The Armchair Critic | Half Way There

Upon our return to work, at the end of a day’s work, some of us enjoy nothing more than going home to unwind. For some, this may mean kitchen dancing or finishing a 10km run, for others, unwinding can look like catching up with the highlights of the day, especially those which concern the general election, from the comfort of our own sofas and/or armchair. This is one of those times. 

What are we criticising?

Today’s press conferences by the Labour Party and Nationalist Party. We expect more proposals will be announced and explained. 

What do we know so far?

We finally have the dates of when the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will face each other in a debate. And not one debate, but four. We can tell you from now, we will be watching these debates very closely and what we will have to say may be very much enticing. 

Abela returns to delivering press conferences

Our minds got a break from the complexities of a press conference last week, but it was nice to be back. The aesthetics, the setting and the infographics attached on every proposal to demonstrate the full plan- old habits die hard, as the saying goes. The Prime Minister, Robert Abela, takes the stage and opens the conference by addressing those spectating. Ah, more economics. Not that that’s not important, but we are sincerely hoping for everything to not be over-technical. According to Abela, the Labour Party has a plan to keep the economy going, saying that the plan is thought carefully and the result of further study and research. We have 5 new measures- interesting. 

So the first proposal, what looks like anyways, is that businesses and self-employed workers will get the right to open a bank account. This will not be a policy, rather, it will actually take the form of a binding legal Act. This will take the model based on what other counterpart countries have taken and implemented as rules and regulations. Through the opening of a bank account, those benefiting will be able to pay salaries and make international transactions within the Eurozone.  Sounds serious.  

Businesses and self-employed workers will get the right to open a bank account.

Part and parcel with this proposal, a new Labour government will establish a credit review office, and its functions will be of an arbitrary nature. An ‘ease of doing business scheme’- sounds utopian, but let’s see. The intention behind this is to make business easier for operators and along with this, all due diligence procedures will be centralised. But, we thought it was a ‘new’ economic sector? Who needs facts, eh? Unnecessary and uncalled for bureaucracy will be eliminated, according to Abela- we could really use some of that. All the right reasons for this measure, we wonder however how the modus operandi will be tailored and implemented. 

Rewarding investment? There will be two new investment schemes, the first will see a financial grant for companies that expand their operations. Businesses eligible for this grant will be for businesses that focus on machineries, site expansion and intellectual property. The second one will be a profit reinvestment scheme, which will see a whole tax refund to businesses on tax which has been paid on profits, which will then be reinvested in the business. Investing in sustainability in businesses? This should be interesting. Sustainability can be an extraneous task to achieve by small businesses and SMEs according to Abela, so as a result a new Labour Government will see an energy audit, free of charge, for small and micro companies through the Malta Enterprise and an effort will be made to achieve sustainability in businesses. How will they do this- ESG Criteria? Green Loans? Ah, helping with tax credits. Ah, and an incentive by the Central Bank to help start green jobs in business. These green jobs will see a tax credit scheme on the tentative salaries. 

The fourth proposal (already?)- sounds more like much more, but go on. It’s a legal one now. Let’s hope legal does not mean play of words. Ah, a new legal sector specific for start ups coupled with a private equity start up. A one-stop shop for start ups too it seems. Sounds like the full package. 

Today’s Ranking

Today’s press conference saw an array of proposals aimed at the business sector and yet, seemed quite simple at a glance. Today’s journalistic questions did not fall short of asking questions that deserved answers, for example how the ‘no homework’ rule will play out in the near future, to which Abela said that this will be backed by talks with stakeholders and that the logic behind it is not a complete elimination of homework, rather, the incentivising of extracurricular activities and preserving mental fitness, rather than exorbitant amount of homework- this however all depends on how talks with such stakeholders will unfold. Abela was once again ready with an answer up his sleeve for every question and clarified any unclear anomalies. One particularly interesting question was what the Prime Minister thinks is causing such a monotonous interest in this year’s election. Abela envisaged this as an opportunity to encourage those who are eligible to vote to contribute to the election by voting. 

What we are agog about is how Abela will address, or rather, how the discussed Labour Party Manifesto will reflect and cater for the younger voters and the issues which they feel shape the way they will vote on the 26th of March. Hopefully, we will see a press conference in the coming weeks, or maybe an initiative, which will address younger voters as a whole. Arguably, it will take more than a Junior College visit, but we will just have to wait and see. 

Solid Answers: 9

Pragmatism: 7.5

Clearly spoken: 8

Presentation: 9

Grech holds a press conference and takes some radical positions 

We are guessing the Leader of the Opposition, Bernard Grech is back with the press conferences too. Same setting as last week, different colour scheme, aesthetic is important after all. From Grech’s initial words, today’s focus will be on education. Let’s begin, shall we? He started by thanking teachers for their ongoing work, and hints at a radical change in the allocation of funds in the education system.

Here is our first proposal- working conditions of educators will  improve substantially- by implementing measures which aim to strike a balance and improve the salaries of teachers. Delivering fresh fruit to schools- remember the last time a Nationalist Government did that? So, will the estimated cost be provided for installing kitchen equipment in schools? And will it be done by an outsourcing caterer – assuming it will be free of charge?  We may just be badgering too early on, let’s cut Grech some slack. 

According to Grech, a new Nationalist Party Government will see that a new specialised secondary school will be opened every year. These specialisations will be on robotics, Metaverse technologies and technological development- to name a few. And here we speak about apprenticeship, finally, maybe a chance for some serious proposals along with fiscal credits for businesses which take part of the MCAST apprenticeship programme- which must be compliant with ESG criteria? Interesting, to some extent. Grech also pledges to initiate a programme of ‘excellence’ for apprenticeships.

Parents will benefit from schemes which aim to reduce the income tax on every fee paid by the same parents on their children’s education and extracurricular activities. Grech already mentioned this at some point, it shall be interesting to see how he plans to do this. Those who are pursuing studies and are also in full-time employment will be given the right to study leave during examination study periods. Grech also pledges to increase maintenance grants by 25% for students and 25% for students, on the condition that they commit themselves to a voluntary cause of their choice.

These have been mentioned before already- and look who’s back, the voucher of 500 euros for young adults, between the ages of 16 and 21 years for traveling abroad, with the purpose that such trip is cultural or one centered around sports. Our sentiments remain the same on this one. In hindsight, this proposal sounds amazing. We all know young adults wish to travel, whether to Rome to eat the best plate of pasta in their lives or elope to Paris for a romantic trip- but if Grech wishes to invest in the Maltese economy, why is he investing in foreign economies instead? How the nature of these trips will be determined by the issuer, requires further explanation. But good intentions, nevertheless. 

Today’s Ranking

We think today’s PN Press Conference left us a little puzzled. Some measures proposed by Grech made sense and did deserve some appraisal. Upon journalistic questions, Grech answered some fundamental questions on the Nationalist Party’s interests and its emphasis on attracting new opportunities and incentivising growth. When faced with questions, Grech gave solid answers on some issues, but shaky ones on others. 

Just an example, Grech said that COVID-19 regulations will be followed, however such regulations must make sense in the first place- quite a contrarian approach. On euthanasia and pre-implantation genetic testing, a few of the radical issues which both parties have been somewhat shaky on, Grech maintained that euthanasia should not be an issue without an adequate discussion and that the Nationalist Party values life from conception till the last breathe and that Robert Abelas’ IVF promises are nothing but futile. On IVF, Grech’s proposal still remains adamant on his puzzling position on prospective parents seeking reproductive technologies, only saying that it was not insensitive, rather, they can still have a purpose. 

Solid Answers: 6.5

Pragmatism: 7

Clearly spoken: 7

Presentation: 7

4.3 6 votes
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