Business, and environmentally-friendly

A strong and healthy economy called for a strong push in the direction of the environmental and social sectors, and this is indeed what Budget 2016 did.

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f all the three budgets presented so far under this administration this will no doubt go down as the Budget that was the most business and environment-friendly, with clear priorities set out together with a strong sense of purpose and direction.

While implementation will be key, government made it clear that sitting on the fence and bypassing certain key issues is not part of its ball game. In the majority of cases a strong sense of decisiveness and long-term thinking is evident.

Government continues to argue rightly that in many instances the cost of doing nothing and deciding to do nothing is not part of its approach. The weak reaction by the Opposition merely serves to reinforce our long-held view that the major problem with the PN is its own leadership and negativity.

The body language of Nationalist MPs during Monday’s sitting offered tangible evidence of their discomfort as they struggled to try and put together a coherent response to the focussed approach adopted by government in the presentation of Budget 2016.

On an even more positive note, the Budget was not just style without substance. On the contrary. in many instances, even in our environmental sector, it put its money where its mouth is – supporting sustainability, the ERA demerger, Wasteserv, climate action, management of protected areas, beefed up eco-contribution refunds, the waste management plan itself, the family park management, the setting up of an environment fund for voluntary organisations, the long overdue farm-waste strategy, noise abatement, and the waste separation organic bag pilot project with more than decent allocations.

A strong and healthy economy called for a strong push in the direction of the environmental and social sectors, and this is indeed what Budget 2016 did.

The distinction between the two parties came out even clearer, when one compares the budget itself not only with the PN reaction but also with their vacuous pre-budget document, which merely recycled a number of moans and groans already listed in various media statements and conferences of theirs, rather than offering any sense of strategic thinking, direction or political vision.

Negativity only made a bad situation worse for them credibility wise.

The way government chose to address pensions issues, vacant and abandoned properties, energy efficiency and alternative energy, the health sector, and even the environmental contribution in the tourist sector showed that it is constantly open either to new ideas or else to measures that have been tried and tested successfully elsewhere – while always applying them within a local country specific context.

Not only are there a fair measure of pro-environment measures linked to our ministry but also a series of environment-friendly measures relating directly to other ministries too. This was evident last year but became even more pronounced this time round. All this explains why the overall reaction to the Budget has been a positive one.

The emphasis on education and training as well as the need to enhance our competitiveness show that government has a finger on the pulse of the nation’s needs and priorities.

It was ultimately a centrist budget with a social and environmental conscience that confirmed the long-held notion that unless we have a thriving private sector, most of our dreams and objectives will remain grounded – merely forming part of a wish list. 

Through this budget government has shown that it is not just a one-trick pony focusing entirely on the economy. It has given priority attention to areas that its worst critics feared or suspected that were no-go areas.

Ultimately we will be judged by our actions and implementation as well as by how much our ambitions can be turned into deeds, but at least in terms of strategic thinking and planning those who thought up this budget surely deserve more than a mere pat on the back.

One final clanger from the Opposition: at the same time that Simon Busuttil was claiming that this Budget should have had more goodies in it since there is no international crisis looming on the horizon, the IMF was busy warning officially that we should all beware of a third storm brewing.

It is a pity that our Opposition invariably fails to face the new realities. Not only in Malta but even in the globalised village that we all form part of.

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