An incomplete budget with blind spots - Volt Malta

An incomplete budget with blind spots - Volt Malta

20 Oct 2020, 14:30:00 UTC
Volt Malta responds to the 2021 budget announced yesterday. Highlighting the missed opportunity to experiment with UBI and invest in reproductive
Background of a bunch of euro coins.

> Missed opportunity to experiment with UBI
> Lack of Investment in Reproductive Health

The 2021 budget was revealed and while it does good, it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s worth noticing the lack of bold vision and changes to the budget which could push Malta over the economic hurdles caused by the pandemic.

While there are numerous increased financial benefits for various people, there was an absence of testing an alternative way forward. UBI. If we add up the yearly cost of corruption (€725,000,000), the coming year’s Tax Refund (€16,000,000), Vouchers (€50,000,000), Wage Supplement (€120,000,000) we have €911,000,000. If we assume Malta’s got a population of 500,000 and everyone were to receive an equal amount we’d have 1,822 each per year. 

This isn’t enough for a year of a year’s worth of minimum wage per resident, however, it’s already enough to give every resident in Malta 151 euros a month.  If we were to give every resident a UBI of the minimum wage, we’d need about 4,680,000,000 which is a massive sum. Therefore we mustn’t rush things, but test it out with a diverse sample of the population, measure the economic impact, but also the impact on the individual’s well being.

So far benefits from tests done elsewhere have been quite widespread, such as reducing inequality, homelessness, and the risk of falling into poverty traps. It also boosts entrepreneurship since people can afford the greater risk, improves mental health and becomes a social safety net. It also simplifies beurocracy, since ideally, it replaces the various government offers of supporting people financially, redirecting more funds towards UBI. If you have 2 systems, one of them gives everyone 100 euros indiscriminately and one gives some people, upon verification if they qualify for them and an assortment of either 20 euros, 50, 90 or 100 euros for various reasons, which one will be cheaper in the end, and involve less paperwork? Now’s the right time to test out UBI in Malta.

We acknowledge that the 725 million euros lost to corruption yearly are arbitrary, there aren’t stacks of money lying around hidden waiting to be spent. Diligent policymaking with the clear objective of stopping this massive quantity of money from falling into the cracks must be taken up. The 2021 budget fails to mention any such thing, therefore, we there should be an investment for improvements in e-Governance to spending transparently, and truthfully, along with transparent reasons for one tender over another

Any decision that requires public spending must be made fully available for scrutiny by the press and residents. Even Public Office spending, and elected officials spending when carrying out work.

There also ought to be the utilisation of Integrity Pacts in public procurement and private-public partnerships. This means having active involvement of civil society in such matters to ensure public oversight, based on recommendations of Transparency International. This alone isn’t enough but it’s a start.

There also appears to be a fair number of promises on environment however shortcomings are evident Environment, making no mention of investment into a circular economy, and greening projects for the public seem to be overly concentrated on Ta Qali. The effect of driving people further to Ta Qali while we have lands such as Ahrax and Mizieb broadly inaccessible to the greater public is that it would increase the number of cars driving to a single destination. Thus, creating fumes, traffic to enjoy green space. What Malta needs most is more widely accessible public spaces, not a concentration and enlargening of few.

Also worth noticing the absence of attention to reproductive health, where contraceptives could’ve been made reimbursable, or setting up a Genitourinary GU Clinic for Gozo, or expanding the current one in Malta which is facing ever-increasing demand.

The 2021 budget isn’t perfect, it delivers in terms of incrementation/ reduction of supplements and fees but it’s full of blind spots. There’s a fair amount more to say, however, these shortcomings were among the most evident.