[LIVE] Muscat promises minimum wage earners won't pay income tax

Updated commentary and updates for Labour leader Joseph Muscat's speech on Budget 2013.

Opposition leader Joseph Muscat addressing the House this evening.
Opposition leader Joseph Muscat addressing the House this evening.


20:35: Speech ends here. Press conference by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech and another by Opposition leader Joseph Muscat to follow soon.

20:28: Concluding his speech, Muscat says that his movement is the natural home of all liberals. He says the Labour Movement promotes social mobility. He says that with a clear roadmap that will lead to economic growth, a Labour government will guarantee a better quality of life.

"Nationalists and Labourites, let us all unite as one. Because we will be guaranteeing stability and certainty," Muscat said among the cheering of his MPs. "Workers, self-employed, students, pensioners and the middle class all know that better times are coming. We are ready to dedicate our energy for our country to move forward."

"Change can only be guaranteed with a change of government."

20:15: "We don't trust this government" and goes on to list why: the way the utility bills increased,  the wrong decision taken over the Delimara power station, the ARMS Ltd, dockyard workers, the Fairmount saga, the Cirkewwa terminal, the car park privatisation project, out-of-stock medicine and waiting lists, the way government acted with GO and Air Malta workers, the dismantling of Sea Malta, the Arriva fiasco, the failed MEPA reform, the black dust inquiry which nothing was done about, because of how the Prime Minister retained Richard Cachia Caruana despite a vote of no-confidence.

The list goes on: wardens system allowed to become a racket, the St John's co-cathedral project which was then shot down, parking in Valletta, the management of the Corradino prisons, the lack of equality and feminism in Malta, abandoned the elderly because of inadequate pensions, false promises to hunters and trappers, Gonzi's vote against divorce, the €500 increase for MPs.

Muscat gave around 60 reasons as to why he doesn't trust government.

Meanwhile... Labour MP Silvio Parnis is 'resting his eyes'.

20:08: Social justice: Muscat says the social sector will be the number one priority of a new government and that focus will be placed on persons with disability. He says a pivotal project will be that of providing community houses for persons with disability. "We want to encourage an independent life. But this will require huge resources, obtainable through public private partnerships, with the help of the civil society, volunteers and families."

20:06: Muscat refers to the Auditor General's report. One investigation found that a contract awarded for €1 million ended up amounting to €29 million without any approvals. "In other words, these changes were made no questions asked. On the other hand, Air Malta workers have been to hell and back just for government to give Air Malta €20 million.

He goes on to refer to the shortcomings revealed by the Auditor General with regard to excessive overtime granted to hospital employees. Muscat said that this was the result of mismanagement. He said that on the other hand there were workers employed with precarious conditions.

19:58: The public transport reform: "This will be remembered as government's worst fiascos. Wrong decisions taken which have cost the taxpayers millions... All Austin Gatt's fault." Referring to comments made by PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil to The Sunday Times over his inability to work with Gatt more than "five minutes", Muscat commented: "Imagine the public who had to put up with him for 25 years!"

Muscat called on Gonzi to explain why, according to the Auditor General, Arriva will be paid €17.9 million than that agreed over a period of 10 years.

19:55: Education's turn. Muscat gives quite a good general overview of the sector. Although he does refer to studies that place Malta below the European average. But he criticises government's decision for having pulled out from PISA, an international study which acts as a benchmark. Muscat tells Gonzi that, of the two, it was the Prime Minister who reduced the stipends.

19:49: Attention now turned to Gozo. Muscat says the government is not doing enough. "This government is taking Gozitans for government. Many promises which never materialise or happen at the last minute. This government has no plans for Gozo." He says the Gozitans merit a government that "doesn't take them for granted".

19:40: Another joke, this time taking cue from George W. Bush's speech on 1 May 2003 when he announced that the war in Iraq had ended, "mission accomplished".

"We can therefore say 'mission accomplished' to Smart City, White Rocks, Arriva, Brazil... in this case it is more looking like 'mission impossible'."

19:35: The Labour leader reiterates the reduction of utility tariffs. "The Prime Minister is repeatedly asking us how we're going to do it. Well, first of all, thank you for the continuous trust you show us because every time he [Gonzi] asks us what are we going to do. Now, just like Simon Busuttil said 'don't ask us yet', we give the same answer to the Prime Minister. Have patience, and wait."

He also reiterates that a Labour government would fight red tape in order to allow the business to grow and prosper.

19:30: Side note... Though not packed, there are more people in the Strangers' Gallery than there were last week. Also, technology has the full attention of the government MPs who are all - those present i.e. - absorbed with their mobile phones, iPads, laptops...

19:24: On the gas pipeline, that will connect Malta to Europe, Muscat says that Malta should be connected with the whole of the Mediterranean. He poses a number of questions: "Will Enemalta be responsible of the project? Who is the operator? Have tenders been issued with regard to studies?"

On utility bills, Muscat says a new government would introduce "clear rules that take into consideration the country's realities".

"This government wants to retain a mediocre system to play around with the utility bills before the election, and then increase them afterwards. Government's social conscience was thrown away after it increased the surcharge from 50% to 95% and doubled the utility bills."

19:18: Broken promises and waste of money: Muscat lists the Delimara power station, "small" Mater Dei Hospital, a roofless theatre, a bridge leading to nowhere, and buses who that don't follow time schedule. Muscat says that Lawrence Gonzi had promised an academy for the Police Corps with a €600,000. "It's the same academy where they did a ceremony to inaugurate the first stone... which stone has now found itself in a garage."

19:11: He says that according to the European Commission, the deficit for next year will be at 2.9% of the Gross Domestic Product. But government says it will stand at 1.74%. "The Prime Minister must explain this one."

Muscat adds that poverty was fought years ago, and therefore no government can allow it to resurface. "We can fight poverty through work and education and by not taxing the minimum wage."

19:05: Muscat says the PN was out on a scaremongering campaign. "But we will only answer back with hope and courage. Workers can rest assured that they have nothing to worry about. I am here to defend you. You can not agree with us, but you can work with us."

19:01: The Opposition leader insists that, if re-elected, a Nationalist government will be increasing the retirement age. "We are not going to increase it because we have a plan based on economic growth and the increased participation of women in the workforce."

With reference to Malta's EU Presidency in 2017, Muscat said Malta couldn't treat this event as if it were "the Eurovision". He added that, if elected, a new government would be allocating funds for the planning and the training of staff.

18:57: Muscat said that just like increases in fuel, gas and sigarettes have already taken place, he expected that the COLA increase and other financial benefits should come into force as from 1 January. "But we assure workers, pensioners and students that, if these do not come into force, a Labour government would refund whait should have been given from the beginning of the year."

18:55: "We don't know what's going to happen over the Budget vote. But we have already agreed that election campaigns will only start after Christmas and New Year have passed".

18:50: In 1998, government used to spend €98 million in children's allowance, that is €1,100 for every boy and girl. For next year, government has allocated €5.5 million less, meaning €975 for every child. "The tax on minimum wage is reason enough to vote against this budget... the last act of a government in agony. How can we ever be accomplices with this social abomination?"

Muscat says the Prime Minister would be in a better position if he convinces members of his own side to vote in favour of the budget, rather than the Opposition. "With responsibility we have decided to retain the framework of this budget. But we won't vote in favour of it, because we don't trust him." He adds that a new government will remove the taxation on minimum wage.

18:44: Muscat turns his attention towards income tax. He says that the Prime Minister used to say that it would be irresponsible to reduce it. "Despite the adjustments made to the income tax, families and business are today carrying the heaviest tax burden of all times. Even worse is now that those on single computation minimum wage will have to pay tax." Because of the statutory bonus, persons on minimum wage are pushed into the tax band.

"Where is the social conscience?" he asks. He adds: "As far as I know he was meant to enter the people's kitchens... not their pockets."

18:43: Meanwhile, Franco Debono is listening with attention to what Muscat has to say. Last week, during the Finance Minister's speech, he had walked out.

18:39: "The numbers of unemployed persons increased during these five years and it currently stands at its second highest. The number of long-term unemployed has reached record levels". He now refers to the Brazilian company - among cheering from his side. "At every opportunity, the Prime Minister talks about new investment coming to Malta. But remember that every time you say this, one word comes to the people's mind: Brazil!"

18:36: Muscat concedes that sectors like the financial services and digital gaming are creating quality jobs. "We must guarantee continuity in this sector, but at the same time we have to strengthen consumers' protection with regard to financial services." He adds Prime Minister "invented" the 20,000 job creation. "He couldn't even explain how this figure was reached". Muscat says that with regard to female participation in the workforce, Malta ranked at the bottom of European classification.

18:30: Speaker gives his permission for camera persons and photographers to come in. Joseph Muscat stands up and starts off his speech. Start off by calling for a change in government: "The Maltese need a change and this government cannot give it. Only a new government can guarantee fresh energy, with the enthusiasm of a united team." Muscat says that families cannot cope with their current wages. He says that in real terms, the average wage decreased by €8.46 per week, while in the Euro Zone it increased by €13.46.

18:11: Opposition leader Joseph Muscat just walked in, followed closely by a camera person. Lots of activity round the room as members of the press take their seats.

18:01: Good evening and welcome to our live-blog. Newly elected MP Michael Asciak has just received a warm welcome by the House of Representatives as he sits for his first sitting. His wife and daughter are sitting in the Strangers' Gallery. Meanwhile, the House is currently during its parliamentary questions time. Joseph Muscat's speech to start at around 6:30pm.

Welcome - we'll be live-blogging the speech by Opposition leader Joseph Muscat in reaction to Budget 2013. Send us your reactions on Twitter using hashtag #maltabudget or email us with your letters at [email protected]

sur muscat jekk ser izzomm dawn il weghdi kollha ifisser jew li gonzi halla il finanzi tal pajjiz fis sod kontra dak li qed jghid il partit laburista, jew li se jkollna inhallsu aktar taxxi. mhux ahjar tkun aktar konsistenti, car u kredibbli f'dak li qed tghid.
For sure Joseph is very prepared for the budget speech. He knows what our country needs. He deserves to be our Prime Minister in the coming elections. Well Done Joseph.