Reduction in poverty as a result of past budget measures, minister says

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said this year's budget will again be focusing on the distribution of wealth and on maintaining a sustainable level of economic growth 

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna during Tuesday's publication of the pre-budget document
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna during Tuesday's publication of the pre-budget document

The focus of the government’s budget for the coming year will be maintaining the country’s level of economic growth, while also ensuring that wealth is distributed fairly, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday launching the ministry’s pre-budget document on Tuesday, Scicluna said the government wanted there to be a serious discussion on what the country needed before the budget.

He said that like others before it, the budget would be focusing on the distribution of wealth. The pre-budget document is titled ‘Maintaining inclusive growth’.  

The minister said the government had both a moral and political responsibility to ensure that wealth was distributed evenly and fairly across society.

Turning to European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), Scicluna insisted that while one could not hope to completely eradicate poverty, it was important to compare Malta to other European countries.

He said there was a lot said about people living in poverty, but stressed that the reality was that the number of people living in poverty had fallen from 25% to 19% between 2017 and 2018.

During his speech, Scicluna made reference to economic and European statistics, quoting the latest survey on poverty issued by the Eurostat. 

“A lot is said about families and individuals in poverty, but no matter whether the situation is good or bad, one has to compare Malta to other countries,” he said. 

Scicluna said that the reality is, that the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion had fallen from 25% to 19%.

This, Scicluna said, was a result of the government’s efforts to distribute wealth as evenly as possible through its annual budget, which over the years has included increases in housing benefits, children’s allowance, pensions, as well as tax refunds.  

Scicluna also said that while the country’s economic growth will continue, it would not be as large as that registered in 2015.

“We are expecting the economic growth to be sustained, but the rate will go down from 7% to between 5 and 6%, which is still very good,” Scicluna said. 

Asked about the recent price hike on fuel and milk, Scicluna insisted that the increase needed to be considered within the context of increased income and couldn’t be interpreted alone.

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