[LIVE] Budget 2015 live blog

Follow us live for Budget 2015 as presented by Labour finance minister Edward Scicluna • This live-blog refreshes automatically

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna presenting the Budget to parliament.
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna presenting the Budget to parliament.
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
22:55 Important answer from Joseph Muscat: he says that the agreement with the Shanghai Electric Power will definitely be signed this year, which is conditional for the payment of excise duty on fuel by Enemalta, and crucial for the government's targeted revenues this year. Matthew Vella
22:50 Matthew Vella
22:45 Matthew Vella
22:29 Both sides of the House cheered at hearing the end of that speech. And outside, the Labour government is preparing for a typical OTT press conference to showcase its budget. Matthew Vella
22:29 It's been the longest budget speeh ever, surely... Matthew Vella
22:17 Keep following maltatoday.com.mt for the press conferences that should follow soon. Miriam Dalli
22:17 Finally...the winding up. This must have been the longest speech, reaching almost four hours. Miriam Dalli
22:16 Income tax legislation will be amended so that couples in a civil union enjoy the same rights and obligations under the law as married couples. Miriam Dalli
22:14 For the motor sports enthusiasts, the government will next year issue an expression of interest to develop a track and providing with the adequate facilities where to drive. Miriam Dalli
22:12 Scicluna confirms that following the enactment of the Gender Identity Bill, the state will evaluate the possibility to assist transgender persons who don’t feel comfortable with their sexuality and need to undergo surgery. Miriam Dalli
22:06 Already mentioned in Budget 2014 but never implemented, Scicluna says the government is committed that MPs are paid according to their parliamentary attendance. The necessary amendments to the permanent orders of the House of Representatives has been drafted and will come into force once these amendments are implemented.. Miriam Dalli
22:04 Scicluna announces the Police Force will be getting a CEO while studies are underway for the possible setting up of a prosecutions unit.

Among a number of reforms are a review of the Press Laws and the decriminalisation of drugs. A review of the press laws should guarantee freedom of expression. On the drugs reform, Scicluna says the government wants to help drug addicts while harshening the fights against drug lords. An Asset Management Bureau will be set up to effectively implement asset confiscation. Miriam Dalli

21:52 For Gozo, the government is planning a medical hub as “an international centre” in the Mediterranean. Through the Gozo Medical and Healthcare Hub, Gozo could benefit from medical tourism, Scicluna says.

Scicluna reiterates the government is committed to increasing accessibility to Gozo by having an air link. Relative studies are ongoing for the development of a rural/green airfield in Gozo.

On a fixed permanent link, Scicluna says, the Chinese government has finalised the feasibility study on the possibility of a tunnel connecting Gozo to Malta. A feasibility study on the construction of a bridge is still ongoing. Once this study is finalised, both studies will be published. Further environmental studies will however be required.

Following the request for proposals for a cruise liner terminal, the government will now carry in-depth studies on whether the project can actually be implemented based on the plans and technical studies as submitted by the consortium.

To encourage the creation of more jobs in Gozo, the government will partially refund NI paid by tourism operators when employing full-time or part-time workers. Because of seasonal issues, the government will give operators €30 a day for every worker they train in the sector. The training, mostly aimed at students, would be twice a week and carried out during the low season. Miriam Dalli

21:51 On the environment, Scicluna says a balance must be struck. The MEPA demerger is expected to be finalised next year while the restructuring process at WasteServ will continue. Government is currently working on a Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant in tal-Ghallis and the waste transfer station in Gozo.

An application will be lodged so the rehabilitation process of the old waste plant in Wied il-Fulja is rehabilitated.

A pilot project will be launched for the introduction of a third bag for organic waste. During 2015, parliament is expected to approve a law on climate change. €11 million will be allocated for the Kappara flyover, €3 million of which will be allocated for the rebuilding of several ulterior roads.

The AFM rapid launch facility in Xatt it-Tiben Floriana, and the restoration of the Argotti Gardens are expected to start in 2015.

The Valletta Ditch will be used for parking facilities and as a public garden, while more bicycle racks will be installed around Valletta. Scicluna also announced that a ‘Master Plan’ is also being prepared to build government offices at Belt is-Sebh.

A comprehensive plan is currently being carried out to regenerate Strait Street in Valletta.

On the land reclamation project, Scicluna says the government took note of several offers and is currently identifying a number of areas which can be given priority.

A public private partnership will be implemented at the Cospicua health centre. A study is currently being carried out to assess the possibility of a breakwater in Marsaxlokk. Miriam Dalli

21:24 In a bid to address traffic congestion, the government is considering sea transport connecting to Valletta and increasing destinations. Miriam Dalli
21:22 A new project is the construction of a new car park in Santa Margherita, Bormla, to accommodate up to 370 cars. The project will be implemented through a PPP. The car park will also provide sports and commercial facilities. Two proposals have already been submitted and are being evaluated. Miriam Dalli
21:20 Government is set to invest in an intelligent traffic system to better manage traffic in real time. Cameras will be installed in strategic places so motorists will receive real time information on traffic congestions – MP David Agius jokes about using a helicopter – through electronic signs and social media.

An app will be developed to help people in car pooling and knowing who’s heading to the same location. Those making use of car pooling will be allowed to drive through bus lanes. Miriam Dalli

21:17 Scicluna confirms a €23 million subsidy to the new Spanish public transport operator. Routes will increase while bus fares will not change. [Opposition takes umbrage at the use of word ‘investment’ instead of ‘subsidy’.] Miriam Dalli
21:14 A Medical Plus entity will be set up with the aim of entering into PPPs with Mater Dei specialists. This should lead to an increase in operations held over the weekend.

The government is also drafting a master plan for St Luke’s Hospital. An expression of interest will be issued to rehabilitate the area and focus on services related to health. Miriam Dalli

21:12 Scicluna confirmed the reduction of utility tariffs will be extended to businesses. Electricity and water tariffs will be reduced by 25% and 5% respectively. The cuts, he says, will lead to an €80 million injection in the economy.

“Others told us that it would be impossible to carry out the reductions in utility tariffs, but we did it.”

The Chinese state-owned company Shanghai Electric Power will inject €320 million in Enemalta in exchange for a 33% minority stake in the corporation. The investment will enable Enemalta the conversion of the BWSC plant to LNG.

“This is just the beginning and there will be further investment through the setting up of a joint venture and Energy Service Centre. There is also an agreement with Shanghai Electric so that the electricity produced in Malta is export to plants in Europe, Middle East and Africa.”

Miriam Dalli
21:07 Health, “a priority”, and Scicluna says the list of out of stock medicine was cut drastically from 130 to five medicines. 43,000 persons joined the POYC scheme, leading to a toal of 128,000 beneficiaries. Miriam Dalli
20:57 For the animal lovers, Scicluna confirms the opening of an animal cemetery and the setting up of a national fund for animal welfare, as well as the installation of several shelters for horses and horse cabs.

Scicluna says the government is intent on utilising the European funds to open a new fish market and carry studies for the construction of a breakwater in Marsaxlokk.

Miriam Dalli
20:54 60% of the island should be covered by Wi-fi by 2016.

Government will issue a white piper proposing the regularisation of real estate agents and property consultants.

It is eyeing the construction of a breakwater between Valletta and Sliema, a project that should be carried out through a PPP.

Miriam Dalli
20:48 Scicluna says monti hawkers will be relocated – a measure also mentioned in this year’s budget – to “an adequate place”. Hawkers will have around 74 stalls and half of them should be ready be end of December. Miriam Dalli
20:44 Also, for the avid Budget followers, there’s a big screen outside the parliament building in St George’s Square airing live the Finance Minister’s speech. Miriam Dalli
20:42 After two hours into Scicluna's speech, MPs are now getting fidgety, some opting to get up and stretch their legs. In our case, we sit put and report and think about that yummy pizza waiting at the office. Miriam Dalli
20:38 The Family Business Act should be implemented next year and should facilitate the transfer of business between family members.

Scicluna says the Maltese film industry is set to register a 500% increase following various incentives be the government and the Film Commission is set to embark on an international advertising campaign to attract further productions to Malta. The government is set to issue an international call for strategic partners to develop the Mediterranean Film Studios in Rinella.

On the gaming industry in Malta, Scicluna says the Lotteries and Gaming Authority is set to become the Malta Gaming Authority, while a Gaming Academy and Gaming Malta – to promote the sector – will also be set up. Miriam Dalli

20:32 Scicluna says the citizenship by investment programme – the sale of passports – was “a success”. He says, that the success registered was both in the interest shown and a number of countries who implemented similar programmes after Malta. He confirms the government will soon present the legal instruments to set up the national fund for economic and social development. Miriam Dalli
20:24 Miriam Dalli
20:20 Scicluna announced the setting up of Projects Malta, target public-private initiatives. Government is targeting public private partnerships (PPP) in coastal, rural and urban sectors, including the expansion and accessibility of beaches. The first projects to benefit from such initiatives include the areas known as Taht iz-Ziemel in Valletta, and Ta’ Fra Ben area in Qawra.

Scicluna says Comino “can no longer remain anarchy” and the reorganisation of the little island’s beaches will continue to be implemented.

A separate programme will be implemented to encourage cruise liners to remain berthed during the night by allowing them to open their casinos against a special licence. The casinos will be available for passengers only. Those berthing in Gozo will not require to pay a fee.

The government will introduce a number of systems enabling tourists to benefit of VAT refunds before departing Malta. Miriam Dalli

20:13 Scicluna says a legal notice is in the pipeline to regulate the implementation of teachers’ sabbatical. The first applications will be processed in April. The government plans on constructing two new schools in Dingli and Kirkop, at an investment of €22 million.

Scicluna says that in light of the current traffic problems, the government, in an effort to improve the situation, will embark on a consultation process on a white paper on possible changes to schools’ opening hours. Miriam Dalli

20:09 Students’ stipends will increase according to the COLA and an additional bonus. Stipends will be tax exempted while supplementary benefits and maintenance grants will be retained.

Students in Year 4 will receive a tabled each during the next scholastic year. A 5% VAT rate, instead of 18%, will be applied to e-books and books published on CDs, DVDs, SD-cards and USB drives. Miriam Dalli

20:04 Among several measures for a fairer society, the government will start implementing an electoral pledge to develop community homes for persons with disability. The first such community home will be developed in Siggiewi.

To encourage employers to employ persons with disability, the government will be offering “generous” tax credits.

Miriam Dalli
20:03 Edward Scicluna has just announced an increase in stipends, among much clapping and cheering from the government benches and some (sarcastic) "oohs" and "aahs" from the opposition benches. Miriam Dalli
20:00 Parents who adopt will benefit from the same leave benefits. Miriam Dalli
19:55 Self-employed women on maternity leave currently benefit from €160 a week, covering the last four weeks leading to the 18th week of maternity leave. The rate will be increased equivalent to minimum wage. The benefit will be applied to all working women. Miriam Dalli
19:51 The government is setting up a social enterprise, replacing the community work scheme. Workers currently registering for work carry out small jobs within the community and their pay is less than minimum wage. The social enterprise will ensure that those registering for work receive at least minimum wage while providing services to schools and local councils. Miriam Dalli
19:47 Matthew Vella
19:47 Matthew Vella
19:47 Matthew Vella
19:38 In the case of young people up to 23 years of age, the government will make it obligatory for those registering for work to take part in the Youth Guarantee programme. Those who refuse to take part in the scheme will not receive benefits.

The same measure applies to unemployed single parents up to 23 years of age. Single parents can benefit from free childcare services. “Becoming a single mother is not a profession. Support should be given to those who deserve it,” Scicluna says, adding that justice should be done with “genuine single mothers” while curtailing abuse.

Miriam Dalli
19:33 The government will be introducing an in-work benefit, where families with low income and with children up to 23 years of age, will be entitled to a maximum of €1,000 a year for every child. To benefit, the woman must be earning €3,000 and above. Single parents, who work, will be entitled to a maximum of €1,200 per child.

The measure will cost €2 million.

Miriam Dalli
19:28 Amid a little bit of booing from the Opposition benches, Scicluna confirmed that the cost of living adjustment will be of €0.58c but pensioners, students and full-time and part-time workers will receive a yearly bonus of €35. In the case of part-time workers and students, the bonus will be pro rata. Miriam Dalli
19:25 Scicluna announces a reform of the eco-contribution where the eco-contribution on electronics is removed. This inlcudes mobile phones, televisions, fridges and so forth. Miriam Dalli
19:19 Individuals with a €60,000 income or less will benefit from a 4% tax cut and will now be paying a 25% rate. The tax computation applies to everyone.

The tax band will be adjusted once again to ensure that those on minimum wage are not taxed.

A final withholding tax of 8% on the value of transferred property will be implemented.

A tax exemption measure introduced last year to first-time buyers will be retained during the first six months of 2015.
Miriam Dalli
19:08 Scicluna says price of the gas cylinders will remain stable until April, at a fixed price of €18. Excise duty on leaded petrol used by airports will increase by 2c while that on unleaded petrol will go up by 1c. Excise duty on gas oil, diesel, biodiesel, heavy fuel oil and petroleum will go up by 2c.

“However, the price of petrol and diesel will still go down thank to better prices negotiated by Enemed. The price of unleaded petrol will be of €1.42 per litre while the price of diesel will be of €1.35.”

Miriam Dalli
18:59 The government will be discussing with local councils the implementation of a new fee for cranes and other equipment used on construction sites and which lead to traffic increase. A daily €10 fee will be paid for the use of cranes taking up to 10 square-meters of space, while those exceeding this figure will pay a daily fee of €15. Miriam Dalli
18:56 As from 1 January, car licenses will go up. This measure will not impact those cars registered for the first time in 2009 onwards and those cars with CO2 emissions that don’t exceed 100g/km.

Miriam Dalli
18:53 Excise duty on mobile services will increase by 1%. Scicluna says that all increases, except for those on cigarettes and other tobacco products, will come into force as from 1 January. Miriam Dalli
18:51 Eco-contribution on tires, cartridges and certain types of fuel will be removed while excise duty will be introduced. Adopting a “the polluter pays principle”, the government is introducing excise duty on fish farm’s feed.

A 20c per litre excise duty on wine will also be implemented.

Miriam Dalli
18:47 The rate of economic growth during 2015 is expected to be of 3.5% during 2015 while the rate of inflation should stand around 1.5%. The rate of employment is expected to increase by 1.9% while the rate of unemployment is expected to remain in the region of 5.9%.

The government’s revenues are expected to stand at €3.55 billion while expenditure is set to be of around €3.7 billion: “The economy is growing and deficit is going down.”

Miriam Dalli
18:44 The deficit for 2014 is expected to be at 2.1%, and down to 1.6% during 2015. Miriam Dalli
18:41 According to a budget implementation report, the Labour government has implemented 80% of the measures announced in Budget 2014. Miriam Dalli
18:40 Scicluna says the government aims to invest economic growth to increase families’ quality of living: “We will increase opportunities, improve education, strengthen health services, invest in infrastructure and create social justice.”

Among others, Scicluna is expected to announce a new project for Malta’s south.

Miriam Dalli
18:38 Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and he starts immediately by lauding the positive results achieved over the past months. Budget 2014, he says, prepared the foundations for coming measures that will reward hard work.

“Budget 2015 is about rewarding hard work and therefore making work pay. We want to harp on the message that social benefits should not become a dependency.”

The government’s goals are for Malta to attain one of the highest economic growth rates across Europe; increase quality jobs; reduce burdens for both households and businesses; encourage work; create a business friendly environment and encourage public private partnerships.

Miriam Dalli
18:23 Parliament officials busy handing out copies of the Budget speech and financial estimates to members of parliament and ministers. Miriam Dalli
18:03 Good evening and welcome to our live-blog. The House of Representatives is business as usual, despite the cameras outside and the full seats in the strangers’ gallery. MPs are currently busy with parliamentary questions.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, having finished his briefing with journalists at the Finance Ministry, will present next year’s budget at 6.30pm.

Miriam Dalli
17:52 Welcome to our live-blog - make sure to follow us on hashtag #maltabudget Matthew Vella

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