Update 4: PN electoral programme highlights: tax cuts, business incentives, tablets for students, night tariffs
Stipends to be linked to cost of living index
The Nationalist Party this morning unveiled highlights of its electoral programme ahead of formal approval by the party council.
Addressing a news conference, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said the PN was presenting a plan which was credible and sustainable for the next five years.
The point of departure, he said, was a secure future, in the same way people were given a secure past and present with finances and the jobs situation kept under control.
"The country's main challenge is to continue to create jobs. We need to create at create at least 25,000 new jobs in order to maintain our momentum," Dr Gonzi said.
The government introduced new sectors in the economy and would continue to do so. It also supported traditional manufacturing and invested heavily in education and training. The PN government also reduced taxes and the tax burden on the workers in Malta was among the lowest in Europe.
A future PN government would aim at balancing the budget.
TAX INCENTIVES FOR BUSINESS START-UPS
New schemes would be introduced for further training of the workforce. Those under 25 or the long-term unemployed would be encouraged to enter the business world. In the first two years of their business they would be totally tax exempt and have their national insurance credited for them.
This benefit would also apply to women who form a business, but the incentive would continue for three years.
There would also be tailor-made incentives for business start-ups in Gozo.
Dr Gonzi said a PN government, where possible and sustainably, would continue to reduce tax. If economic results met expectations, income tax bands would be adjusted for tax cuts for all the people.
Dr Gonzi also revealed that succession duty on property inherited by children would be removed in all cases, not just for residential property.
Final Withholding Tax on rents for all residential properties would be reduced to 15 per cent from 25 per cent.
Turning to childcare, Dr Gonzi said the PN government had pioneered childcare centres in Malta. The government would open more such centres and give more incentives for the private sector. A total of €5million would be allocated for a voucher system. Parents working full-time, part-time or reduced and flexible hours, as well as parents who are studying, would be eligible for vouchers to cover their total or partial cost of childcare centres. It would be up to them to select a state or private childcare centre.
This proposal, he said, was different from Labour's, which was promising free childcare only for full-time workers and said nothing of part-timers or parents who were studying.
Dr Gonzi said that when a child fell sick, parent would be able to use their sick leave allotment to stay with the child.
On health, he said priority would be given to community services and improved health centres. Malta would also have a new rehabilitation facilities - one focused on the elderly and the other for those recovering from surgery.
Diabetes would be at the centre of health policy, while the current focus on cancer care would continue.
More medicines would be included in the free medicines scheme.
To tackle the problem of medicines that were out of stock, the Government would refund patients who had to buy medicines they normally got from the Government.
STIPENDS TO BE LINKED TO COST OF LIVING
Turning to education, Dr Gonzi said it was useless for Labour to apologise for its past mistakes. Those who had lost out were feeling the consequences. Education was the key for the people to shape out their future.
A new PN government would be committed to continue to opening a new school every year.
With regard to stipends, students had complained that the value of stipends was being eroded because of the cost of living. In the future, the stipends would be adjusted pro-rata with the cost of living to ensure that value remained constant. The preferential stipends for those sectors considered crucial for the country, such as the sciences, would continue to be improved.
Furthermore, students who continued to study would be credited their national insurance contributions as an incentive to continue to study.
TABLET COMPUTERS FOR ALL SCHOOLCHILDREN
Dr Gonzi said it was essential that technology was applied in schools. He said it was useless to give computers only to teachers and tablet computers would also be given to the students to all children in primary and secondary school. This was an essential tool for a secure future, he said. Furthermore, plans were in hand for the format of schoolbooks to be electronic and included in the tablets. It was also essential the new tablets communicated well with current school technologies including the white boards installed over the past years by the PN government.
ENERGY - SAVINGS THROUGH NIGHT TARIFFS
Dr Gonzi said the PN remained committed to reducing power tariffs in a sustainable manner. This would be given in line with plans to commission the interconnector as well as the higher efficiency derived from the new power station extension. This process would be continued further with plans for a gas pipeline by 2018.
The interconnector would be commissioned in March next year, contributing 70 per cent of Malta's energy needs. The interconnector would enable the Government to introduce a new reduced night tariff for residents and industry.
It was estimated that as a result, between 10pm and 6am there could be savings of between seven per cent and 26 per cent. This new system would only come about thanks to the new smart meters, Dr Gonzi pointed out. The system would be introduced next year, when smart meters would be introduced everywhere, and Malta will be able to buy cheaper electricity at night through the interconnector.
Under a Green Home scheme, government officials would also call at home to advise on power savings.
Families would receive a 50 per cent subsidy - up to €3,000 - on the installation of PV panels and the feed-in tariff would remain generous.
Families who cannot install PVs may participate in solar farms.
Dr Gonzi said the PN in the coming days would publish the costs of all of the measures which it is proposing.
Replying to questions, Dr Gonzi said water tariffs would not be touched.
On the Frank Sammut controversy, he said it was Alfred Sant's Labour government which put Mr Sammut on the fuel procurement board.
On the White Rocks project, Dr Gonzi said that while talks would continue, the project would not go ahead until the Government was assured of the benefits it was seeking for the country.
On SmartCity, he said building and landscaping works were continuing and it was hoped that the developers would soon transfer some operations to Malta. Dr Gonzi said it was the PN government which created the ICT industry in Malta, and no one could argue that it was not a success which had created many jobs.