AD calls for sustainable budget, increase in minimum wage

Alternattiva Demokratika says government’s expenditure programmes should be sustainable while aiming to improve environmental, social and economic targets.

Alternattiva Demokratika presented its proposals for Budget 2012
Alternattiva Demokratika presented its proposals for Budget 2012

Only two days before Budget day, Alternattiva Demokratika this morning presented 30 proposals for Budget 2012.

Chairperson Michael Briguglio, said that fiscal discipline is important when considering the current economic crisis.

"Budgetary deficits and public debt should be manageable. We support progressive income tax and believe that ceilings for low-income earners should be raised, in order that tax-free income for such persons is increased," Briguglio said.

AD proposed that property speculation should be taxed from third vacant property onwards. "Malta is a perpetual building site, while a quarter of properties are vacant. This would also encourage the renting and selling of properties, which are kept vacant for speculation purposes and the use of existing buildings rather than building more areas."

Briguglio reiterated that the minimum wage should increase and extended to part time and contractual workers and those who are registered as self-employed by their employers.

"We are also proposing measures such as tax breaks, venture capital initiatives and soft-loans for the generation of green jobs in areas such as education, IT, transport, tourism, waste management, agriculture," he said.

AD's spokesperson for the industry Ralph Cassar spoke about the public transport reform.

"It is now more than clear that the public transport service agreement has been designed to keep subsidies as low as possible, with routes merged together and the minimum possible number of buses.

"It is also clear that systems which were promised months ago such as electronic route displays on buses and electronic route timetables on bus stops are not even working yet."

Cassar said that people are left stranded in the rush hour, with timetables ignoring completely the surge in bus use early morning.

"A good public transport system needs to be adequately funded to guarantee a good service," he said. "Revenue streams for public transport, such as part of the incoming tax payable on all air travel, from tourists should be sought rather than the unwieldy system of charging different fees at point of use, which is bogging down the system."

On energy, Cassar government should embark on a serious and extensive programme to utilise available roof space to generate clean energy.

"Sites for a windfarm, onshore or in suitable offshore locations, for which experimental data by experts already exists should be identified as soon as possible," he said.

Cassar said he downward trend in prices for solar water heaters should replace electrical water heaters in all buildings.

"A phase out plan for electrical water heaters should be considered, with corresponding fiscal incentives. We also propose a national programme for the replacement of street lighting with low energy lighting," he said.

Angele Deguara, AD's spokesperson for Social Policy called for genuine efforts to address acute social problems such as people who are living below the poverty line, the high labour market inactivity rates and the need to reach vulnerable groups more effectively.

"As the pre-budget document itself suggests, we need to address the problem of inactivity among certain groups especially women, older people, single parents and persons with disability," she said. 

"We need realistic measures which will give tangible results.  As it is we are wasting the potential of many individuals who can contribute more effectively to the economy while improving their quality of life."

Deguara said access to the labour market was one way of reducing poverty and social exclusion. She also voiced the Green Party's support for further investment in support structures that would enable vulnerable groups to be reached more effectively.