system
New offices for the judiciary were inaugurated in the Court and work began on a new courtroom for the trials. A courtroom was added to the family court, and the building accommodating this court underwent refurbishment to attain Grade A Energy certification.
All legal impediments have been resolved, allowing for the transformation of the Ferjol building into a Criminal Court. In a significant step, the Maltese Government is progressing towards the establishment of a new courthouse for the Gozo Court, with the Preliminary Market Consultation phase successfully concluded.
Our country today has the largest number of judges and magistrates in history. In 12 months, there will have been an increase of 11 judges: 5 judges and 6 additional magistrates. Among them a Magistrate specialized in cases of domestic violence, and a judge for commercial cases.
Boosting law enforcement and supporting loved ones
An employee within the Disciplined Corps, after completing 25 years of service and choosing to extend their service up to 29 years, started to qualify for a 23 per cent increase in his or her service pension. Those currently with 29 years of service or more are immediately eligible.
Furthermore, an employee entitled to the 23 per cent pension boost will also receive a tax-free incentive equal to six months of their base salary for each additional year served, up to a maximum of 4 years.
Moreover, an employee who continues to serve beyond 29 years will automatically receive a 23 per cent service pension increase upon retirement, along with the possibility of receiving the non-taxable financial incentive if they continue to serve.
As for former Disciplined Corps members who reach the age of mandatory retirement starting in January 2023, they will receive an automatic 23 per cent increase in their service pension.
Notably, for the first time, widows of disciplined corps members who lose their lives during their active service will be eligible to receive a five-year service pension. Up to this point, these families have not received any such benefits.
The 2023 GSSE was hosted by Malta this year. It involved 10 sports disciplines, nine nations and around a thousand athletes. Team Malta performed exceptionally well in this year’s games, securing 97 medals, 38 of which were gold. The National Development and Social Fund (NDSF) invested €5 million in the technical preparation of these athletes.
Additionally, Malta’s first indoor pool on an international scale was inaugurated at the Cottonera Sports Complex, following a €14 million investment. The Olympic size pool measures 5,000 metres squared, has a wooden roof, is 44 metres long, has glass walls covering around 44 square metres on each side, and a depth of 2.3 metres.
Malta’s presence in the London Design Biennale
In its inaugural participation at the global event, Malta secured a prestigious location at the London Design Biennale 2023.
“Urban Fabric” was the first Malta Pavilion presented at the London Design Biennale, which just opened at Somerset House, London.
The Biennale is a global stage for world-leading contemporary design and design-led innovation, creativity, and research. Malta’s participation was a showcase to our country’s artistic and creative sector and strengthened the international profile of Maltese designers.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the budgetary measures that have been implemented this year; a lot more work has been undertaken and targets met. The work goes on.