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Higher GDP does not always mean higher quality of life - Church commission

Justice and Peace Commission unveils its proposals for Budget 2019

Higher GDP does not automatically equate to an improved quality of life and Malta’s economic progress is coming at an environmental and societal cost, the Church’s Justice and Peace Commission has told the government.

In a document outlining the Church’s proposals for Budget 2019, the commission argued that unprecedented rates of economic growth gave the government some leeway for “fiscal experimentation”.

Such experimentation could take the form of alternative social housing schemes and investment in cycling infrastructure, the commission suggested (see below).

Although the pre-budget proposals expressed scepticism about the sustainability of Malta’s growth model, the commission did not lay all the blame at the government’s doorstep.

READ: What employers want to see in Budget 2019

“Improved quality of life will require a collective change in the mentality of us citizens,” it noted, saying that the government could help people change their behavioural traits by further investing in education that emphasised critical thinking skills.

The Commission focused its Budget 2019 proposals on five key areas.

1. Transport:

Projects to widen roads were possibly “counterproductive”, the Commission said, and a longer-term approach was needed. It urged authorities to provide safe infrastructure for people to walk, cycle or carpool and to implement transport strategies and master plans which it had itself unveiled between 2014 and 2016.

2. Environment:

More green areas and urban landscaping and a greater measure of forward-planning to ensure efficient land use and the protection of environmental heritage.

3. Health:

Disincentivising junk foods, possibly through the introduction of a ‘sugar tax’ and greater investment in mental healthcare, including in Mount Carmel Hospital.

4. Affordable housing:

The commission urged the government to consider introducing alternative social housing models used elsewhere in Europe, such as shared ownership schemes, government mortgage guarantees or deducting loan interest from taxes. 

5. Migration:

The government should set up a legal office where third-country nations could be informed of their rights and obligations, the commission suggested. It also called for the government to legislate to ensure foreign workers who reported abuse were protected by law, and to invest in an initial reception centre where asylum seekers could be processed and cared for when they first arrived in Malta.

Read the commission's Budget 2019 proposals in full in the attached PDF. 

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