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Opposition call not to introduce burdens not declared in the Budget

The Rector of the University and the Governor of the Central Bank both had said that stipends were no longer sustainable – Gino Cauchi

The Rector of the University and the Governor of the Central Bank both had said that stipends were no longer sustainable – Gino Cauchi

Opposition spokesman for social dialogue Gino Cauchi yesterday called on the government not to introduce more burdens which were not announced in next year’s Budget.

Speaking during the debate in second reading of the Budget Measures Implementation Bill, Mr Cauchi said that it was a recurring situation, even this year, that the government introduced measures which had not been discussed during the Budget.

Just a few days after the Budget there were additional increases in the price of fuel and gas. These impacted heavily on the people’s pockets. He said it was understandable that people felt that parliamentarians were wasting time discussing a Budget which did not include all the measures which really affected them.

Mr Cauchi asked if any consultation had been carried out, and on what points?

The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development had claimed that it had not been consulted both on the VAT increase in tourism and on the fuel increases.

He said that the government was dividing the social dialogue. Many organisations and individuals were serving the government.

In comparing the pre-Budget document and the actual Budget document, there were so many differences that one did not reflect anything of the other. It was also doubtful how much consultation really happened between the MCESD and the Minister of Finance even though the Minister had asserted in his Budget speech that this was a Budget planned according to “many hours of consultation with all stakeholders”.

In his Budget speech, the Minister had said that, in 2011, he was determined to continue in the path of success, The government, he had said, was encouraged with what had been achieved in the past two years.

Mr Cauchi said there was no basis for such declaration because during the last two years utility bills had increased incredibly, as had fuel prices. The income from tourism had decreased drastically as had the purchasing power of families. Poverty and usury were always on the increase.

These issues showed there were no economic successes which the government boasted of.

The government was not credible considering that the measures were reducing the standard of living. This could be expressly shown by the utility bills which were considered by all Maltese as exorbitant.

The government was not acknowledging that commercial industries had taken a blow through the increase in price of fuel and the consumer was taking on this burden imposed on the industries, when having to pay higher prices for the same product.

This year the government was planning to make €60 million. But figures showed that €30 million would come from the prospective increase in the economy and€6 million out of the increase on VAT on tourism. This left a shortfall of €24 million. From where does the government plan to get this sum? Mr Cauchi asked, adding that the Maltese could not afford to pay more taxes. The government had to appreciate this.

Referring to the Eurostat report on poverty in Europe, based on data collated in 2008, Mr Cauchi said statistics showed that Maltese families were to suffer poverty in a worse way than that of pre-2000.

The report showed that there were 59,000 Maltese who were at tye risk of poverty. However this figure was calculated before the implementation of the utility bills and asserted that because of these hikes, the figure had definitely increased.

In the meantime, to exacerbate the situation, the government was not able to plan its expenses properly, finishing off the year with €100 million less in income than that it had planned.

Mr Cauchi said that he could not understand how the Minister still claimed that through the 2011 Budget he was to increase the purchasing power and the standard of living. The situation had worsened in the last two months when there were many price increases on vital items. The Rector of the University and the Governor of the Central Bank both had said that stipends were no longer sustainable. Mr Cauchi said he felt such statements were uttered because the government, although mentioning nothing in the 2011 Budget, believed this was the way forward.

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