News | Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Former Ministers, PN MPs call for stabilising budget

Karl Stagno-Navarra

Former PN minister Jesmond Mugliett is insisting with government that it should take on the banking sector and address the issues that are hindering the industry of finance.
“I do not believe that the fact that the banking sector in Malta is private should restrain government from taking certain measures or indirectly exert leverage,” Jesmond Mugliett said when giving his comments to Business Today on what he expects from the forthcoming budget.
He argues that Malta is one of the countries with the highest rates of interest, and “financing is not only relatively more expensive, but has been made increasingly difficult.”
While adding that the Maltese banking sector did not suffer the same shocks as American or British banks, the former minister for urban development and infrastructure, stressed that “still our industry has found it more difficult to obtain finance, and I know of a number of cases.”
Mugliett also believes that government must give a new stimulus to certain industries and consumption, and argues that there are certain industries which are suffering at the moment.
While pointing out the construction industry as an example, he explains that in countries having the same level of development as Malta, construction accounts for 8 to 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
“We cannot leave such an industry to hit the rocks, particularly because of its immediate multiplier effect on the economy,” he said.
Mugliett suggests that a measure that could be introduced is the reduction of stamp duty on the acquisition of property, perhaps for a definite period, to stimulate the sale of property.
He also talks about incentives for the use of renewable energy, explaining that while the last budget
included incentives for the use of renewables in the manufacturing industries, “other sectors need and merit similar incentives.”
These sectors include shops, particularly those needing refrigeration, offices and catering outlets.
“These sectors are passing on the burden of the utility tariffs and fuel prices to the general public, creating secondary inflation and reducing our country’s competitiveness,” he said, while adding that although times are not easy, where government revenue is set to register a shortfall of €80 million in projected revenue, “I do not think that the budget should impose new burdens on the general public, industry or the commercial sector.”
Former works minister Ninu Zammit stressed that government must ensure a more “efficient” and “pragmatic” way of utilising the resources at the Works Division and the numerous workers in technical grades, with the aim of maximising on works and maintenance, in way that the country would benefit and workers would be justly compensated for the work they deliver, rather than have their work be unnecessarily passed on to private companies.
Ninu Zammit stressed that more must be invested on “hands on” training and re-training schemes for workers to be specialised in restoration and thus make the country qualify for EU funding, intended to make a better tourist product and sustainable.
More investment in renewable sources of energy is also a key factor to be considered in the forthcoming budget, however he stresses that the sources must be “adaptable” for Malta.
While MP Beppe Fenech Adami said that he expects the budget to address the “big challenges” imposed on Malta by the current international crisis, he expects the Opposition to support it.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando expects a “realistic” budget, “one which takes the present financial situation into consideration,” adding also his expectation that the budget will give the economy a boost, leaving more money in people’s pockets without burdening over-stretched employers.
“Perhaps we should be reconsidering our priorities when it comes to capital expenditure at this particular point in time,” he said.
Francis Zammit Dimech, another former minister stressed that he expects the budget to focus on employment, on providing fiscal and other incentives in favour of jobs that are secure and that provide peace of mind to employees.
Zebbug MP Philip Mifsud shares the same opinion that the forthcoming budget must address the issue of sustainable employment.



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07 October 2009


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