Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday promised the forthcoming budget would include plans to improve environmental protection and air quality. 

Protestors took to the streets on Saturday to march against excessive development and environmental exploitation and Eurostat figures this week revealed that Maltese people are the most likely in the EU to be exposed to pollution.

Speaking during an interview on ONE radio, Dr Muscat did not elaborate further on what these budget plans entail. 

He said Malta’s strong economy, which is growing at three times the European average, meant the government could spend more on the things that matter. 

Thanks to this growth, the government had been able to increase spending without raising taxes, he said.

The Prime Minister said €11 million a year was being given back to families thanks to tax refunds. 

He reminded how the government had reduced energy tariffs, was spending €20 million yearly on offer free childcare and was also offering free school transport.

'Unprecedented' stock offering

Dr Muscat hailed the “unprecedented” situation this week which saw bond subscribers willing to lend the government money at negative interest rates. 

“For the first time, lenders will actually pay us to lend us money. They have faith in the government. They know they will get their money back”, Dr Muscat said. 

He said the government had chosen to only borrow €80 million out of a possible €300 million that investors had offered. 

Dr Muscat said the fact that the government was borrowing less and paying less interest for that borrowing meant more money could be used for improving pensions and roads. 

Rent law proposals

Turning to proposed new rent laws, the Prime Minister said 80 per cent of Maltese are homeowners. 

He said the government was seeking to help those 20 per cent in the rental market. 

Dr Muscat said the proposed laws had been drawn up after a year-long consultation process. Following this, a decision had been taken to help those in the unregulated rental market. 

He said the proposed law would make rental contracts compulsory and introduce a minimum one-year rental period. Landlords would have to notify tenants in advance before raising rental prices, he said. 

“People need stability, not someone knocking on their door changing the goalposts overnight”, he said. 

He said the government was open to tweaking the law to further perfect it. 

Landords voiced their concerns about the proposed law during a meeting organised by the Malta Developers Association last week. 

The proposed law is currently being discussed within a parliamentary committee. 

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