Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October, 2022 at 10:03 am by Andre Camilleri
Fresh fruit and vegetable distribution in primary schools to be reintroduced
Work on ITS campus in Smart City to start in the coming days
Tax refund cheques will be issued again next year, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said during his budget speech.
Cheques ranging from €60 to €140 will be issued, with the highest refunds going to those with the lowest income. Over 250,000 people will benefit from this, he said, and the initiative itself will cost €26 million. The amount received will also depend on whether a person is single, married or a parent.
In the section titled, ‘Investing in People’, the minister also spoke about pensions, employment and other issues.
The government had announced that over a period of five years, pension income will no longer be calculated as taxable income. Last year, this was the case for 20% of income from pensions, whereas this will rise to 40% next year. This measure, he said, will cost €27 million and almost 17,000 pensioners will benefit from it.
As for employment, Caruana said that currently work on the national skills census is ongoing, and will provide an objective picture of the skills currently in the labour market. After this, an audit of digital skills will take place.
The government will also launch a consultation process in order to create a national policy for economic migration. This, he said, was a recommendation within the National Work Policy document. Other policies within that document will also be worked on, he said, which will ensure that the country will have the visibility and understanding needed to introduce “sensible policies in the field of third country workers.”
Among these measures, he said, the government will strengthen the capacity of analytical research across the market, so that through technology the government would facilitate the temporary and cyclical needs of both workers and employers, as well as to evaluate the needs of businesses and the skills that the market needs and cannot fill.
As a separate measure, the minister said that employees who have a basic income not exceeding €20,000 and who work atypical hours in the accommodation and food services, the administrative and support services, the manufacturing, the transport and storage, and the wholesale and retail trade, will receive a €150 grant by the end of this year. This measure, he said, will be extended to next year, and they will again receive another €150.
The minister also announced that the tax on the income that authors and co-authors receive from royalties on book sales will drop to 7.5%.
The Cost of Living impact on government employees is also being addressed. The minister said that it has accepted a proposal put forward by unions to ease the impact of the cost of living on collective agreements that had the COLA included in the incremental rises. When bargaining, unions would not have predicted such a steep cost of living rise in such incremental increases. This proposal will cost €10 million. Similarly, the government will also ensure that the private sector workers who work with the government as part of a contract will take the full COLA increase, with the government forking out the difference from the established rate. This second part will cost €3 million.
The minister briefly mentioned the minimum wage, and said that the MCESD is leading discussions related to it in the Low Wage Commission. “This, in order to find a common position for the country that would be of benefit to both workers and employers.”
The minister mentioned a number of measures that the government has already introduced, such as the increase in paternity leave and the introduction of parental leave. Now, he said, the government will launch a study as regarding revising and harmonising the Wage Regulation Orders.
The minister announced that next year, work on the Ħal Għaxaq school, the Msida school, and the Rabat Primary school, as well as the construction of a sports complex in the Santa Luċija school, will finish. Work on the Nadur school in Gozo will continue.
He said that after removing restrictions tied to the pandemic, the government will reintroduce the distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in primary schools, and hold discussions on this initiative starting in secondary schools as well.
The minister also announced that the one-tablet-per-child initiative will be extended to students in year seven as from the next scholastic year.
The government will also strengthen the existing scholarships and tax credit programmes for students who want to advance their studies at Masters or Doctorate level.
The Youth Guarantee scheme will continue, as through a €10 million investment, and training schemes, such as the Training for Employment and Investing in Skills.
The government plans to continue with discussions on concluding the University Act. This law will be tied to the Education Act.
Minister Caruana also mentioned the Institute for Tourism Studies, saying that work on the Smart City campus will commence in the coming days. “ITS is working on an operational restructuring process, through which we will implement its strategic plan.”
He said that ITS will extend its academic scope to programmes it accredits up to level MQF 7.
As for research and innovation, the minister said that the government will increase investment in research and innovation as through a new programme called Technology Extension Support, as well as through a €5 million investment, where through private sector participation, innovative projects will be financed. “We will also widen the participation in the Horizon Europe programme and strengthen the national STEM Community Fund.”