Next budget to include more income tax refunds – Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the government’s efforts to bring more investment to Malta would allow it create more wealth for it to redistribute

The government will be giving a second income tax refund in the coming Budget, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday.

Speaking during an interview on ONE Radio, Muscat said that after offering workers a refund on their income tax in the last time round, the next Budget would include a second round of refunds.

Muscat stressed that for the government to be in a position to cut taxes and increase pensions, it needed to secure more investment.

“For this to happen the economy needs to grow, but the economy doesn’t grow on its own,” he said. “It grows when you bring work to the country.”

Muscat said that despite some criticism, he firmly believe it was his job to go to foreign countries and to help Maltese businesses secure more sales or establish a presence abroad.

Turning to a recent trade mission to Japan, which he led, Muscat said that despite the fact that Japan was the world’s third largest economy, Malta still exported more to the country than it imported.

He said that in Tokyo, government officials had discussed the possibility of collaboration in a number of areas including the registration of ships, financial services as well as blockchain.

There was also significant potential in education and tourism, Muscat said, adding that Japanese tourists on average spent much more than those from other countries.

Potential new exports to Japan

During his, Muscat said he had learnt that Japan was 10th largest producer of pork in the world, and that despite this, it could only supply 50% of its requirement.

He said the government, with the blessing of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was exploring the possibility of exporting local pork to Japan.

Similarly, he said that Japan had last year experienced a potato scarcity, another product Malta could potentially export. 

“This is how you grow the economy. You don’t just go for the ceremony’s and to say that you went to the country, but rather to go and bring something back.”

Tuna operators must respect the rules

Muscat touched upon the issue of sea slime washing up on Maltese beaches as a result of the feeding of tuna in fish farms off the coast. Tuna is Malta’s main export to Japan, and is a multi-million Euro industry.

Muscat said that while in Japan he had seen auctions of Maltese tuna, together with a number of the local operators, and had witnessed first-hand, the reputation that Maltese tuna has. He said however that he had spoken to operators about the situation.

 “I said that I am here to help you sell more, but this slime in the sea in unacceptable,” Muscat said, adding that he had told operators that the government would be taking action to ensure that rules are complied with.

“If there isn’t equipment that keeps this slime from coming out, we will not allow feeding.”

 

Muscat noted that four out of five operators had already signed a voluntary agreement, and committed to taking action.

Less people living at risk of poverty

Briefly touching upon the recently published European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), Muscat reiterated that his government did not believe in taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor, but rather, was a firm believer in the creating more wealth for it to redistribute.  

He noted that the number of people at risk of poverty had risen by 15,000 between 2008 and 2013, but had fallen by 16,000 since then.

This, he said, was due to the government’s policies, which had created employment, and had helped those that genuinely couldn’t do so.

He said that the statistics had shown that the number of people in sever material depravation had also dropped considerably, while more people had stated they could afford to take their family on holiday.

Price of fuel still lower than EU average

On the increase in the price of fuel, which was announced earlier this week, Muscat said that the government’s policy on fuel and energy was one that favoured stability. He insisted that what was important was for operators to be able to plan in the long-term, adding that the price of fuel had not changed in 82 weeks. Moreover, he said local prices remained lower than EU average.

Muscat said that government would continue monitoring the price of oil and will take a decision on a number hedging agreement towards the end of the year.

Adrian Delia has made Egrant lie his own

Finally, turning to the Nationalist Party and the Egrant saga, Muscat said that last week he had appealed for a united Opposition, and it now appeared that the Opposition had chosen to unite behind former leader Simon Busuttil.

“It is clear that the de facto leader of the Opposition is Simon Busuttil, and I wish him well in his new role,” Muscat said, adding that the PN had agreed that the Busuttil did not need to shoulder responsibility for his actions.  

“Adrian Delia and the rest of the Nationalist Party have made the Egrant lie their own.”

Muscat also said he was amazed at how Busuttil had not yet spoken clearly about what he “knew or didn’t know”

“Nothing and no one will take anything away from the fact that the Opposition was trying to jump on a lie and an act of fraud to destabilise the country.”

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