Prime Minister Robert Abela hinted at an election in a few months saying that he looks forward to being judged by 16-year-olds. During his budget speech, Abela called for an agreement on changes to the divorce law, which, he said, was creating so much hardship to so many people.
In his first budget speech, Abela also said that the coronavirus pandemic will be a thing of the past in a few months, once the vaccine is found. He is also optimistic that Malta’s economy will recover in the first quarter of the upcoming year.
The first reading of the budget was approved with 37 votes in favour and 27 against.
This was the first budget speech by Grech who emphasised that the vision of the Opposition is to ensure that all policies are centred on the wellbeing of the citizens so that these can be the best versions of themselves.
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The government has a vision for after the pandemic, he adds.
"The pandemic has only a few months left. Once we will have the vaccine, it will be a thing of the past," Abela claims.
The pandemic has had an impact on the economies of other countries, but Malta is resilient, Abela maintains.
"The fight against climate change requires collective effort," he says.
"We are a government which likes success and winning," Abela says.
Abela says that he is enthusiastic and looking forward that in a few months he will be "judged" by 16-year-olds.
Abela says that the divorce law should be updated.
"We want to remain the champions of civil rights," Abela says.
Abela invites the Opposition to approve the gender quotas to be approved unanimously.
He urges youths to continue dreaming. "Tomorrow your dreams will come true."
He maintains that the Opposition needs to endorse the Government's position that "Malta is full up". He mentions other parties in the European political family to which the PN belongs to, saying that these took a hard stance on migration.
"Malta remains full up," Abela says that the message is clear.
On migration, Abela says that it is a priority for the Maltese. The government has focused its efforts on preventing migrant landings in Malta, he explains, saying that the solution lies in preventing departures, as Malta sought cooperation with the Libyan authorities.
Abela notes that the Opposition in its pre-budget document said that there should be the continuation of the project on the permanent link. He questions whether the Opposition is backtracking on this, accusing it that cannot decide.
On the permanent link between Malta and Gozo, Abela says that a few months back, the Government and Opposition agreed on it in a parliamentary resolution.
On the sister island, Abela says that the second fiber optic cable will soon be inaugurated.
"The environment is in our heart," Abela says.
On mass transport, Abela says that he will look into the studies which have been carried out. He adds that the government intends on carrying out the project.
The PM lists various measures related to the environment including the ban on sales of single use plastic.
Abela says that the government has a plan to reach carbon neutrality with medium term targets to be achieved.
"We are a government of good governance, businesses, workers, people," Abela says before adding that "we are the nation of the George Cross".
"We will not leave any business alone. We will protect everyone's employment. We've got three difficult months ahead," Abela says, adding that through this experience people have relearnt forgotten values and that the country will emerge from this.
The prime minister is going through the Opposition's budget document.
Abela says that people aspire for social mobility and becoming part of the middle class.
Drawing from his experience in litigation in court, Abela says that the government, like a lawyer who helps their client to improve their lives and learn from their mistakes, so does the government.
Abela explains how the elderly will benefit from the budget.
Abela says that unlike other governments around the world, Malta will not impose any new taxes in future budgets.
Malta's economy will start recovering in the first quarter of 2021, Abela says, adding that the pandemic would be something of the past.
The forecast was between 20,000 – 50,000 people would end up unemployed, Abela says, comparing the figure to the unemployment rate during the financial crisis saying that the government managed to safeguard jobs.
Unlike trends in other countries, Malta has registered a decrease in unemployment amid a global pandemic, Abela says.
This was a result of public trust in the government, he adds.
The last three months have been the best for the selling of properties, Abela says.
The vouchers scheme has injected into the economy as much as 40,000 tourists, Abela notes.
While other countries were implementing austerity measures, Malta was investing more, he says.
The European Commission is taking legal action against Malta over the golden passports schemes, with an infringement procedure. Citing infringements against the treaties of the EU, the Commission said the scheme was incompatible with the principle of sincere cooperation while undermining the integrity of the status of EU citizenship.
Abela claims that the Opposition is hurting the cash for passports scheme, and that this will be on their conscience.
The wage supplement, paid quarantine leave and teleworking schemes, were among the measures that the government took during the first wave, Abela notes.
He explains that the government's strategy was to stabilize the situation before focusing on the future.
An investigation and magisterial inquiry are still ongoing into the deal between the government and Vitals Global Healthcare.
Abela claims that the Opposition Leader and "his friends in civil society" are working to put Finance Minister Edward Scicluna in prison, in a veiled reference for a magisterial inquiry into the the concession deal of three state hospitals.
"It's not true that social partners got what they wanted, but they got what they needed," he says.
"We are pro-business and pro-market," Abela asserts.
He says that the Opposition has accused them of being cozy with businesses before quickly adding that
"We are the movement of the workers and employers," he says.
Last March when the coronavirus was first registered in Malta, the country experienced various difficulties, Abela reflects.
The prime minister says that while the government made mistakes, it always was focused on the issue at hand, taking timely decisions.
Abela hails his once leadership rival Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne as the "best health minister" this country has seen.
Abela notes that foreign nurses are needed.
Abela shares an anecdote saying that youths at the gym told him not to close them down. He mentions a number of various opinions he heard relating to possible measures to curb the spread of the virus.
"I know that we hurt those who own bars. But at this moment this measure is necessary," he adds.
On the restrictive measures announced on Monday, Abela says that the 'government did not go overboard but imposed necessary measures'.
Speaker Farrugia intervenes saying that a point of order can only be made on procedural matters, asking Abela to continue with his speech.
Grech rebuts saying that this is not true and he was never subjected to mandatory quarantine.
PM Abela claims that Grech did not follow mandatory quarantine rules.
He says that this is not the time to score political points during a pandemic, urging national unity on the issue.
€111 million were paid in allowances, he says.
Abela thanks health care workers as he says that the public expenditure on wages of health care workers is currently €309 million, while next year €331 million will be allocated.
Grech proposed an action team to work on the pandemic.
The prime minister notes that while Opposition Leader Bernard Grech who said that he trusts the Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Gauci but at the same time "wants" a committee to scrutinize her work.
Abela says that the first Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans has hailed the reforms undertaken by the government.
He says that he apologises for any mistakes made, before quickly adding that Malta has made various reforms related to governance and the rule of law. These reforms have drawn praise from otherwise institutions that were critical towards Malta.
Abela refers to the 2019 political crisis following arrests in connection to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, he says that the country moved on to serene times.
"This time the government has shouldered the burden," he says.
The deficit is not decreased through taxes, he says, adding that the government has a different economic model. Abela draws parallels between the 2009 global financial crisis and the current pandemic.
Abela says that a deficit is needed in order to safeguard jobs and businesses.
Abela says whoever wrote this is a copy and paste government in the Opposition Leader's speech was in reality taking a jibe at an MP on the Opposition bench. He claims that he would not to resort to such tactics.
There are more than 100 concrete measures, Abela says which will improve the quality of life.
"Wage supplement guaranteed at least until March 2021"
"A more generous first time buyers scheme," he says.
The prime minister says that this is a budget without taxes. He is now mentioning a number of measures including increase in pensions, voucher scheme, among others.
Abela says that this is double the funds allocated for Malta in the last EU budget.
Abela says that in June Malta managed to secure EU funds which were allocated to Malta.
He says that this is the fourth budget in nine months, claiming it is the best one. He adds that during the pandemic 100,000 jobs were saved.
PM Abela says he met a businessman who traditionally voted the Nationalist Party. He claims if the "PN was capable of doing good as much as it is capable of doing harm, no one will bring them down from government."
PM Abela says that he is proud that he is Maltese while congratulating Cardinal Elect Mario Grech on his appointment.
PM Abela starts addressing the House.
The Prime Minister is expected to deliver his budget speech at 6.30pm.
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