A Nationalist government will reduce corporate tax to 15% on the first €500,000 profit made by ESG-compliant businesses, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said on Monday. 

Grech was addressing a press conference during which he also made pledges to improve income for the unemployed and promised to introduce a new mechanism by which to measure national wealth. 

“As a party we are presenting a concrete vision of how we can reduce poverty, ensure local businesses are not discriminated and that the increasing cost of living will not impact the growing number of people at risk of poverty,” he said.

Tax for business

Grech said a PN government would reduce the tax rate for ESG-compliant businesses to 15% on the first €500,000 in profit they generate.

“Our taxation model must continue to be modernised and improved so that we can generate more income and keep tax burdens on Maltese and Gozitan families as low as possible,” he said. 

Local businesses currently pay a flat tax rate of 35%. 

ESG (Environmental, social and governance) are a set of standards for a company’s operations to ensure they are socially conscious investors, and follow good governance measures. 

The governing Labour Party has also promised business owners a tax cut if elected, although the PL proposal is to reduce the rate to 25% on the first €250,000 in profit.

Helping the unemployed

Grech also announced plans to significantly increase unemployment benefits. 

Under the PN plan, a person who is registered as unemployed would receive the equivalent of the minimum wage for up to 12 months. 

Currently, unemployment benefits are calculated based on the number of social security contributions an applicant has made and are only paid for a maximum of 156 days. 

He said a support scheme will also be launched for workers and self-employed who have been out of work due to serious illness. 

The scheme will include a financial benefit, credit for social security contributions to workers and employees and personalised therapy support. 

The PN leader also said the party wanted to introduce a new mechanism by which to measure national wellbeing. He did not provide much detail, saying the new mechanism would not only be determined by economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GPD) but composed of a range of indicators that measure the well-being of society.

A yearly quota of additional ODZ land 

Apart from the social-economic measures, Grech also announced a number of environmental measures, stating that now is the time to safeguard open spaces and rural environment. 

He said the party will drive a ‘radical change’ to the country’s environmental policy by forming strong alliances with those who ‘truly care about the country’s environment’. 

“Each year, the Nationalist government will add 50,000 square meters of public land to areas considered as ODZ [Outside Development Zone],” Grech said. 

He clarified the public land will be government land. 

He said a Nationalist government would ensure that no development takes place on ODZ land unless the project is approved by two-thirds of MPs in parliament, a measure announced back in September.

Asked by a journalist whether this proposal meant the PN now considered its 2006 decision to expand local plans to be a mistake, Grech said many people had benefited from that expansion. 

“We cannot go back in time, but now we must move forward to ensure that if there were mistakes in that process, we do not repeat them,” he said. 

€10,000 grant for ditching your car 

Grech also said the PN wants to reduce cars on the road by offering a €10,000 grant to any family that goes carless for five years.

The grant will be payable over a five-year period, with one grant per household available. 

Malta Today poll best reflects 'reality'

Asked about the three surveys published on Sunday, Grech said he respects 'everyone's work' but said the Malta Today survey best reflects the situation. 

Malta Today's survey envisaged a Labour win of 23,000 votes, it-Torca's survey predicted a 41,000 gap and Times of Malta above 44,000. 

"The Malta Today survey better reflects what we are feeling on the ground, the situation where people are returning to the party behind the scenes and helping however they can," he said. 

Losing a Gozitan mayor

Grech admitted that he was disappointed to see Għasri mayor Daniel Attard quit the party, but said politics is made of people "coming and going."

Attard announced on Sunday that he was resigning from the PN, doing so just one day after he was see publicly greeting Labour leader and Prime Minister Robert Abela. 

Grech said he spoke to Attard six days ago and did not know what Attard and Abela had discussed.

He said Attard's decision might have been motivated by "personal" reasons.

"Politics is not a walk in the park. I am sure there are also people in your line of work, journalists, who resign for personal reasons," he said.

“It’s not nice to have someone leave but I respect those who make sure choices. We encourage people to return," he added, noting that former PN councillors in St Paul's Bay had recently rejoined the party.

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