Budget is frugal on education but extravagant on nepotism, says ADPD

The Green Party said that the budget for the early retirement scheme of Air Malta workers is equivalent to that of the University of Malta

ADPD held a press conference in front of the Education Ministry on Saturday (Photo: ADPD)
ADPD held a press conference in front of the Education Ministry on Saturday (Photo: ADPD)

ADPD – The Green Party said that the 2024 Budget was miserly on education, both with educators themselves and on the infrastructure necessary for students to really get the education they deserve.

During a press conference in front of the Education Ministry on Saturday, ADPD said that there is massive spending that rewards the wasteful and makes up for past mistakes, negligence, vote buying and nepotism.

ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci said as per the financial estimates in the 2024 Budget, there is a massive expenditure that rewards those who waste electricity and fuel.

She said that the level of spending in areas that reduce dependence on imported energy and pollution was a “pittance” compared to random handouts to everyone.

“Along with this we are all paying dearly from our taxes for the mistakes, negligence, buying of votes and nepotism in the leadership in Airmalta by the PLPN governments, including €92 million as for its early retirement scheme - also contributing, once again from our taxes, to additional debt also increases,” Gauci said.

She stated that while accumulating debt for long-term investment and with favourable conditions may make sense, debt to pay a million Euros a day in polluting fuels does not. “Money that should have been better spent on cleaner energy, and clean transport systems. Indeed, the Prime Minister almost boasted that fuel is costing us a million euros a day, without indicating any plan or desire to change Malta's situation,” Gauci argued.

“On the contrary, we plough along as if traffic congestion does not exist and accumulating public debt for recurring expenditure is not a problem.”

Gauci said that one should compare the retirement scheme of a “bankrupt company” like Airmalta, with the budgets of MCAST and the University of Malta.

She said that MCAST is given half of the spending of the early retirement scheme of Air Malta (€42.5 million), while the University of Malta gets basically the same budget of the scheme, €94 million.

“The budgets of these entities remained practically the same as last year. Moreover, collective agreements with respect to teachers in primary and secondary schools, as well as for MCAST and IfE remain expired or forgotten. The great disparity between the wasteful expenditure and that for the education sector reveals lack of foresight,” Gauci concluded.

ADPD Deputy Secretary General Mario Mallia said that the budget confirmed once again that education is not a priority for this government which cares more about the interests of the few while trying to deceive the people with a few crumbs.

“The teachers' unions themselves stressed that the budget is irrelevant for education and that it does not give any comfort to the educators because there is no adequate investment and the working conditions have not improved,” Mallia said.

He said that a new medical school has been promised since 2019 and that the ITS was still in its temporary campus, which he labelled, “a result of the haste with which the government facilitated private interests when it evicted the ITS from the St Julian's/Pembroke campus.”

Mallia said that the recent figures released by the NSO show a dire situation in the educational field where 24.4% of students do not continue their studies beyond compulsory education.

“Even if some progress had been registered in this regard, the situation remains of concern when comparing Malta with other EU countries. The EU rate according to Eurostat figures released in 2021 show that 94.7% were continuing some form of post-secondary education,” Mallia argued.

“We can no longer boast of a strong economy when the basis of everything, that is education, is showing us that children are coming out of our schools with very few skills and that they are ending up at home or competing with exploited workers for jobs that do not offer a pay suitable for decent living.”

Mallia insisted that change should commence by restoring the dignity and respect to the profession of educators who over time ended up considered as glorified babysitters to serve economic interests.

He said that wages must rise substantially to attract to the profession the best minds who can offer an education and a sense of community that serves all students.

Mallia said that schools should have more autonomy regarding what decisions are made in their management, in the curriculum, as well as in the finances of the school.

“They can no longer depend entirely on the Department of Education for everything. Unfortunately, dependency still remains in spite of the system of colleges. In some aspects dependence has in fact increased.  When things are done seriously and respect is restored it is the students who will ultimately benefit,” Mallia concluded.