Caruana hits back at Opposition: ‘I will not take lessons on public finances from PN’

Clyde Caruana says country’s finances after pandemic are still in better shape than when PN was last in government

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana

Clyde Caruana pushed back against the Opposition’s criticism of the budget, insisting public finances were on a sound footing.

He said that even with a pandemic that required massive extraordinary spending to save lives and jobs, the country’s debt burden is less than what a Nationalist administration left it in 2012.

“I will not take lessons on public finances from the PN… it was a PN administration that because of mismanaged public finances allowed Malta to be placed in the excessive deficit procedure by the EU,” he said during a press conference with Deputy Primw Minister Chris Fearne on Tuesday.

The PN’s initial reaction to the budget has been replete with criticism on the debt incurred and the higher  deficit. A billboard even reminded motorists that Malta will be incurring €2.3 billion more in debt.

But Caruana was unfazed with the criticism, adding the PN had no credibility on the issue.

“Under a PN administration the debt burden stood at 69% in 2012. Today, after a pandemic the debt is forecast to reach 62% of GDP,” the minister said.

He added that the Opposition’s criticism on the cost of living in the run-up to the budget “evaporated”.

“We addressed the cost of living concerns by putting more money in people’s pockets through higher benefits and social transfers,” Caruana said.

He said every budget measure was costed and called out the PN for failing to quantify the financial impact of measures it has been proposing.

“The PN is unable to explain what it’s measured will cost and refuses to say what deficit it would be projecting with its measures,” Caruana said.

Asked about the increase in VAT receipts of more than €200 million next year, Caruana said this would come from two principle sources: more tourists and increased household consumption.

However, he reiterated that will be a greater emphasis on enforcement to ensure that what is due is collected.