[WATCH] Muscat on Air Malta: Nothing will keep us from taking important decisions

The Prime Minister said that the government would be explaining what needed to be done in the coming days

The government would be in the coming days be announcing decisions regarding Air Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning
The government would be in the coming days be announcing decisions regarding Air Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning that “nothing and no one” would stand in the way of the government’s efforts to turn Air Malta around.

“[It] will remain the main pillar of Malta’s tourism sector and one of the backbone’s of the country’s economy,” said Muscat.

Addressing a political activity in Naxxar, Muscat explained that the government would in the coming days be showing how the work it had done in regards to the airline in the last four years had started bearing fruit, and what decisions needed to be taken going forward.

He said it was time for “important decisions” to be taken, adding that ”everyone would have to live up to their responsibilities”. Earlier this week, Muscat said in a tweet that the government was committed to bringing the airline back on its feet.

Turning to last week’s budget, Muscat said one would be hard pressed to find a budget similar to Malta’s

“If you were to go through all the budgets in the world, tell me if you would find one without any increases in taxes and without any new tax. In itself this is enough to show what a long way this country has come,” said Muscat.

He maintained that Malta was not only on its way to being the best in Europe, but one of the best in the world, as he emphasised that the government had managed to plan next year’s budget without adding any costs to families. This he said would allow families to spend more, which would inspire increased confidence in businesses and in turn would continue to expand the economy.

As he went through the various measures in the budget, he said that while the in-work benefits for couples with one wage earner had gone up to €450 per child, the government had also thought of stay-at-home mothers by not increasing taxes and thus not creating new burdens.

Muscat said that some budgetary measures had not been given much prominence, as he highlighted that while the cost of living adjustment (COLA) would be of €1.75, as from next year anyone who has been on minimum wage for a year or more would enjoy an increase of €5.75 per week. This increase had not decided on by the government unilaterally, but had been a drawn up through agreement with the social partners.

Moreover, all full or part-time workers - totally around 200,000 - will be from next year given an extra bonus of between €40-68, and this would also apply to pensioners who where still working. He explained that the electoral manifesto had projected the extra bonus to be of €200-340, but that this amount was the amount which will be given throughout the legislature, as the bonus given will be increasing year after year. Citizens were now also better off by about €70 million, through the decreases in water and electricity bills.

This, along with measures such as the first and second-time buyers schemes, and higher VAT-thresholds, ensures that people now have more money.

Muscat drew attention to the fact that 11 out of 12 salary scales which had not seen an increase in the last ten years were those pertaining to teachers and other educational sector employees. The Labour electoral manifesto had said it would address this, and the government would be keeping its promise.

There were other challenges to be addressed, related to the infrastructure, the roads, traffic and rent. The majority of people own their own house, the Prime Minister noted, but there is a minority who rent and these are feeling short-changed. Proportional measures have to be taken to address this, as opposed to drastic legislation which would make proper-owners hesitant to put their property up for rent.

The government had made great advances in terms of education, he claimed. It had built and will continue to build new schools, and as from next year the first school planned in consultation with teachers and designed in such a way as to be equipped for children with autism, will be built.

“This was not an accountant’s or a politician’s budget, but a budget drawn up with an economic rationale,” Muscat said, “The people will keep feeling the difference in their pockets.” He added that the majority of people felt that they were better off now than four years ago.

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