Budget attempts to wean unemployed off benefit-dependency

“We want to encourage more people to take hold of new opportunities of work instead of staying at home because they are comfortable living off benefits” - Scicluna

Edward Scicluna
Edward Scicluna

Addressing a pre-budget consultation meeting, finance minister Edward Scicluna said the Maltese government was making its budgetary process more transparent, thanks to the Fiscal Responsibility Act that was enacted following parliamentary approval

While Budget 2014 focused on economic growth by encouraging more people to join the workforce, including incentives such as free childcare centres and increased benefits to women who seek a job, Budget 2015 targets social benefits dependency. “We want to encourage more people to take hold of new opportunities of work instead of staying at home because they are comfortable living off benefits,” Scicluna said.

Turning to his audience, Scicluna said they themselves had probably heard of youths talking, in band clubs, about not wanting to find a job because they were “comfortable” with just receiving benefits. “We will not cut benefits but we will develop schemes which will encourage them to join workforce and help them realise they would be better off by working,” he said.

Scicluna insisted that the private sector was the motor of economic growth, hitting out at the Opposition over criticism that increase in employment was being generated by the public sector.

According to the Finance Minister, the National Statistics Office also made statements that were “unclear”. By way of example, Scicluna argued that, according to the NSO, there was a drop in number of workers employed in the construction industry.

However, he said, this was not true: “How can it be true with cranes mushrooming all around us?” According to Scicluna, the “drop” was caused by a number of employers working with the Public Works department who before were classified as employed within the construction sector and are now being listed under public administration.

Scicluna also said the government wanted to address extra costs which the taxpayers were shouldering: “It is unacceptable that medicine that costs €1 [for example] rises to €2 by the time it reaches the patient.”

Budget 2015 will see an increase in the social security contribution paid by employers for each of their workers. In return, the government will be funding the entire cost of maternity leave, even in the private sector.

More in Business News