Malta is facing three major challenges in the shape of traffic, housing and waste
management, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said in his first press conference
since presenting the Budget.
On traffic, Prof. Scicluna said the Budget included several targeted measures
aimed at easing congestion, but he stressed that reducing private car use remained the “elephant in the room”.
At the same time, he said, investment in new road infrastructure remained
important to ensure road quality befitting of a modern country and to help public
transport run efficiently.
He highlighted the €150 million waste-to-energy project the government is
embarking on, stressing that Malta would be looking at a “new Magħtab” landfill
in the immediate future if the problem was not addressed urgently.
Prof. Scicluna defended the decision not to resort to “antiquated rent controls”,
which he said would reduce private sector investment in housing. Instead, he said, the government would focus on ensuring a higher stock of housing on the market.
“The Budget is strong because the economy is strong, but the economy is strong
because of the budgets that came before, which have all been strong, consistent
and prudent,” he said.
The finance minister also played down any fears over the impact of the current
level of recurrent expenditure in the case of economic downturn, insisting
forecasts remained positive and that the country had an “insurance policy” due to the current surplus and the level of discretionary expenditure.
Also addressing the press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne said
the Budget was one of “serenity, peace of mind, and normality”.
“After an election four months ago, this Budget shows that life has continued
with the same rate we were used to over the previous four years,” he said.
He said the Budget laid the foundation for future development and improved
people’s quality of life through increases in pensions and the minimum wage.
Mr Fearne said the measures were part of a wider strategy that would address
people’s most pressing needs, including traffic and rent.
He highlighted the extension of free public transport to those aged 16 to 20, the introduction of free school transport, a new white paper on rental contracts, and plans to increase the social housing stock by incentivising elderly people in nursing homes to return their social housing to the government.