The Budget for the government’s third year has once again taken a step forward in ensuring that the rewards of economic growth are enjoyed by all sectors of society. While the first two budgets were aimed at stabilising the economy and focusing on economic growth and the creation of new jobs, this year the government focused on those who are not benefitting from the growing economy. ASCS feels that there are several decisions taken which were necessary in order to move forward in offering better education, infrastructure and financial services. However, ASCS would like to express its concern regarding issues that have, yet again, been pushed to the side and not given the necessary attention, most notably being research funding and a long-term plan for transport. The major focus this year seemed to be tax, as there were several tax cuts worth noticing.
Stipend and Investment
Again, students will be pleased to hear that the stipend for 2017 will be increased by €1.75, in proportion to the Cost of Living Allowance. This is coupled with a €4 per week increase to the minimum wage. From next year onwards, additional year students will be eligible for a stipend, in addition to repeating students. Furthermore, there are a number of new schools, mainly primary schools as well as a new school for foreigners, which are being planned for the following year, which continues to show the investment in our education. There will also be the commencement of work on extensions to the Materials Engineering Lab as well as the Maths and Physics Building, the Postdoc building, the multi-religion building, and renovation on the Valletta Campus as well as the Junior College. We are also extremely pleased to hear that the Government will be contributing in the creation of a University Residence and Community Car Park, which will surely make our lives much easier when searching for a parking at 7.30 in the morning. Gozitan students attending any higher educational institutions will benefit from extra supplement.
Small and Medium Companies
ASCS is also extremely pleased regarding the work being done for entrepreneurship and Small Medium Entities (SME’s). Micro companies who have a turnover less than €80,000 a year can choose to either exempt themselves from going through the statutory audits for the first two years, or have their tax credit deducted by 120% for the afore-mentioned audit expense (to a maximum of €700). The plan of an International Accelerator will also be beneficial to start-up companies as well as attracting international operators who have access to networks of entrepreneurs. Schemes are also in place to offer financial help to the start-ups of business by disabled people, as well as fiscal credit to the development of digital games with cultural themes. People investing in SMEs or in the alternative trading platform such as Projects will benefit from a Risk Investment Scheme, and those entrepreneurs who sell their shares in the Malta Stock Exchange will also benefit from incentives.
The Government proposed the extension of the bike rack initiative for a year, as well as offering reimbursement for entities willing to incentivise more bicycle usage. In order to promote public transport for students, every student who turns 18 years old in 2017 will benefit from one year of free public transport. Although these are good steps in order to promote the use of public transport and the use of bicycles, we are disappointed that there are no long-term plans to tackle the traffic issue that we are facing every day. Nothing was said regarding the use of motor-bikes, or anything to incentivise and promote public transport.