To have a clear vision of where you want to be is crucial for good governance. Our vision of a more just and fair society is very clear to us and is encapsulated in the theme of this year’s budget – Malta Ġusta. Having a clear vision for the future is one thing, but realising this vision requires financial and policy planning that remains true to our values. Matching policy and finances with hard work is where the proverbial rubber hits the road.
Delivering a fair and just Malta requires that we leave no one behind; this includes families, workers, children and pensioners. It also requires that we take into account key industrial, financial, economic, health and cultural sectors to name a few.
Families and especially families with children will have appreciated our determination to support them for example through the increase in children’s allowance, as well as the new special allowance for those parents whose children continue studying after the compulsory age. From additions to the bonus for newborns or adopted children to additional support for parents returning to work, a host of policies are being matched with proper financing.
Pensioners will have appreciated that we haven’t forgotten them by increasing their pensions and ensuring that they receive improved healthcare services whether they continue to live in their communities or live in residential homes. Nor have people with disabilities and their families felt forgotten, with further support mechanisms being introduced through policy and finance.
This budget is unapologetic in the support of people who most need a helping hand, whether it’s in social housing or getting a first foot on the property ladder. All this in the face of an economy that was until recently under duress from a global pandemic where tourism, one of our major sources of revenue, was effectively shut down. All this, in the face of a global economic crisis resulting from a war in mainland Europe. All made possible by unwavering focus on economic growth, employment growth and wise decision making.
Since local government is in certain ways an extension of national government, so too have policies and finances followed. With 68 localities in Malta and Gozo, it has been essential to ensure that each locality has the tools and resources necessary to deliver for citizens at a local level. This year, we have ensured that local and regional councils have received our support in a variety of ways.
An annual scheme that supports local cultural events as well as Christmas events has benefited 49 local councils to the tune of €800,000 this year. These funds have ensured the endurance and sustainability of local traditions that benefit not only residents of a particular locality, but also visitors who come to that locality for recreation and enjoyment.
At a regional level, this year’s region of culture was awarded to the south with financial support amounting to a quarter of a million Euro. This facilitated a number of cultural activities during the year 2023. Next year, the eastern region will carry the torch at a regional level and we look forward to further cultural activities throughout the year 2024.
Further support comes in the form of the Maintenance and Support Fund of Major Infrastructural Projects carried out by Government. Projects that will be carried out through this scheme include:- a project for a safer Mosta Square; new fencing in a recreational space in San Gwann; the maintenance of the Birgu ditch; changing of new street lights that work with sustainable energy in Gudja; and maintenance of the fountain and swings in the Family Garden in Ħad Dingli.
45 local councils benefitted from financial support during the month of September during the World Cleanup Day, where they organised cleaning and waste collection activities in their respective localities. There was also a continued investment of more than €340,000 so that Local and Regional Councils continue to support the concept of Community Inclusive Employment in the workplace.
37 Local Councils have benefited from the Scheme for Safer and More Organised Communities, with an investment of €323,000 to carry out various projects in favour of more safety in the heart of communities.
The list goes on and on, and our work has not, nor will it stop.
A vision of the future is at the heart of consultations that we have conducted this year with a view to mapping out the road ahead for local government in the period 2024-2030. Our plans are ambitious but grounded through our discussions with everyone involved.
Next year’s Local Council elections will be held in June where councils will be chosen in 68 localities – a testament to democracy and local accountability in our country.
Next year will be important in achieving a number of significant improvements to support the functioning of local government. It will see the development of a digital platform for citizens to engage with their local authorities. It will also see the delivery of training and development for key officials in local government.
These policies are backed by finance. This year’s budget for local government has seen an increase of €7m – a historic increase by Maltese standards. This budget will continue to be used to strengthen and support communities, build and share our local traditions and sustain a just and fair Malta.