[LIVE] Budget 2013 live blog

Follow us live for Budget 2013 in the first budget to be presented by Labour finance minister Edward Scicluna.

Finance Minister Edward Sclcluna upon arriving at the Palace. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)
Finance Minister Edward Sclcluna upon arriving at the Palace. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)

9:00pm The first session of the 12th legislature is about to end. Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech is currently reading the first adjournment motion. Parliament is adjourned to 9am tomorrow morning. The two parties will be holding a press conference in the Parliament building in Valletta. 

8:57pm The permanent residence scheme will be reviewed and other measures to attract foreign investment will be looked into. Addressing the private sector, Muscat says: "You can work with us and we will allow you to work freely. We mean business." In his concluding remarks, Muscat says the government is prepared to work with everyone, including the Opposition. 

8:55pm This is only the beginning, Muscat says, adding that the construction industry was put on the wrong track by the previous administration. He also announces a reduction in MEPA tariffs, which "will allow the construction sector to become sustainable."

8:51pm The former shipbuilding site, "a site with massive potential" is attracting interest from the private sector. He says the project would be strictly tied to maritime sector and not to the development of property. He adds that the process to create land reclamation projects will also be kicked off "to give a new lease of life to the construction industry."

8:45pm Muscat's speech, peppered with jibes at the Opposition lands him into a lighthearted exchange of words with former finance minister Tonio Fenech. Fenech's comment that Muscat had to replace him by appointing four ministers to take over his job, Muscat quickly replies that it was done to avoid repeating Feench's fiascos.Muscat says that the government will also issue a call for tender for a cruise liner terminal in Gozo and two casinos, one in Malta and one in Gozo. 

8:41pm The budget approval is the first step towards creating jobs. This will be done by issuing a call for innovative ideas to create jobs, issue an expression of interest for the new power plant "which will be completed 100%" and which already received overwhelming response from the private sector. 

8:38pm Muscat reiterates his commitment to reduce bureaucracy. He says that since taking office he has already faced resistance withing the public service to carry out changes, however he stressed the government's drive to change common practices and excessive bureaucracy. 

8:36pm "The government and the country will make it. There is no turning back. We will be successful in creating jobs and fostering economic growth."

8:35pm Next week the government will set up a financial and economic affairs Parliamentary committee, in which the Opposition will be invited to. He adds that bi-partisan efforts will also be undertaken in connection to job creation. An independent fiscal council will also be created. 

8:32pm "The bad news is that this year's deficit will grow, the good news is that this will be corrected by the year's end." He adds that the government will be entering discussions with the European Commission to achieve the set targets.  

8:30pm Muscat confirms that Enemalta's failure to pay 60 million euros in levies is "accounted for."

8:28pm The required seriousness in governance is reflected in the government's "hands-on" approach, epitomised by home affairs minister Manuel Mallia's surprise visit at the Corradino Correctional Facility. 

8:26pm Muscat rebuts criticism of the size and cost of his Cabinet of Ministers saying that "money will be saved" by reducing the wages of the chairmen of government agencies. 

8:24pm The government is prepared to enter discussions to remove powers from government once an election is called. He also take a jibe at the former administration's loss of ministers and other important figures in the final part of the previous legislature. 

8:22pm He says the Opposition's decision to vote in favour of the budget is a vote of confidence in the government. (This is Parliament's first sitting in the 12th legislature)

8:21pm On the much criticised President's speech in the State Opening of Parliament, Muscat says that he expected better from the Opposition leader. 

8:19pm All workers should put their mind at rest, Muscat says as the government is committed to guarantee job creation. In a snide remark, he says the government has already started off by creating a vacancy at the helm of the Nationalist Party. 

8:16pm Muscat says Gonzi's claims that the government would be employing 400 persons at Air Malta must be a delayed April Fool joke. 

8:14pm Muscat described the budget speech as the most "sober" speech in memory which shows that the government would be implementing all electoral promises. 

8:09pm He underlines the country's strong banking and financial sector and says that no foreign body would be allowed to weaken or shed doubt on the country's reputation. 

8:07pm Muscat says never has there been an instance in which an MP voted against a bill in connection with financial services, dismissing any attempts "to weaken the country's resolve and agreement on the importance of the sector to Malta's economy."

8:05pm Its the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's turn to address the Chamber. He starts off by thanking Gonzi for his efforts as Prime Minister and says that Gonzi was a loyal opponent. He adds that the Opposition's reaction to the budget was also a positive sign.  

8:04pm Gonzi says the Opposition will stand behind the government in a bid to achieve its targets and for that reason it would be voting for the budget. 

8:02pm "I honestly want the best for the country and I honestly have no idea how this government will make ends meet and achieve its targets," Gonzi says, adding that the PN administration achieved a number of records in tourism, the economy and education with half the Cabinet numbers the government has. 

7:58pm The Opposition backs the government's efforts to defend the country's reputation in the international sphere. Gonzi urges the Prime Minister and the finance minister to be vigilant. 

7:55pm What happened in Cyprus should serve as a lesson for us, Gonzi says, adding that this can only be avoided if the government is very careful and prudent. He stresses the importance of achieving a surplus to start servicing the country's debts. 

7:51pm He stresses the importance of education in providing the necessary human resources to achieve economic growth. Gonzi adds that the country must provide the right environment and conditions to attract foreign investment, highlighting the importance of fiscal initiatives. 

7:45pm Gonzi adds that the government did not outline its plans for the €1.1 billion EU funds achieved by his administration, with Opposition MPs showing their approval of Gonzi's comment. 

7:43pm Other sectors which were"worryingly" left out of the government's roadmap are agriculture and job creation in Gozo. "Once again Gozo runs the risk of becoming a Cinderella." He also slams the government's failure to mention migration. 

7:40pm The former administration's focus on tourism is not reflected in the new government's budget speech. He adds that hopefully rumours on the government's intention to employ 400 persons as loaders at Air Malta proved to be false. Gonzi asks for a 15 minute extension, which is granted by the Government's whip Carmelo Abela. 

7:36pm It is worrying that the government had left manufacturing out of its roadmap.

7:33pm Gonzi hits out at the government's failure to mention the need to create 25,000 jobs which he says is essential in the country's success in achieving growth. 

7:31pm He adds that the removal of taxation on the inheritance of residential homes was only extended to all properties in the PN's electoral programme and not in the budget. 

7:29pm Gonzi denies that the PN administration did not commit any funds to a number of measures as claimed by Scicluna. However, the new Labour government had no qualm increasing the Cabinet of Ministers to 23 and increase the wages of the ministries' head of secretariats.  

7:25pm Gonzi says that if there were any discrepancies between the speech made in 2012 and the financial estimates, the European Commission would have flagged the issue. Standing by the estimates presented by the PN administration, Gonzi asked what was carried out differently which resulted in the discrepancies as claimed to be by Scicluna.

Taking Enemalta's €66 million duty debt, Gonzi questioned whether this was what impacted the government's income. The Opposition leader added that if government chose not to add this debt to government's income, then this was what led to deficit to surpass the 3%.

Once again, Gonzi also denies that his government had any plans to increase utility bills.

7:20pm He adds that the Budget debate cannot be held without keeping in mind the President's speech. Gonzi asks "what change of direction is government talking about?" noting that following Edward Scicluna's budget speech the answers are nowhere to be seen.

Gonzi says the Minister's speech did not tally with measures: "When we seek political susbtance we find nothing." 

7:17pm Gonzi says that he expected that the Opposition is treated with dignity, adding that the President's speech in the State Opening of Parliament on Saturday was uncalled for and insulting. 

7:16pm The country's successes were down to job creation. The progress was achieved in the midst of economic woes which plagued other countries.   

7:14pm Gonzi expects the Labour government to maintain and better the conditions it inherited. 

7:12pm The Labour government cannot say that it inherited a country in dire straits, Gonzi says, insisting this was confirmed by the latest Labour Force Survey issued by the NSO showing that 173,000 persons were in employment.   

7:08pm Repeating his party's responsible decision, Gonzi says the PN is ready to a pay a political price for job creation and showing confidence in the private sector. 

7:05pm The PN would vote in favour of the Budget because, unlike Labour, it did not practice politics of convenience. "We understand that the country, investors, the European Commission international credit agencies and needa strong message of political and economic stability."

7:03pm Never in recent political history did an Opposition party vote in favour of a budget, showing the PN's maturity and understanding of the national interest. However, the Labour Party had done otherwise in December, choosing to vote against the budget, despite praising the PN's decision. "What was right for them now has become wrong following Labour's reasoning," Gonzi says. 

6:59pm Gonzi says that stability and peace of mind must be guaranteed by whoever is in government. "It gives me joy that the budget presented by the previous administration was maintained. This means that the budget was based on solid economic foundations."

6:55pm Now its the Opposition leader Lawrence Gonzi to address the House. He wished Scicluna the best of luck and thanks him providing the Opposition with the information and statistics this morning. 

6:53pm Scicluna ends his speech with a message of hope, saying that he envisages a "compassionate and inclusive country where nobody feels isolated."  

6:51pm The budget is a stock take exercise and the Labour government's first real budget will be the 2014 budget. 

6:50pm There is no space for bureaucracy in a country competing in the international market. He adds that simplification measures will be introduced. 

6:48pm The public sector must be efficient, transperent, effective and all departments must understand that they are at the service of the public and the business community. 

6:46pm Good jobs will be created and precarious jobs will be eradicated and this can only be done through training. More women need to enter the labour force. 

6:43pm The government believes that investment and jobs could be created in the green economy. 

6:40pm He says the government will not introduce new taxes but will foster economic growth. 

6:38pm The government's 2013 revenue is expected to suffer a €57 million dip. On the otehr hand expenditure will increase by €10 million. 

6:36pm The finance minister says the deficit is expected to increase by €68 million, rising to €164 million. He adds that the government will announce a number of measures to foster economic growth, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat would be announcing them in his speech later this evening.

6:33pm He adds that the government was looking reducing the deficit by 0.6% every year until achieving a surplus. 

6:32pm The 2012 deficit stands at 3.3%, Scicluna says, adding that the government's aim is to reduce the deficit to 2.7% of GDP by the end of the year, one percentage point higher than the previous administration's forecast. This means that Malta will re-enter the EU's excessive deficit procedure programme.

6:28pm On the other hand government expenditure increased by €26 million, which were mostly spent in health and social security services. 

6:25pm He says the reduction was the result of drastic reduction is income from levies, VAT and other taxes, whicg totalled  €150 million. This includes  €66 million in owed levies from Enemalta and  €100 million in EU funds.

6:24pm Scicluna says that in 2012 the government revenues reduced by  245 million when compared to the approved estimate.

6:20pm He says that the consolidated funds deficit forecast by the PN administration in November had gone up from €142 million to €342 million. 

6:17pm Scicluna says that when elected to office he found out that the previous government had prepared three different versions of the 2013 budget; former minister Tonio Fenech's budget speech, the 2013 budget estimates and the draft laws prepared by the previous administration.He says the differences between the three versions "were not small."

6:15pm He adds that the government and the opposition had agreed on approving the same budget presented by the previous government in November 2012, with the exception of the removal of income tax on minimum wage earners. 

6:12pm Scicluna kicks off the session. He say: "Tonight I will not talk on the past and on whose fault it was (for delayed Budget approval). The people have decided clearly and my duty and the government duty is to manage the country's finances competently and ensure that the public finances are managed responsibly. The people deserve and expect the government to be sensible."

6:06pm The session will be divided in three, with finance minister Edward Scicluna holding the budget speech first. The House will than be addressed by Opposition leader Lawrence Gonzi and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. 

6:05pm The session is underway with Speaker Anglu Farrugia explaining the procedures to be followed during this evening's session.

6:02pm On PBS, economist Alfred Mifsud says that short of any new announcements, what we should expect is Scicluna's speech on the state of public finances as they stand today. Remember that the previous administration made sound finances a pillar of its track record, so expect some form of criticism of the Nationalists' stewardship of public finances.

5:59pm The big issue about this year's Budget is that expenditure has shot up over previous estimates, but the Labour government still believes it is possible to have a deficit - currently at 3.2% of GDP - below the 3% threshold. Watch this space.

5:58pm Welcome to our live blog. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna today presents his first ever budget. He was previously one of the staple commentators on so many budgets... he now has to take ownership for the government budget. This will be the budget that failed to pass back in December 2012 when Nationalist MP Franco Debono voted against it, taking the country to 'early' elections.