People's sacrifices paying off, but Malta needs to remain cautious, PM says
The sacrifices which the people had been asked to endure over the past 30 months had borne fruit for the country, but in formulating the Budget for next year, the government was wary that the international economic storm was far from over, Lawrence Gonzi said this morning.
The Prime Minister told a political conference that while other countries were making savage cuts to spending, in Malta, the government was spending a record amount in important sectors such as education, health and social benefits.
Just this week, the British government had announced deep spending cuts which would see 500,000 government workers losing their jobs. This, Dr Gonzi said, showed how the economic storms were still there.
The Maltese should be proud with what they had achieved but could not let down their guard. They needed to consolidate what had been achieved and ensure that Malta remained competitive and investors continued to invest here.
At the same time, the government would continue to support job creation, education, health, social benefits, and sectors such as tourism, which this year enjoyed a record year in terms of arrivals.
The challenge for next year, therefore, was for Malta to remain competitive, safeguard jobs and create new ones, Dr Gonzi said.
MALTA OUTPERFORMS COMPETITORS IN TOURISM
Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism Mario de Marco said that in what was still a crisis year for the international economy, Malta had managed to outperform its Mediterranean competitors in tourism. Growth in arrivals in the first eight months of this year was at 12 per cent and Malta had equalled the first eight months of 2008, which was a record year. Indeed, Malta was expected to achieve a new record this year.
In contrast, he observed, growth by the tourism industry in Spain and Cyprus this year had only been in the region of 0.5 per cent.
Malta's success, he said, was not coincidental but followed increased government spending in the sector which had made possible the opening of new air routes, increased spending on publicity and incentives for the sector to continue to invest in the tourism product.
Arrivals this year, Dr de Marco said, were 100,000 more than the same period last year, despite the problems caused by the ash cloud in April.
Spending by tourists had increased by 20%.
Dr de Marco said that it was important that the government maintained its spending in the social sectors, education and health, but that could only happen if the economy was strong, and the tourism sector was making its contribution to this end.
BUDGET DEMANDS SERIOUSNESS
Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said the country had avoided falling into the financial problems of neighbouring countries because of the responsible decisions taken in the past.
Tomorrow's Budget too, was be an exercise in seriousness, rather that populist decision. It was important that the government continued to rein in the deficit because not to do so would be irresponsible for future generations, as well as the present one.