Opposition leader Bernard Grech this evening pledged to make Malta a hub for internet giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, as he laid out the Nationalist Party’s vision for the future.
Grech announced a number of fiscal incentives that would be introduced by a PN government, such as the removal of tax on any profits that are reinvented in companies and their workers.
He likened Malta to a restaurant that had developed a bad reputation but which was now under new management, insisting that the PN’s vision was one based on more responsible governance and an emphasise on people’s quality of life.
“This is how we will pay for the proposals we have put forward,” Grech said, insisting that a new PN government would have the credibility to restore Malta’s reputation.
The PN, he said, was already speaking with foreign governments and investors. “We will hit the ground running.”
Addressing Parliament this evening in his response to last week’s budget, Grech ran through a number of proposals being put forward by the party ahead of a potential snap election next month.
Rumours have been rife that Prime Minister Robert Abela is set to announce a general election in the coming days, with Grech’s speech serving as a manifesto launch of sorts for the party.
Government only interested in buzzwords
Throughout his speech, a confident Grech accused the government of focusing only on buzzwords and low-hanging fruit and of being unable to offer the country a coherent vision.
“The people can see through you and they are understanding that this is a government that is all bluff and no substance,” charged Grech, recalling how Malta setting itself up as blockchain island had been a flop.
The government had similarly pledged to oversee a nationwide shift to electric vehicles but had failed to install the 200 charging points that were promised.
A PN government, Grech said, would keep a number of proposals announced by the government, including those related to part-time work, for more medicines to be provided to people for free, as well as the pledge to change the manner in which water and electricity bills were calculated.
However, he said the Maltese economy needed more courage than that shown by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana.
25% increase in wages of essential workers
He welcomed the government’s pledge to increase stipends, but said that the PN would go one further and would increase wages in key sectors like nursing and education by 25%, in order to incentivize more students to pursue careers. He also pledged to offer all youngsters above 16 €500 grant to travel to any European city in order to broaden their horizons.
A PN government, he said, would also see to it that employers choosing to invest in their employees’ education benefited from tax credits.
On the government’s proposal to introduce free public transport, Grech said that while the proposal was positive, it also reflected the government’s lack of clear vision on transport. “First they spent €700 million on roads, then they told us they want a metro, and now it’s free public transport.”
The Opposition leader also pledged to increase the cap for the country’s 25% tax bracket from €60,000 to €80,000.
Nothing about greylisting in Budget 2022
Grech accused the government of presenting the nation with a budget that was only intended to get it to the next election, and which did not think of future challenges, such as the country’s greylisting.
In addition to seeing to it that Malta’s reputation is restored, he also proposed the setting up a specialised unit to help the private sector with new due diligence requirements, insisting that it was unfair to expect local professionals to make up for the effects of the government’s corruption.
Money saved from direct orders to go to frontliners
One of the many segments of the population that had been ignored by the government’s budget, Caruana said, was the country’s frontliners.
Grech pledged that upon being elected, he would cancel out some €14 million-worth of contracts for persons of trust and give the money to the country’s frontliners as a bonus.
“This money will come from the money you are currently wasting on persons of trust, in what is an unprecedented investment in waste,” Grech said.
Two-thirds majority needed for ODZ land to be given away
Grech said that out of all of the government’s environmental proposals, the proposed afforestation project in Marsaskala was the only one that responded to a real need.
“It’s good that despite the fact that they have spent eight years trying to destroy our environment and urban centres. Now because they’ve done a few focus groups they have noticed that people are sick and tired. Good, better late than never,” Grech said.
Grech pointed out that the area identified was right next to Zonqor point, which had been given to the Sadeen Group for the construction of the American University of Malta.
A PN government would include the land given to Sadeen in the afforestation project. It would also see to it that for ODZ land to be given away in the same manner a two-thirds majority in Parliament would be required.
He also stressed that the construction of solar farms on agricultural land would not be tolerated under a PN government.
At the end of the day, Grech said, all Maltese citizens and businesses wanted was a level playing field and a chance to succeed. A PN government was the only one that could provide the country with a holistic vision, that wasn’t solely based on greed and a desire to make more money, and which emphasised the importance of a good quality of life for all.
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