Cuts to government spending could impact public service employment if a review finds any "waste", Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar has acknowledged.

The head of the civil service was speaking after Finance Minister Clyde Caruana confirmed a review on expenditure was underway to mitigate the impact of energy subsidies on public finances.

During a news conference on Tuesday as part of Public Service Week, Cutajar said that the internal review aims to safeguard essential public service while addressing “what we can do without in these circumstances”.

“Cost-cutting could impact the public service in many ways,” he said. 

“It could impact employment and work processes. But there must most definitely be cost-cutting where there is waste.”

Mario Cutajar on the impact of the public spending review. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Tightening budgets

The government has pledged to keep energy and fuel prices stable even though the war in Ukraine is driving up the costs of oil and gas internationally.

However, Malta registered a deficit of €1.2 billion last year, or the equivalent of eight per cent of  GDP, with Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna warning the government to not lose sight of its commitment to reduce it.

According to the Central Bank’s projections, the country’s deficit is expected to decline to 6.2 per cent of GDP by this year, narrowing to 3.3 per cent by 2024.

Cutajar said the public service itself would carry out and implement cuts, but would not say where wastage was happening before the necessary exercise is carried out.

Public officials to get AI training

He was speaking during an event at the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre in Ta’ Qali, during which an agreement was signed to train public officers in artificial intelligence.

The agreement is a memorandum of understanding between the University of Malta, MCAST, the eSkills Malta Foundation, the Institute for the Public Services, and the Office of the Prime Minister and covers a three-year period.

Cutajar said the training will help public officials offer a better service to their clients. This is part of the five-year strategy in place for the sector.

Rector Alfred Vella said the University of Malta had long been focusing on research in the AI sector and this form of technology could help solve the problems of a complex country.

James Calleja, MCAST principal, said it was an opportunity for growth while eSkills Malta Foundation’s chief administrator, Carm Cachia, said it would assist with training.

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