Malta is a top performer under Labour – Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that an economy based on population growth was a ridiculous argument and if it were that easy, the Nationalist Party would not be in debt

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during a parliamentary reaction to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia's Budget speech
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during a parliamentary reaction to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia's Budget speech

Malta is a top performer and a country that is making mammoth strides of success when compared to the rest of the world, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Reacting to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia’s Budget speech, Muscat told parliament on Tuesday that contrary to what Delia had asserted, Malta had continued to enjoy constant investments in various sectors.

“According to Opposition Leader Adrian Delia, not one license was issued in terms of blockchain firms. First of all, he doesn’t understand the difference between cryptocurrency and blockchain, and secondly, 17 Virtual Financial Assets licenses were issued to blockchain companies and these are already in operation. A further five licenses have been issued for system auditors,” Muscat said, adding that 154 companies were already offering exchange services.

Muscat referred to 50 letters of intent that the Maltese government had received in terms of medical cannabis production and that in the first three years of operation, this sector will contribute to 1,000 new workplaces.

In response to Delia’s criticism of the government, that it had not invested in any new sectors, Muscat said that Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things were just a couple of sectors that were completely new and that the government’s strategy was devoted to and keen about.

“With regards to the gaming sector, in one year, employment has increased in this sector by 10%,” Muscat said, adding that Gozo was also part of the government’s economic plan as it was currently enjoying an economic rhythm that was 2% higher than in Malta and that was newly catering for 800 new jobs.

“Malta is a top performer. Classified as the second most stable country in terms of the economy in all the world. For the fifth year running, Malta will see a budgetary surplus, the second highest surplus in the EU. We are on par with Germany.”

Less debt in real terms means more investment

During a PN administration, the Prime Minister said, for every €10 generated by Malta’s economy, €8 was owed to debtors. The government debt will be sliced by 40% in 2020.

“€1.7 billion debt under a PN administration has been sliced by €158 million under this government. This means less interest. The money saved from the interest was handed out to the Armed Forces of Malta, to the Civil Protection Department and to Malta’s police officers.

The Opposition was generally vocal during the Prime Minister's stronger inflections but parliament generally enjoyed an air of conviviality during the delivery
The Opposition was generally vocal during the Prime Minister's stronger inflections but parliament generally enjoyed an air of conviviality during the delivery

This despite the government increasing its expenditure and this went to the education (€100 million) and to the health (€500 million) sectors. The expenditure on education and health has doubled since Labour was elected in government and a total 52 collective agreements have affected 12,000 employees—nurses, carers, police officers and teachers all gained something out of government expenditure,” Muscat said.

Using the Opposition’s criticism of the 2020 Budget being a recycled Budget, Muscat joked that recycling was never a bad deal especially if the Budget being recycled ensured that no new taxes would be introduced or increased and that a positive effect would be felt by the pockets of Maltese citizens.

"Every year, we give more to the people. In 2015, we gave €55 million to the people and in 2019, we gave €78 million. Next year, we will be handing out €77 million to the people. Since our first Budget, we have handed out €329 million to the people. That’s what we recycle,” he said.

Malta’s economy, he said, might grow by 4% next year, a growth three times larger than that under the PN administration before 2013.

Opposition’s argument that economy directly proportional to population is ridiculous

The Prime Minister’s tone was jovial and jaunty when he spoke about the growing economy and the employment statistics.

He ridiculed the Opposition’s argument that the government’s economy was dependent on an ever-growing population by saying that if it were that easy, even the Opposition would be capable of doing it.

“Your argument on overpopulation vis-a-vis the economy is ridiculous. If you’re saying that we can grow the economy simply by increasing the number of working people, then if you want to fix the debt at the PN headquarters simply employ around a hundred people,” Muscat quipped.

Joseph Muscat conducted his delivery with joviality and lightness, reserving an austere reaction to the Opposition's take on foreign workers and third-country nationals
Joseph Muscat conducted his delivery with joviality and lightness, reserving an austere reaction to the Opposition's take on foreign workers and third-country nationals

He added that the statistics quoted by the Opposition Leader in his Budget speech were wrong and that the majority of foreign workers came from the EU and not from third countries.

“As a statistical fact, six out of ten people coming into the country are from the EU. Only 18% of foreigners do elementary work. Most have managerial jobs due to the fact that there is a skills gap. We do not have enough people who are capable of working in certain sectors so it’s not the case that foreigners are taking our jobs,” Muscat said, adding that the Opposition had no credibility.

At the end of 2018, 190,000 Maltese individuals were working. This, Muscat said, was increased from 170,000 people working in 2012.

“In 2012, 77% of the GDP was from consumption—now this has gone down to 63% because the rest is coming from investment, double the value of 2012.

“As to working conditions, whether foreign or local, all workers are fundamentally entitled to the same rights, including being enrolled in a trade union.” Muscat said.

Another erroneous statistic quoted by Delia was the number of people on the waiting list for social housing, Muscat insisted, saying that the number was closer to 2,900 as opposed to the 4,000 mentioned by Delia on Monday evening.

Full faith in the judiciary

Avoiding the topic of corruption and circumnavigating the concerns raised by Delia on this issue, Muscat said that the government’s persons of trust outnumbered those engaged by the PN government by just fifty individuals, “not a big deal.”

“I have full faith in the Attorney General—in the same way, I have full faith in the judiciary, irrespective of how it pronounces sentences. This government lost two seats because of a court decision and we didn’t lament it, we respected the decision.

As to Egrant, I wish you were in my shoes to understand what myself and my family got out of the Egrant situation, the biggest fabrication in political history. I hope that nobody will ever go through the same situation,” he said, referring to the Egrant inquiry report yet to be published in full.

Muscat announced that Malta’s Budget had been approved by the EU without any hesitation and that 74% of last Budget’s measures had been implemented.

“We remain a strong and sturdy government that is ready to take decisions. People were asked ten times throughout the years whether they had faith in this government and the answer was always a resounding yes. Everyone understood this except the Opposition. Yesterday Delia asked whether people were living better. For the 11th time, they will answer you that, yes, they are living better.”

More in Budget 2020