Wealth disparity can’t be ignored

Despite a booming economy in many sectors, it’s a fact that wealth generated is not being enjoyed by all

Malta’s monetary “at-risk-of-poverty rate” has increased over 2014, with 16.3% of households falling into this category
Malta’s monetary “at-risk-of-poverty rate” has increased over 2014, with 16.3% of households falling into this category

Angelo Xuereb

Leading entrepreneur Angelo Xuereb recently launched a 10-year master plan for Valletta. Among his proposals is an underground electric tram that connects the Park and Ride to City Gate. Xuereb is also suggesting a Land Transportation Node next to the Granaries, which would give commuters a better choice of entering Valletta through the circular buses to the centre of Valletta, an electric cab or a taxi; a horse-drawn cab or the underground tram itself.

If we are to overcome Malta’s traffic nightmare we need to think outside the box. Mr Xuereb’s suggestions deserve to be taken seriously by the authorities. Recently, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil and Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti both suggested the introduction of trams in Malta. I’m positive that the government too is willing to take these suggestions on board.

Helena Dalli

Two years after Malta ratified the European Council Convention on domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue, launched a public consultation process on the Domestic Violence Bill. Dr Dalli referred to a recent report by the European Agency for Fundamental Human Rights on violence inflicted on women that revealed that one in every three women are the victims of violence, but that only 14% report it to the police.

The Bill piloted by Minister Dalli recommends the introduction of what is being referred to as ‘emergency protection’. This would enable the authorities to force the perpetrator out of the family home, addressing the current unacceptable situation wherein the perpetrator is allowed to reside in the family home with obvious danger to the victim. This Bill is a step in the right direction and should be enforced without delay. 

Simon Busuttil

Among the proposals made by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil at the Independence mass meeting on Tuesday evening, was the pledge to reverse the rise in the rates of government housing rent and provide subsidy for those who rent property from a private owner. This is a positive measure which the current government would do well to take on board and implement in this legislature.

Providing subsidy to those who rent property from a private owner helps cushion the effect of rents which have increased significantly over the last few years – fuelled by a strong demand for the rent market, while avoiding an unwanted situation wherein the government intervenes in the private rental market.

Another suggestion made by Busuttil was for pensioners to be exempted from paying tax. This too is a positive proposal – although it does put all pensioners, from the wealthiest to the neediest, at par. Busuttil is also right in stating that it is unacceptable to have people who suffer from chronic diseases and have them beg the President [Community Chest Fund] for help. He insisted that they should get medicine for free. This system should have been introduced years ago – but then, better late than never.  

Joseph Muscat

At the sidelines of a New York Summit, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that a Boston-based currency printer is to open a “state-of-the art” $100 million facility in Malta. Dr Muscat said the investment would create 200 jobs, rising to 300 over time.

Such a large-scale investment wouldn’t have happened if Malta’s economy were in a mess. This investment also gives hope to the manufacturing industry. The investment by Crane Currency is a welcome relief to hundreds of local employees who lost their jobs when banknote manufacturer De La Rue moved its operations out of Malta. 

The poor

Despite a booming economy in many sectors, it’s a fact, admitted recently by the Finance Minister himself, that wealth generated is not being enjoyed by all. The latest data from the National Statistics Office for 2015 confirms this situation.

According to the NSO figures, Malta’s monetary “at-risk-of-poverty rate” has increased over 2014, with 16.3% of households falling into this category. On the other hand, the more serious “at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion” has seen 5,000 persons exit from poverty and now stands at 22.4% in 2015, down from 23.8% in 2014.

Nearly 69,000 persons were said to be earning less than the median €13,493 in 2015. These people, or the majority of them, are crying out for help and the least they expect is for them to become the subject of a tit-for-tat between the government and the opposition party. Both parties are aware of the causes for these bleak results – decisions need to be taken to take these people off the poverty line. 

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