The shadow minister for economic affairs, Nationalist MP Ivan J Bartolo, on Tuesday called for action to tackle problems impacting the economy.
Speaking during the budget debate, he said that the budget, while not totally wrong, was lacking and incomplete.
He said it was wrong of the government to have ignored advice not to tax the cost of living adjustment (COLA). Furthermore, with inflation having persisted, this measure while burdening employers, was not enough for workers.
What was happening in many cases was that whenever COLA was imposed, private companies either raised prices or reduced their workforce.
What was needed, therefore, was action at source by having a government fund to bring down the prices of imports.
Bartolo also noted that next year, while capital expenditure would drop by 15%, debt would continue to rise steeply as would debt servicing costs. At the same time, infrastructural problems were worsening. A short drive on Malta’s congested roads proved that simple fact, causing lost production time and pollution. It was good to see the success of the Sigma event last week, but the fact it caused a nationwide traffic jam could not be ignored.
The PN, he said, was advocating an economic model based on quality, not quantity. It was a model based on business continuity where the population did not continue to grow, work permits were better regulated and induction courses were held for imported workers.
Brand Malta, Bartolo said, also needed to tackle its reputational challenges, which, for example, had caused a situation where local banks were having problems to be sold. He feared Malta was not being seen as business-friendly as it used to be.
More also needed to be done to help business start-ups. Not only did they need more seed capital but also a skills bank and a scheme to encourage strategic investors, among other measures.
All was not wrong in this country, Bartolo said, but there were serious problems on issues such as health, education, transport, waste and energy which needed to be tackled in the interests of the economy.