Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has just delivered his Budget 2020 speech. 

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That's all, folks

11.03pm The Prime Minister has spoken, as has the Opposition leader. Stakeholders had their say. The Finance Minister had so much to say, we lost count of how long he was speaking for.

That's the end of our Budget 2020 coverage for today, though we will have further analysis of its various measures over the coming days, as well as in our 12-page supplement in Tuesday's Times of Malta newspaper. 

Thank you for joining us this evening. Send us your thoughts on Budget 2020 in the comments below, or by emailing mynews@timesofmalta.com


'We are not just managing the situation' - Muscat

10.56pm Here's another clip from Joseph Muscat's post-Budget 2020 press conference. We put it to him that this Budget seems to be all about steadying the ship - "we're actually speeding up", he said. 

'This is not a question of steady as she goes': Muscat. Video: Matthew Mirabelli


In and out - a look at the Budget 2020 scales

10.45pm A good Budget has to balance the books. Glenn Fenech, senior manager at ARQ, takes a closer look at the Budget 2020 scales: 

"General government balance remains in surplus explained by an increase in income of 7.3% mainly driven by higher tax proceeds on account of buoyant economic activity and through the Individual Investor Programme. 

With the economy expected to advance by 4.3% in real terms, tax revenue will continue playing an important role in Government achieving a fiscal surplus. In fact, tax revenues are expected to increase by 7.7% compared to a 3.8% growth in non-tax revenue.

Government expenditure remains heavily tilted towards social spending which accounts for 35% of total spending. With a total Government outlay advancing by 6.1%, Government is still expecting to register a surplus of €114 million in 2020. 

Although Government is expected to borrow to the tune of €413 million in 2020, public debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to narrow to 40.4 from 43.2 in 2019. The borrowing requirement is driven by past public debt servicing."


Budget 2020 at a glance

10.32pm Missed the Budget 2020 speech and need a five-minute roundup of what's in it for you? 

Have a read of our Budget 2020 at a glance article.


Here's video of Muscat saying he'll stay on

10.27pm Around 20 minutes ago, Joseph Muscat told us this would not be his last Budget. Watch him answer the question. 

'No': Joseph Muscat swats away talk of him leaving within these 12 months. Video: Matthew Mirabelli


A Budget greenwash?

10.22pm Answering questions from journalists, Adrian Delia says that despite the fine words, the government's own estimates indicate that it has no plan to increase spending on environmental measures.

Read more about what Dr Delia told the press.


Everything you need to know about Budget 2020

10.13pm You can read the 106 pages of Budget 2020 in full, see what an economic analyst has to say about it or read about specific policy sectors in great detail - just click on our Budget tag to see every article we've published about Budget 2020. 

And don't forget to pop by a newsagent on Tuesday morning - tomorrow's Times of Malta newspaper will feature a 12-page Budget 2020 supplement, full of analysis and detail. 


Adrian Delia slams Budget 'with no vision'

10.10pm Opposition leader Adrian Delia is now sharing his reaction to Budget 2020, and he's disappointed by what he says is the lack of vision the government has displayed. 

There's little incentive for new industrial sectors to grow and nothing for the nation's teachers, he says. 

"The only plan the government seems to have is to import foreign workers," he adds. 


Muscat says this is not his last Budget

10.05pm Our reporter Ivan Martin has just asked the Prime Minister whether this was his last Budget as Prime Minister. 

"No," he replied. 

"So if you think we gave out a lot this year because it was the last one, wait until you see next year". 

Read more here.


'Budget seeks to moderate growth': What analysts think

9.55pm  JPFabri, Director of Regulatory & Advisory with ARQ, shares his take on Budget 2020: 

 

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina


Carrots, not sticks

9.52pm "We prefer to offer incentives rather than introduce taxes," Dr Muscat tells reporters. "And we will continue to do things that way". 


Developers satisfied, educators not

9.50pm What do key stakeholders make of the Budget 2020? 

See what key social partners, unions and lobby groups said.


Fearne and Scicluna

9.42pm Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne picks six points from this Budget speech which he feels are emblematic of the Budget's social soul. He's followed by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, who sees this Budget as being a balance between meeting international challenges while seizing opportunities. 


An economy, doubled

9.36pm  Muscat: "Malta's economy will have doubled in size when compared to seven years ago - from €7 billion to €14 billion. We inherited an economy which had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 78 per cent. We've brought it down to 40 per cent. That means we can spend our money on our own citizens".


Muscat speaks of 'Labour's legacy'

9.33pm As he runs through some of the Budget 2020's highlights, Dr Muscat talks about socially-oriented measures as "Labour's legacy".

It's hard to forget that this might have been the Prime Minister's Budget swansong. 


Joseph Muscat holds press conference

9.30pm No time to waste... Joseph Muscat is straight on a podium at Castille, speaking to the press and the nation. 

Joseph Muscat speaking at Castille. Photo: Matthew MirabelliJoseph Muscat speaking at Castille. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli


What now?

9.20pm We'll hear from the Prime Minister within the next hour or so. In the meantime, he's tweeted a number you can call for more information on the budget. Will you be dialling up?


It's all over...

9.05pm  Having read out 106 pages of Budget 2020 pledges to the nation, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna can finally sit back and gulp down a drink of water in peace. 

With some banging on the desks, the minister calls it a day.  


Is this the longest Budget speech in history? 

9pm It certainly feels like it. 90 150 minutes in, we're at the tail end of the Budget speech. The minister is rattling off a series of other Budget measures - call it the miscellaneous list. 

There's (another) promise of a race track, a pledge to build an adventure park in Cottonera and talk of an embassy in Tokyo and an unnamed location in South America. 


Good news for NGOs like Graffitti

8.59pm NGOs which lodge appeals against development applications will now have their application fees capped at €1,000. 


Property: What the analysts think

8.56pm Luana Farrugia, ARQ: “Government has focused its measures on the property market to improve affordability. With growing concerns on the price increases, this budget responded with a number of measures.

"The launch of the means-tested interest-free loan, the extension and increase of the stamp duty exemption for first-time buyers and a housing benefit for people that rent are all aimed at answering this growing policy concern. The question is whether the market is adequately catering for such properties.” 


Human rights agency

8.51pm The government will be setting up a National Commission for Human Rights and Equality this coming year. 


New financial crime fighters

8.46pm Prof. Scicluna says that in the coming months a new financial crime agency will be set up. Known as the Financial Organised Crimes Agency, it will not replace the Economic Crimes Unit within the Police but will rather work in collaboration with it.


€10,000 cash limits

8.44pm  Until this evening, Malta was the only EU member state without a maximum limit on cash transactions. No more, though. 

As of this Budget, when buying high-value items (think cars, houses, boats, diamonds) cash transactions have to be limited to a maximum of €10,000. 

Read more about it here.


Malta and Gozo 

8.32pm Prof. Scicluna said the government was committed to delivering the controversial Malta-Gozo tunnel. Studies on this project, he said, were ongoing and would be concluded in the coming months. These included the social and economic impact studies, as well as the primary design brief.  In the coming weeks technical documents for prospective investors and contractors would also be published. Further details were in the pipeline, he said.


Marsa’s new industrial estate  

8.26pm Prof Scicluna said a large plot of land in Marsa will be transformed into a new industrial zone. A new sports facility and a new recreational zone will also be part of this project.   


Farmers fair to promote local produce

8.24pm The first National Agricultural Fair will be launched toward the end of next year. Prof Scicluna said this would be an opportunity for farmers and local producers to exhibit their produce to the widest audience possible.


Where are the new teachers? 

8.20pm In an initial reaction to the measures announced on education, the Union of Professional Educators said that one of the greatest challenges currently facing the country was the worrying shortage of teachers. “It would have been wiser had the government done more to address this issue,” they said.  


Competitiveness: What the analysts say

8.10pm JP Fabri, ARQ :Central to Malta’s sustained growth is our economic competitiveness. The budget proposes various measures to this end with the focus on developing new sectors including space. However, I believe that a more focused effort on consolidating and diversifying existing sectors needs to be undertaken. Studies show that enhancing ecosystems of existing sectors leads to more economic benefits than attracting new companies. Despite a number of measures, more effort in deepening ecosystems, particularly access to finance and banking facilities, and in addressing skill gaps would have been welcome.


Health: What the analysts say

8.02pm  Glenn Fenech, ARQ: A number of specific measures were introduced supporting patients and their families. Whereas the focus is on benefits, more effort and investments need to be diverted towards prevention. It is well documented that the Maltese population is more prone to certain health problems and Government needs to take a key role in enhancing prevention. There is also a drive towards enhancing health infrastructure especially in primary and mental health care.”


Qawra's new school at last

7.59pm A bit of jeering in the Parliament chamber as Prof Scicluna says the government will finally be opening a new primary school in Qawra. If you were listening closely enough you probably caught Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tell the Opposition benches “at least the roof won’t leak like the one you built”. 

The Nationalist Party were not amused. 


Been poisoned? 

7.55pm A new national poison centre will treat people exposed to poisonous chemicals and compounds.  And if that wasn’t sci-fi enough, Prof Scicluna says the government will soon be investing in new robotic technology to treat patients at Mater Dei Hospital.   


Greener fuel stations of the future

7.50pm Prof Scicluna says the government is serious about greener transport.  In the years to come every fuel station in Malta and Gozo will need to provide gas and will need to be fitted with charging points for vehicles running on alternative energy. Grants of up to €1,500 for scrapping of old vehicles and €200 for conversion to alternative fuels will be rolled out.

Read more about the measures related to greener transport here


New ferry landing points  

7.46pm Three new ferry landing points will be constructed in Gozo, as well as new facilities for fishing vessels. And it looks like other ferry landing locations will be considered at different locations in Malta.


   

Help for PV panel pioneers 

7.40pm Were you one of the first people to install PV panels at your home? If so, your deal to sell electricity back into the grid through the beneficial feed-in tariff is set to expire. 

To help sweeten that pill, the government will be offering these PV early adopters a grant of up to €1,000 to install a battery in their home. Battery storage effectively allows you to store energy your PV panels have generated and then use it when it's needed. 


One we missed earlier

7.35pm Fibromyalgia will be added to a list of conditions eligible for disability benefits. 

Read more about that and other measures related to disability here.


Environment: what the analysts think

7.33pm Nicky Gouder, ARQ: “In line with global efforts, the government is committed to curbing plastic use and to reducing emissions. Single-use plastic will be banned from January 2021 whilst a date has been set for the introduction of the container refund system.

On the emission front, there appears to be a sustained effort to increase the take-up of electric cars and the combustion engine ban will be an important development. The introduction of cheaper electricity tariffs for electric car owners is a much welcome development.

Investments such as the Ta’ Qali park are welcome however more effort needs to be undertaken to green our localities and ensure that green lungs between towns and villages are protected." 

Read more about Budget 2020 environment measures


'Everyone needs to do their part'

7.31pm MEP Miriam Dalli is encouraged by the "first step" environmental measures in this year's Budget, but says "everyone needs to do their part". Dr Dalli has been tasked with leading an advisory body on how Malta can phase out petrol and diesel engine vehicles. 


Petrol, diesel and electric vehicles

7.30pm A cut-off date for combustion engines will be announced early next year. Meanwhile, electric car owners will pay lower electricity rates as of January 1. 

Single-use plastics will be banned completely as of 2022 – that’s no real surprise, given MEPs had steered member states in that direction. 

A beverage container recycling scheme will be in full swing by next year, the minister says. 


Carbon neutral by 2050?

7.26pm The government seems to think that’s possible and will be drafting a national strategy to that effect. 

Talk about a waste-to-energy plant (read: incinerator) is not all hot air, the minister assures: plans will accelerate this year. 


Economy: What the analysts think

7.19pm JPFabri from ARQ Group:

“Malta’s economy remains buoyant. With growth exceeding 4 per cent and yet another government surplus, Malta’s public finances remain on solid footing. Going forward, the pace of growth is expected to moderate. The fast growth over the past few years has led to various stresses including a tight labour market and an increasing cost of living.

"As a result, the Government is proposing a significant cost of living adjustment; the highest since 2015. It also appears that the Budget will take a very strong distributive stance towards supporting the most vulnerable cohorts of society and the environment.” 

Missed the Budget's economic projections? Read a summary here.


Property help for low-income under 40s 

7.15pm Under 40s whose income is too low for them to get onto the property ladder will be eligible for an interest-free loan of up to €17,500, repayable over 15 years. 

No details, though - they're still in talks with the banks to work out how that would work. 

Here's another property related measure: Until this year, first-time buyers were exempt on paying stamp duty for the first €150,000 of a property's value. That will now be upped to €175,000.


Tongue-in-cheek 

7.12pm MEP Roberta Metsola seems to be enjoying the show.


What's in it for workers? 

7.11pm We've already touched on the basic COLA increase and pledge to cut overtime taxes. There are some other bits and bobs which will interest employees, though - such as an added day of leave. 

Here's a summary of those measures.


Here's a cute one

7.08pm You now have a financial motive to go forth and multiply: the government will pay €300 for every baby born or child adopted next year. 

Read more about it here.


Need more details about pensions measures?

7.04pm Prof. Scicluna rattles off a series of other initiatives targeting society's older members. 

There's free public transport for over-75s, a €13 million allocation to make up for 'past injustices' and an increased supplementary benefit for low-income people, especially the elderly. 

Read our summary of all the Budget 2020 pensions-related measures.


More pensions-related incentives

7.01pm There's a substantial change to services pensions - these will be recalculated once the recipient reaches a pensionable age - and further incentives for public sector workers who chose to continue working past their pensionable age between 2016 ands 2018. 


Pensions increases

6.55pm Pension cheques will rise by €3.51 a week next year over-and-above the €3.49 COLA increase. That means a total increase of €7 a week. 

Tax bands will be adjusted to ensure pensioners will not be subject to income tax.


Good news for overtime workers

6.53pm If you work overtime, earn a basic salary of up to €20,000 and are not in a management position, you're in luck: the first 100 hours of your overtime will be taxed at 15 per cent. 


COLA increases

6.50pm There will be a €3.49 weekly cost-of-living-adjustment increase, as well as a one-off bonus payment. 

Single-person households will get a €15 one-off payment, with that rising to €35 for households with more than one person. 

That's to make up for the increase in price of key items (think milk and bread) that the cost-of-living adjustment might have missed.


Economic estimates

6.44pm GDP is projected to grow by 4.3 per cent, with a surplus of 1.4 per cent and Malta's debt-to-GDP ratio declining further to 40.4 per cent.

Inflation is expected to be at 1.6 per cent, imports should most likely rise by 2 per cent and employment should improve by 4.1 per cent. 

The PM's communications team quickly get the word out on Twitter: 


No new taxes

6.42pm As expected, there will be no new taxes and the government is predicting a fiscal surplus next year - the fifth in a row. 


Parliament is in session

6.35pm Finance Minister Edward Scicluna gets events under way. And he begins as expected, with a summary of the government's 'big picture' economic policies.  


No overspend? 

6.21pm We know little about Budget 2020, save for a few crumbs of information dropped by the Prime Minister or Finance Minister.  

Joseph Muscat has spoken of a Budget that looks towards environmental sustainability; Edward Scicluna appeared to temper expectations a few weeks back when he told a conference that the government's priority was not to overspend

If you're a serious Budget junkie, you could do worse than leaf through the government's own pre-Budget 2020 document.


Is this your first Budget? 

6.12pm Budget speeches are delivered in Maltese and tend to follow a template: the minister will first give a rundown of the nation's economy, highlight the government's economic achievements over the past 12 months and then go on to list the various measures to be introduced. 

The speech tends to go on for a couple of hours. Once it's done, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader will each hold a press conference, and reactions to the Budget will start pouring in from stakeholders from across Maltese society. 


Finance Minister arrives at Parliament

6pm. We're almost ready to go. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has arrived at Parliament ahead of his budget speech.


 

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