The Maltese government yesterday presented its annual budget for 2018, which will go down in Maltese history as the first budget which didn’t introduce any new taxes.
“The government usually uses its first budget after winning an election to reduce expenditure and introduce some hitherto unmentioned unpopular measures,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said last night. “We have decided to give the people what they voted for and repay for putting trust in this government.”
Yet apart from the dearth of taxes, the budget also includes some tasty pledges and these are seven of the best ones:
1. Extra day of vacation leave!
Malta already ranks as one of the countries with the highest number of public holidays in the world…and it’s about to get even better, as every employee benefitting from an extra day of vacation leave next year.
This will be a halfway measure until the government can strike a compensatory deal with employers’ associations ahead of its electoral pledge to restore public holidays which fall on the weekend.
2. Deposit safeguarding – first hints of tenant protection
The government’s plans to tackle the explosion of private rent prices seem pretty half-baked – focused on more on clamping down on tax evasion than on ensuring affordable prices.
Yet it does include a particularly tenant-friendly pledge, intended to safeguard their rent deposits from landlords who withhold them for the most trivial of reasons.
As of next year, tenants will no longer pay the rent deposit directly to the landlord but place it in a government-managed fund. If a dispute arises between landlord and tenant at the end of the contract, then the government will appoint an arbiter to decide which party gets to keep the deposit.
3. Plastic bottle deposit scheme – littering clampdown
Apart from a pledge to introduce harsher fines for littering, the government intends to clamp down on one of the most major items of litter – plastic bottles – by paying people who return them.
An extra charge will be added to plastic bottles, which will be refundable when the bottles get deposited at specially designed vending machines – for which a tender will be issued.
Of course, this will also mean people will get paid for returning plastic bottles which others had littered – some spare extra change for a good cause!
The scheme is set to be launched in 2019, after which similar deposit schemes for glass and aluminium bottles will also be announced.
4. Free bus pass for more youths
Last year’s free public transport scheme for all 18-year-olds has been extended to include everyone aged between 16 and 20. While it is unlikely to encourage youths to stick to the bus instead of getting a car, it is certainly a good move to make public transport more appealing.
5. Free school transport for all students in morning traffic clampdown
The government plans to discourage parents from driving their kids to school and causing early-morning traffic by handing out free transport to all schoolchildren…currently only available to government schools. Buses will group children from all schools by locality and drop them off school by school, and are likely to drop them off at certain drop-off points rather than right outside their homes.
The mechanics of this scheme means several parents could still opt to drive the children to school themselves, but it’s certainly worth a shot.
6. Updates to Malta’s IVF law
It looks as though the much spoken about update to Malta’s IVF legislation will come into law next year, as the budget includes a brief pledge to open the service up to more people.
This is likely to include the legalisation of gamete donation, in what will allow lesbian couples and infertile women to give birth to their own children.
7. Malta’s own blockchain lab
As part of its plan to fully embrace blockchain, a lab will be set up at the Malta Information Technology Agency which will provide training on this technology to civil servants.
Companies will be incentivised to invest in blockchain, while the governmental will launch a website to give advice to people interested in blockchain and cryptocurrencies.