Increased pensions, less income tax, and free medicines, Busuttil pledges

Simon Busuttil says future PN government would implement long-term plan for traffic, increase pensions and exempt them from income tax, and fight to eradicate poverty • PN leader welcomes Arcbishop Scicluna’s Independence Day declaration

A Nationalist government would increase pensions, give free medicines to the elderly, exempt pensions from income tax, and revise tax rates on dividends for pensioners, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil pledged today.

Speaking on Radio 101, Busuttil insisted that a future Nationalist administration would fight to eradicate poverty, arguing that it is “useless” having Malta register strong economic growth when only the “few millionaires” were reaping the benefits while the rest were struggling.

Lambasting the government for increasing the rent for social housing, Busuttil said this was akin to a tax on poverty and evidence that the Labour administration had lost all “moral authority”.

“A PN government will not only reverse the increase in social housing rent rates introduced by the government but will also subsidise those renting private accommodation,” he said.

The Opposition leader said recent poverty statistics by the National Statics Office, had shown that 94,000 people were at risk of poverty, 6,000 more than when Labour took office in March 2013.

“Can you imagine a minimum wage earner paying €500 a month in rent? It is not financially viable; no wonder that these people will end up living in poverty,” Busuttil said.

Repeated calls for the government to increase Malta’s minimum wage were recently shot down by finance minister Edward Scicluna, who in comments to MaltaToday, argued that this would not necessarily solve the problem of poverty as many people who fall below the poverty line are unemployed or pensioners.

And Busuttil, who during Tuesday’s Independence Day mass meeting pledged to eradicate poverty and provide all medicines for free to the elderly, upped the ante on Sunday as he promised that a PN government would increase pensions and exempt them from income tax.

Similarly, the PN leader said he would revise the income tax rates which sees pensioners 35% tax on dividends.

“These are concrete proposals that show that the Nationalist Party will fight to eradicate poverty, and show the country that unlike the Labour Party, we have a social soul,” Busuttil argued.

Turning his attention on traffic, Busuttil said a Nationalist government would implement long-term measures to alleviate Malta’s long-standing traffic congestion problems, and suggested the introduction of a tram system or light-rail transport system to mitigate traffic congestion. The idea of a tram system has since been picked up by the government, and on Wednesday, it launched a call for offers on the possibility of a tramline in Malta.

However, Busuttil said the Opposition had exposed the government's lack of "road map", and claimed that transport minister Joe Mizzi only "woke up" when the PN rolled out its proposal for a tramline.

"We need a government with a long-term plan and a vision and not a party depending on the PN’s ideas," Busuttil quipped.

The PN leader said the public transport system is worse than it was under the previous administration, and argued that a tram or a light-rail transport system would connect all of Malta, possibly also to a tunne linking Malta and Gozo, if the latter project was viable. 

The Opposition leader also said that all politicians must heed Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s warnings, after the latter pulled no punches in delivering a hard-hitting message against the government’s “disregard for the truth” and “obscure dealings.”

“This was the most important and direct declaration ever by a Maltese archbishop … Scicluna’s message was directed at the government, not at the Opposition,” he said.

“Politicians must heed the archbishop’s warning and the PN is embracing such values,” Dr Busuttil concluded.

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