The Maltese government presented its annual budget for 2019 yesterday, the second consecutive budget that didn’t introduce a single new tax or tariff, not even on cigarettes and tobacco.
From higher pensions and an increase in the minimum wage to controversial facial recognition technology and free entry for children to all Heritage Malta sites, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hailed the budget as one that “gives something to everyone”.
However, the Budget also includes several pledges which slipped under the radar, and here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting of these.
Marriage grants will increase next year
1. The Marriage Grant (yes it exists) for wedding-related expenses will increase by €250 to a maximum of €2000 per couple.
2. The government will enter into public-private partnerships with landowners willing to convert their plots of land into underground carparks, complete with public open spaces above them.
3. This should be interesting. A legal framework to regulate noise pollution will be set up, complete with a harmonised approach to enforcement from all the authorities involved in clamping down on it.
4. An equity sharing scheme will be introduced for over 40s who want to buy a house, have enough money to afford at least half of a property, but cannot obtain a home loan because of their age. Following talks with banks, these people, often separated couples who have just sold the family home, will be able to purchase property, with the government as a joint partner. The government will pay the interest for the duration of the loan, after which the homeowner will be obliged to repay it.
5. People who install a reverse osmosis system at home will be applicable for a €70 VAT refund.
6. Looks like this might actually be happening! The initial design for the Malta-Gozo tunnel will be launched for public consultation.
7. A park and ride facility will be set up in Mġarr, Gozo
Closer to reality: The planned tunnel between Malta and Gozo
8. Malta will seek to attract eSports companies and become a centre for major eSports tournaments. Will this tempt Kurt Fenech out of his early retirement?
9. Malta will get its first Geopark, like a nature park but to safeguard geological heritage, in an unspecified location.
10. A tree will be planted for every vehicle which is imported to Malta!
11. New green areas will be set up in urban areas across Malta. A well-needed initiative.
12. Government workers will be able to postpone their retirement in return for a higher pension when they do in fact retire, something private sector workers have been able to do for a few years now.
13. Security personnel and receptionists will be hired at state schools at an annual expenditure of €280,000
14. Mid-year exams will be removed for state school students from Year 4 till Form 2 (Year 8) as part of a gradual shake-up in assessment methods.
The standards of food at the Corradino prison will improve
15. Businesses will be able to design paid apprenticeship schemes for post-secondary students and get these accredited. These accredited apprenticeships will then be included within the students’ courses.
16. The standards of food, accommodation and security at the Corradino prison will improve, while body scanners will be installed to clamp down on drug smuggling.
17. With irregular immigration an issue for the first time in several years, a new detention services policy will be drafted up to “keep up with the times”.