News | Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Budget 2010: the social partners’ proposals

As revealed by Business Today last week, the social partners in the MCESD agreed for the first time on a common position on the 2010 Budget. How do the social partners in the MCESD view this exercise, and what is the reaction of those unions that are still excluded from MCESD despite insisting for the past two years to join? Charlot Zahra asks

Vince Farrugia, Director-General, GRTU “Tonio Fenech has to draw up a bold budget this time or be damned”

GRTU wants a very bold budget: it makes no sense for government to settle its deficit at the expense of businessmen. Most small businesses are in trouble as they cannot find the funds to sustain a long period of low sales and still innovate, restructure and sustain the same level of employment.
Some are doing very well as they operate in a low cost structure but many businesses came in at a high cost level, and now they cannot balance. Many hotels and catering establishments are in the same situation. GRTU has proposed various schemes to help business meet the recession full on, survive and re-launch.
Government must rethink many of its extravagant non-productive expenses and the opposition must grow up and support government in cost-cutting and in tax-cutting to support business and employment.
Government must push on with infrastructural projects that modernise the country – Piano’s is not one of them.
The port projects, schemes to support first-time home buyers, new roads projects, an extended factory building project and much greater funding for Malta Enterprise for use in new bold schemes to support business innovation, investment in alternative energies and in education and greater investment support to create more places of work in the localities so that more women and older persons find jobs in back-office work in localities and avoid unnecessary travel as they walk to work.
There must also be more support to farmers and to Gozo.
Government must create zero-interest bonds capital guaranteed for 10 yrs and used to mop up all undeclared moneys here or abroad in a new amnesty and use this money as interest free loans to finance the new business support schemes.
It must be a budget that supports the positive energy of entrepreneurs to get the economy going. Today business is invaded by negative energy. I told Tonio Fenech that he was not bold enough last year. This time round he has no choice: be bold or be damned.
If it’s a weak budget we will tell Tonio Fenech not to waste our time. And the banks are not helping. They are only interested in themselves and the public regulators have no sense of urgency.
They do nothing to encourage innovation and new investment and help business grow. MFSA and OFT and ADT are the worst offenders in this respect.
The government bus project is a job killer and needs to be re-thought seriously. The new Parliament will not create jobs.
Government must prioritise its spending: what is job support, innovation support, and strategically viable, go for it. What is pompous and non- productive shelve it.
The MEPA reform must be strategically led: it should aim at ensuring that the country has the development that makes sense for as a community an as an economy that needs to be viable in a highly competitive world.
Castille must focus on strategic development and ensure that. ME, MEPA, ADT, MTA, and the Ministry of Rural Affairs has the resources to finance the new strategies.

John Bencini, President, Malta Union of Teachers’ (MUT) “FOR.U.M has been trying to join MCESD for the past four years but the Government is taking us for a ride”

As MUT President, I am deeply concerned that FOR.U.M has been trying to join MCESD for the past four years but the government is taking us for a ride.
FOR.U.M represents more than 11,000 workers: teachers, nurses, Air Malta cabin crew, Air Malta pilots, bankers, architects, university academics, engineers, MEPA employees and other professional grades.
Yet, it appears that government does not really believe in “inclusivity” when, I am sure FOR.U.M can give a very valid contribution if it formed part of MCESD. FOR.U.M is a strong third Confederation completely apolitical.
Most of your questions concern MCESD and that is why it is a real pity that FOR.U.M has had the MCESD door slammed at its face.
FOR.U.M has lately re-written a letter to the Prime Minister and the MCESD Chairman insisting that it should be represented at MCESD as soon as possible. We only got an acknowledgement.
We would have willingly participated and given our contribution in the discussions leading to the 2010 Budget. We expect a budget that gives some fresh air as the country is indeed passing through a very rough and difficult times.
Malta is getting fewer tourists, water and electricity tariffs are sky high and there is an evident financial slowdown.
Unemployment is on the increase, illegal immigration has become the talk of the town, there is uncertainty in the job market and public transport.
Inflation is on the increase and we have a thousand problems in the health sector.
The MUT expects that this coming budget starts to address all this. The MUT expects government to start doing something to recreate stability, confidence and trust.
General disgruntlement is growing and this is creating a ripple effect. MUT expects a budget that stimulates and reenergises the economy. We are living in a stagnant, stale and static reality partly caused by the international economic situation.

George Schembri, Director-General, MHRA “Government should refrain from coming out with price hikes to maintain Malta’s competitiveness”

The MHRA President was quite clear two weeks ago during the presentation of the MHRA hotel survey for the second quarter of this year.
MHRA expects that government will increase the necessary funds during 2010 to MTA so that the tourist potential of the Maltese islands is well- marketed abroad to raise the necessary awareness.
MHRA also expects government to take heed of its calls to refrain from coming out with any increases in various areas to maintain the islands’ competitiveness.
During the last 12 months we have seen operating costs escalating due to government-induced costs such as water and electricity rates, gas, swimming pool licences, fuels, among other things.

William Portelli, President, CMTU “CMTU is clearly expecting all stakeholders to be understanding and in a ‘compromising mood’”

While the CMTU has already given its feedback related to the preliminary report which has just been published by MCESD, CMTU is expecting government to focus on striking the right balance between being cost-efficient and setting up measures which will boost consumer confidence and provide sufficient support to business in general.
Such a statement will obviously require more detail, however CMTU is clearly expecting all stakeholders to be understanding and in a ‘compromising mood’ in the light of any proposed measures that should address business needs by supplying the necessary injection to the market with the intention of creating new jobs.
CMTU hopes that this will be of primary benefit of the vulnerable categories of society and business in general.
Strengthening our business and labour structures complimented by more investment in education, research, development and innovation are key to Malta’s future wellbeing.
Budget 2010 is going through the normal course of its procedure even though this year’s approach has been very much different, and by that I mean for the better.
Apart from being presented with a very detailed account of the country’s finances, economist Gordon Cordina on behalf of MCESD has been commissioned to compile a report relating to issues or proposals “commonly” raised by all stake holders following an evaluation of the ‘demands’ and ‘claims’ made by the social partners.
This obviously within the context of the present economic environment.
The Confederation can confirm that such discussions can only enhance the possibility of working closer together by getting all stakeholders involved and this has amply boosted our participation since preliminary discussions on a pre-budget document had been introduced.
Obviously, what government in the end comes up with is another issue.
The first step was to get consensus on a preliminary “social and economic” report so as to move forward.
Discussions are ongoing on an individual basis and detail is now necessary and therefore it is still early to say whether there is any kind of agreement with government.



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30 September 2009


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