Electoral budget of contradictions - Mario Mifsud

The Times, 29 October 2007



Zminijietna, Voice of the Left, describes the budget as an electoral budget of contradictions, a budget of social measures within an increasingly neo-liberal framework.

The various positive proposals are not enough to tackle the problems which many workers and their families are facing .

The proposals for increased capital investment in areas such as educational infrastructure, health, sports, training and culture are commendable.

So are the social measures announced, namely full compensation to pensioners, extension of maternity leave, universal entitlement to children's allowance and the increase in the number of persons who shall be exempt from paying income tax.

Voice of the Left also welcomes proposals regarding the environment and animal welfare, and commends the government for not giving in to irresponsible one-sided proposals regarding further liberalisation of rent laws.

Zminijietna, however, believes that the budget did not do enough to meet the daily needs of workers and their families. The compensation for the cost of living was definitely not enough, and the minimum wage was not increased. The adjustment to income tax bands will not compensate enough and would have been fairer to groups such as lower middle and middle income earners if they were given more relief, while at the same time financing this through increased taxation on the wealthy and on companies making windfall profits such as banks and gaming companies.

The budget should also have done more to help bring about affordable housing since although the proposals to subsidise house loans are positive measures, these are not considered to be enough to help groups like first-time buyers with low income to acquire a property of their own. The budget should also have reduced the energy surcharge while encouraging the sustainable use of energy in a progressive way.

We believe that the budget fails to tackle the exploitative situations emerging such as those faced by various categories of workers, including workers on definite contract, and those created for many students by the streaming system. Also family-friendly measures such as availability of affordable childcare centres, entitlement of income-tax revisions to partners in cohabitation, and increased assistance to genuine single parents were not introduced. We also believe that the budget should have given more importance to public transport and similar areas.

Finally, Zminijietna said that it disagrees with the government's ideology of privatisation, whereby public services and companies of strategic importance have been or are being sold, resulting in weaker workers' rights, less accountability and the commercialisation of services which while being efficient should be measured in a social way.

Zminijietna believes that the negative impact of privatisation will be felt in the years to come.