Finance ministry accuses Opposition of ‘improper reading of basic finance statistics’

The Nationalist Party said on Friday that the deficit registered by the central government in 2018 was a result of the government’s 'reckless spending' and ‘corrupt practices’ over the last year

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

The finance ministry has pushed back against claims made by the Nationalist Party’s finance spokesperson yesterday, that the central government registered a deficit in 2018 as a result of reckless spending and corrupt practices.

Figures released by the National Statistics Office yesterday showed that the central government finances registered a deficit of €70.2 million last year, reversing a surplus of €183 million registered in 2017.

Reacting to the news, the PN’s finance spokesperson Mario de Marco said the statistics showed the government had “bloated the daily cost of running government” with costs being financed by one-off revenue streams”.

“Those streams are running dry and now government and the Maltese tax-payer are being faced with the problem of how to sustain the reckless spending of Government,” the PN said.

However, in a statement on Saturday morning, the finance ministry reassured tax payers that “revenue streams are not running dry and they face no problem in sustaining the Government budget”.

On the contrary, it said “never have revenue streams been so ample due to what the Commission calls the tax-rich composition of growth”.

This, it said, was contributing to the reduction in the National Debt “bequeathed to this government by an irresponsible Nationalist government. Moreover, the ministry said that for the first time in many decades, the country was slowly building a wealth fund which is intended as a “gift to posterity with its long-term investments in social areas”.

“Contrary to what the Opposition spokesperson Mario de Marco implied through his statement, the data does nowhere show any ‘reckless spending’ or ‘serious shortfall’ in government finances,” Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said. He added that “the lack of proper reading of basic national financial statistics by the Opposition is once again very telling”.

He pointed to the first paragraph of the NSO’s newsletter which states that the statistics were the starting point for the compilation of the General Government fiscal balance. Scicluna noted that the data did not cover more than 50 Extra-budgetary Units, nor local government accounts.

“The data published by the Treasury is therefore indicative an in no way can it be relied on as giving the full picture of accrued general government revenue and expenditure needed to conclude whether Malta ended the year in deficit or in surplus,” the Scicluna said.

“I can assure everyone that once again the Labour Government will not disappoint the taxpayer. When we say that the public finances are on track, we mean it.” 

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