The government increased spending on social protection, education and health in 2019 but spent less on recreation, culture and religion, figures from the National Statistics Office show. 

The NSO said total general government expenditure increased by more than €400 million from 2018, amounting to €4,989.9 million.

It broke down the spending on government functions in a commonly used methodology to examine the structure of expenditure. 

Social protection remained the core function of government expenditure in 2019, representing almost 30 per cent, followed by general public services, health and education, the National Statistics Office said.

As well as being the primary expenditure function. amounting to almost €1,500 m, social protection also registered the largest expenditure increase (€100 m)/

In particular, this reflects higher expenditure on social benefits (almost €38 million) and the extension of the St Vincent de Paul long term care facility for the elderly (more than €22 million).

Spending on general public services registered a rise of more than €88 million, the second largest increase over 2018, mainly because of gross capital formation (€25 million) and the new subsidy payment to the Malta Financial Services Authority of almost €23 million.

This was followed by education and health, which both increased by more than €65 million.

The increase in education expenditure was mainly due to higher compensation of employees (almost €23 million) and the provision of free school transport ( nearly €13 million).

A rise in health expenditure was mainly down to higher wages and salaries (over €30 million) and a larger outlay on medicines and surgical materials used for hospital services (€22 million).

Spending on environment protection increased by €38 million and amounted to over €194 million.

Almost all functions of general government expenditure registered an increase, except for recreation, culture and religion, which registered a slight decrease, the NSO said.

In 2019, the highest share of general government expenditure was allocated to social protection, which accounted for 29.1 per cent of the total outlay.

This was followed by general public services (15 per cent), health (14.7 per cent), education (14.2 per cent) and economic affairs (13.8 per cent).

Expenditure on environment protection registered a share of 3.9 per cent, while public order and safety recorded a share of 3.4 per cent.

Similar to 2018, expenditure on housing and community amenities had the lowest share of total expenditure, followed by defence, amounting to 1.1 and 1.9 per cent respectively.

General public services as a share of total general government expenditure registered an increase of 0.6 percentage points over 2018, which represented the highest increase.

Decreases in the share of expenditure were noted mainly for economic affairs and social protection, down by 1.1 and 0.4 percentage points respectively.

In 2019, general government expenditure as a percentage of GDP increased by 0.5 percentage points, to 37.1 per cent.

Similar to the previous four years, when considering the components of general government expenditure by function for 2019, a considerable share of government outlay was in the form of wages and salaries (29.6 per cent), social benefits in cash or in kind (24.8 per cent ) and intermediate consumption (19.4 per cent).

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