Where have we heard these before? PM launches election campaign with rehashed electoral pledges

If the first five electoral pledges by the Labour Party sound familiar, that is because they are. Electoral promises that address the environment, fewer taxes, more money for pensioners and help for first time homebuyers are all pledges we have heard time and again.

After much speculation, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the date of Malta’s next general elections during a political rally held last Sunday. During the press conference held immediately after the announcement, Abela went on to list the Labour Party’s first five electoral promises to the public and the press.

These were: €700 million towards creating green spaces within urban environments, a reduction of taxes, a reduction in corporate tax rates, more money towards pensioners including €40 million to keep all the medicines on the government formulary free and €10,000 for first time buyers.

In a press conference on Monday, flanked by Energy Minister Miriam Dalli and Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia, Abela further elaborated on his Party’s lofty plans to create “green lungs” within urban centres and “give back” spaces that had been taken up by the growth of towns and villages around the island.

With the help of visualisations, Abela outlined where and how these gardens/green spaces would be located. The plans include moving parking spaces underground and moving Hamrun’s milk factory to an unspecified industrial site to be replaced with a garden.

On a small island overcome by heavy traffic and unbridled construction, who among us doesn’t like the idea of large green spaces for the public to enjoy? Yet it deserves scrutiny.

First, there is the small detail of the underground car parks and the redirection of traffic that appear to be a part of the proposed projects. The construction of substructures, be they tunnels or car parks, is no small feat that comes with its own set of challenges.

Secondly, if the amount of €700 million rings a bell, that’s because in its 2017 electoral programme the Labour Party pledged €700 million in seven years to redo Malta’s entire road network. This is the same road network upgrade that has so far caused the frequent uprooting of mature trees, the cementing over of country roads, and the demolition of existing public gardens.

Billboard by the Labour Party during the 2013 electoral campaign.

During the press conference, the prime minister did state that many towns have expanded considerably. That’s understandable because when we consider that since 2013 residential planning permits shot up and no matter how often Abela tries to lay the blame for the increase in construction on planning rules introduced in 2006, he still told the construction industry in 2020 that it was a “vital part” of the post-pandemic recovery.

Therefore, promising to “return” public spaces to the Maltese people without seriously addressing the more persistent problems of traffic management and rampant construction, is, at best, a waste of public funds. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more beneficial towards the environment to preserve those green spaces from the outset?

What’s more, the Labour Party has been telling us that the environment is one of their top priorities for a while. Did they not promise us more trees, gardens and public spaces in 2017? In 2013, the Labour Party promised cleaner air, more open spaces, more trees and a green economy, among other things.  Why should this year’s promises be any different?

Labour Party’s pledge towards the environment in its electoral programme in 2017.

The environment was not the only electoral pledge that has been announced in previous electoral programmes. At the end of Monday’s press conference, a journalist pointed out that free medicines had been promised in 2013 and in 2017. The prime minister replied by saying that yes, these pledges had indeed been made in the past, but it was now time to implement these promises. Well then, that settles it.

The proposals for tax cuts include reducing income tax for parents, single people, married people, a reduction in corporate taxes for businesses and more generous tax refunds, despite Finance Minister Clyde Caruana warning in parliament that the government will clamp down on businesses using public funds as an “overdraft”.

In the meantime, some €5 billion in taxes are owed by companies in Malta and the country’s debt levels continue to rise and will, presumably, continue to do so if the Labour Party plans to further cut taxes on the one hand and fund large “green” projects on the other.

The Nationalist Party also launched its electoral campaign with an equally ambitious pledge. Opposition Leader Bernard Grech unveiled the 10 economic sectors in which his Party would be investing €1 billion to strengthen the Maltese economy. These industries include compliance and due diligence services, specialised manufacturing clusters, Artificial Intelligence applications and E-sports, among others.

Grech said that part of the necessary funds for this enormous investment would come from public funds using dormant deposits in several financial institutions and the rest will come from loans provided by domestic and foreign institutions.

When asked about the impact of this substantial spending on public debt, in view of the PN’s recent criticism of the government for having increased debt during the pandemic, Grech said his Party never said it would not spend money when in government but that it would do so “responsibly”.

In the meantime, as both parties list their electoral promises, we’d do well to look out for those proposals that tackle the country’s systemic problems such as maladministration and corruption, proposals that strengthen the rule of law and bolster the country’s independent institutions as well as any proposals that address the recommendations made by the board of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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2 months ago

When will the metro actually be built?
I have a nice brochure here.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 months ago

Same old, same old, from both parties. We urgently need change. Our only chance for that comes from giving your first vote to ADPD and the rest to the least bad of the other two.

Albert Mamo
Albert Mamo
2 months ago



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