Updated – Malta News Briefing – Tuesday 24 October 2023

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Current influx of foreign workers cannot be sustained – Fin Min: Finance Minister Clyde Caruana insisted that the country cannot sustain the ongoing influx of foreign workers. He hinted at plans to introduce financial incentives to support high-value sectors. Speaking at a pre-budget event organised by The Times of Malta and Corporate Identities, Caruana recognised the growing tensions associated with the substantial inflow of third-country nationals, cautioning that such tensions could escalate. Caruana acknowledged that implementing such changes would require time and cautioned against expecting significant alterations in the short and medium term. He stressed that sudden, dramatic shifts could disrupt the economy. The Finance Minister also revealed that changes in corporate tax reform, putting Malta in compliance with OECD rules, will be announced in Monday’s budget, which he described as an exercise in re-prioritisation of Government’s efforts. Ruling out tax increases, Caruana insisted that fiscal stability will be a cornerstone of the upcoming financial exercise.

Restaurants want VAT slashed by more than half: Restaurant over are advocating for a reduction of over fifty percent in their VAT rate, contending that such a move would lead to increased government revenue and greater price stability on their menus. Their proposal is to lower the VAT rate for catering establishments from the current 18 percent to seven percent, aligning them with the rate applicable to hotels and accommodations. Simultaneously, they are requesting real-time connectivity of their point of sales systems to the tax department. This would enhance monitoring, improve enforcement, and foster greater compliance among restaurant owners. These recommendations are part of a set of pre-budget proposals presented by the Association of Catering Establishments. (Times of Malta)

Malta doubles recycling rate but remains last in EU: Malta had the lowest plastic packaging recycling rate in the European Union in 2021. During that year, the country recycled just 21 percent of its plastic packaging, making it the least efficient recycler in Europe, a Eurostat study has shown. Despite being at the bottom of the list, Malta did manage to double its recycling rate in 2021 compared to the previous year. France and Sweden also ranked poorly in this regard, recycling only 23 percent and 24 percent of their plastic packaging, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, Slovenia achieved the highest efficiency in plastic packaging recycling, successfully processing 50 percent of its plastic waste. Belgium and the Netherlands secured second and third positions, both with recycling rates of 49 percent. European Union countries collectively recycled 40 percent of their waste in 2021, with this figure representing the average recycling rate across the EU. (The Malta Independent)

Morning Briefing

Tensions rise as House debates Court sentence on Steward

Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech engaged in a heated exchange in parliament during discussions concerning the Appeals Court’s confirmation of the cancellation of the hospital deal. Grech accused the PM of being involved in criminal activities and fraudulent actions, while Abela accused the PN leader of opportunism, claiming he was only interested when it benefitted him. In an urgent parliamentary debate held on Monday, parliament deliberated on the Appeals Court’s judgment, which upheld a previous court decision that invalidated the Steward hospitals deal. Bernard Grech asserted that all Labour parliamentary groups, spanning from 2013 to the present, bore responsibility for fraudulent behaviour. He alleged that they initiated plans to deceive the Maltese and Gozitans shortly after taking office in 2013. PM Robert Abela, in response, stressed his reluctance to turn the discussion into a partisan argument, but he also labeled the PN leader as a “free rider.” (Maltatoday)

Almost €1bn in deficit created in 2022 – NSO

In 2022, the government’s deficit totaled €982.2 million, marking an improvement of €158.6 million compared to the previous year. As of the end of June, the total debt reached €9,161.1 million, equivalent to 50.7% of the gross domestic product. This represents an increase of €565.7 million from the same quarter in 2022, with a significant portion of the increase attributed to central government debt, which amounted to €9,159.1 million. The National Statistics Office reported on Monday that when comparing 2022 to 2021, total revenue saw a rise of €445.8 million, while total expenditure increased by €287.2 million. On September 29, Malta submitted information on government deficit and debt levels for 2019-2022 to the EU as part of the excessive deficit procedure notification. (Times of Malta)

Govt says 81% of budget measures implemented

81% of the planned measures have been successfully executed, Government said. Tony Sultana, the head of the Civil Service, expressed that this marks an improvement from the previous year and characterised it as a satisfactory outcome. Sultana attributed this achievement to the diligent efforts of the Public Administration and emphasized the need for this entity to direct its focus toward enhancing people’s quality of life. He further noted, “For the ninth consecutive year, we have published a document detailing the measures that have been put into action this year, encompassing those related to the previous year’s budget, as well as earlier measures that were in their initial stages and have now been successfully implemented.” This monitoring exercise underscores the execution of 311 measures, which include provisions from the 2023 budget and previous measures that were in progress and have now been carried out. (TVM)

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