The prime minister on Sunday drew contrasts between living conditions of the Maltese and other Europeans, saying that while the Maltese were receiving government cheques, other Europeans were receiving higher electricity and tax bills.
He was speaking at a Labour Party political activity in Naxxar ahead of the distribution of the additional COLA (cost of living adjustment) cheques of between €100 and €1,500 per household, which will benefit 95,000 families.
A Budget measure, the grant varies according to household income and the size of the family. The allowance will cost the government €45.5 million, according to financial estimates for the Social Policy Ministry.
“That means an extra €13 million in our family's pockets come December,” Abela said, as the crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.
Abela added that another €13 million will be handed out in May.
He said that apart from this cheque, individuals will start to receive their tax refund scheme cheques in the coming weeks.
Another budget measure, the tax refund cheques of between €60 and €140 will be issued to 250,000 workers for a total expenditure of €26 million.
“In other European countries, they are currently receiving high electricity bills and taxes, and in Malta we are receiving cheques,” Abela said.
“People ask us why the Labour Party exists, and this is why, to improve the quality of life.”
Abela continued that the government could continue to provide such measures and also subsidise electricity and fuel bills because of the country’s strong economic strategy.
He observed that according to the European Commission, Malta’s economic projections are on an upward trajectory, contrary to the EU average. The European Commission also predicted Malta would have the lowest unemployment rate.
“We have a solid basis, a strong economy, which has led us to the biggest raise in pensions and child allowance and other measures which will continue to modernise his country.”
Abela went on to list how other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, were seeing an increase in fuel and electricity prices, which would impact their consumers.
"Austria is also experiencing a 38% increase in fuel taxes," he added.
Abela recalled that the Nationalist Party had predicted there would be an “exodus” of gaming companies after the island was grey-listed.
“Now we emerged from that greylist, and this week we showed them how not only is our gaming sector still strong, but how companies continue to invest in our country,” Abela said, referring to the Sigma conference that took place last week.
‘We will raise teachers salaries'
During his speech, Abela also spoke about the government's proposals to raise teaching salaries, as a planned teachers’ strike looms just over a week away.
After talks between the government and the Malta Union of Teachers continued on Friday, the union said that it had rejected the government’s new financial package, saying that while it was an improvement on the government's original figures, it was “not enough”.
Abela did not provide figures on what the government is offering, adding that speculation would interfere with the negotiation process - “unlike the PN, who are irresponsible and throw around figures.”
He said that the Labour government had successfully negotiated a number of collective agreements with other unions and it would do the same for teachers.
“This government has improved the wages of so many workers, police and pharmacists to name a few- so why are there doubts we would not do the same for our teachers?" he asked.
“We understand the crucial role of educators, but we need a judicious approach to any collective agreement if we want to improve people’s quality of life.”