In a statement with Alternattiva Demokratika’s first reactions to the Budget 2019, AD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said that while the budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, quality of life is not measured solely by financial metrics and the budget does not tackle other aspects which are equally important.
While it makes sense to mention the necessity of waste recycling, the budget stops there and it does not address how this effort should be integrate into a circular economy, even though the environment minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.
The speech emphasizes energy generation from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste to be viable. The speech is however silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste. Government is trying to square the circle, on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make a huge incinerator viable.
The budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half baked and token solutions. Among them is on water policy. The speech mentions incentives for repairs of existing wells but it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without wells, with the consequence that water ends up in sewers or flooding the streets. Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.
The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The speech mentions financial incentives to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem.
Cacopardo reiterated that government spending of one hundred million Euros for road widening a year will only increase congestion and push users of alternative means of transport off the roads. It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.
On the environment as the budget speaks of a strategic environmental plan as if we have not had enough plans and reports already. Carmel Cacopardo said that AD hopes that no more time is wasted when what is needed is concrete and determined action to improve the environment in which we live and on which we depend for our wellbeing. There are enough strategic plans, what is needed now is action.
Cacopardo also said that the budget speech is contradictory. While the finance minister declares himself against tax evasion, at the same time however, he does not mention the fact the Maltese government today, like its predecessor, systematically encourages foreign companies to register in Malta using the carrot of lower tax payments than they would pay in their country of origin. The finance minister also failed to explain how government intends to work against tax evasion when within at the same time high officials in government opened accounts in Panama with the obvious intention of evading taxes.
The speech also refers to the rule of law and tries again give the impression that all is well in our country. However the speech leaves out the most crucial aspect which will strengthen the rule of law; the launch of the constitutional convention has been conveniently forgotten. “Only when addressing the distribution of power through constitutional reform will the country make a leap forward in the rule of law”, said Cacopardo.
There are also issues that the budget speech completely ignored. These include the proposal is made by a number of organisations for determining a living wage, a measure which would truly give dignity to all workers. It is also disgraceful that the budget speaks of immigration only as a matter of security and is completely silent on investing in the integration of people who are contributing to Maltese society. The budget does not speak on creative ways to tackle housing issues such as the creation of cooperatives in the housing sector to reduce the financial pressure on a substantial number of people. The budget boasts of the huge number of tourists visiting Malta and Gozo but fails to mention the need for sustainability in this sector. If we do not move towards a sustainable model of tourism both the sector itself and also the quality of life of people will suffer. Cacopardo also reiterated AD’s concerns that the cost of living adjustment is calculated using a formula drawn up years ago and which badly needs updating. The budget speech included measures to help people with autism in the health chapter, when the world is moving away from the medical model of how we look at these conditions. We expect this issue to be treated from an educational policy point of view.
“Overall while the budget highlights financial welfare, at the same time it loses an opportunity to make a lasting difference in a number of areas important for our quality of life that go beyond finances” concluded Carmel Cacopardo.