Abela and Labour spent a whole week now boasting away on what they tell us is the best budget ever. In reality the present budget is a less than strategic series of handouts without a clear overall vision responding to the most important threats and opportunities on the horizon.
A mature government in the current context of an impending Moneyval degradation and the pandemic would have sought to ensure more stability for the country and its people. I will here focus on 3 points which could have been handled better:
- Young people: One of the budget initiatives is that of offering one year of free internet for students over 16 who continue their studies- a very good initiative at face value- but is this enough to promote the digital revolution that we need to bridge the digital gap in Malta? Meanwhile, the European Union has dedicated 60 billion euros worth of EU funding for the digital transition – for projects from robotics to the internet of things to Artificial Intelligence. While Abela pays lip service to digital investment, the budget does not in any way offer any leads as to how the government plans to make use of this money to ensure that the 16-year-olds, not only browse the internet, but will be able to tap into the news skills to make a living from the internet both as a sector of its own right, but also as a means to advance progress in a myriad of other areas. From tourism to medicine to manufacturing to agriculture the internet is reshaping the professional environment. Those who master this tailored evolution today will succeed tomorrow. This is where we really need to invest as a country.
- COVID response: the government has introduced a number of initiatives to counter the pandemic downturn which, at face value, come off as welcome. Let’s face it, everyone enjoys receiving a 100 euro worth of vouchers – but the truth is: Does this government have a long term plan on how to recover the impact of this pandemic that will continue to be felt in the upcoming years within all industries? Why is this government playing scrooge with our front liners instead of offering them incentives and rewarding them for their outstanding work? Why is this government ‘offering its condolences’ for every death, but blaming it on ‘underlying health conditions’? These are the questions that the Maltese citizens want to be answered – and the 100 euro vouchers will not blindsight us who want the best for this country.
- The economy and its’ dependence on reputation Malta: As the European Commission launches infringement procedures against Malta regarding our sale of citizenship (IIP), and our jurisdiction rests on the brink of being degraded by Moneyval, this government failed to provide any peace of mind or any hint of a long term plan of how it intends to revive our economy and retrieve our reputation from the low point it has reached under the Labour administration. The EY attractiveness survey spells it out clearly for the government: we are the least attractive to investors as we have been for the last 16 years.
The writing is on the wall for Abela, but he prefers to embellish it with mini-handouts and superlative adjectives. Propaganda has its limits. The points above thread a common line. This government is reactive and not proactive and is clearly short-sighted. Instead of having a budget for the country, it offers us a series of mini-handouts which will fizzle out before we take stock of it without securing prosperity with a long term vision of stability for the people, our economy, our country.