L-aqwa analiżi li tista’ ssir tal-baġit għas-sena 2018 trid tiffoka fuq kif se jintuża l-ispazju fiskali li għandu bħalissa l-gvern biex jorjenta l-iżviluppi tal-futur.
Ilu ħafna ma gvern Malti kellu dan l-ispazju, fejn id-dħul baqa’ jirranka anke waqt li n-nefqa ma żammitx lura. Għal deċennji, l-mistoqsija kienet baqgħet kif se jiġu bilanċjati l-kotba mingħajr ma d-dejn nazzjonali jiżdied b’mod eċċessiv. Il-pressjoni nħasset dejjem aktar kemm iż-żona ewro ilha tħaddem dixxiplina stretta fuq il-baġits tal-pajjiżi membri tagħha.
Mil-linji ta’ spiża li ġew proposti, wieħed jista’ jara fil-prattika jekk l-ispazju fiskali tal-lum hux qed jintuża: biex titkabbar l-ispiża kurrenti fuq proġetti amministrattivi, soċjali jew kulturali eżistenti jew ġodda; biex jiżdied l-investiment publiku fuq l-infrastruttura eżistenti jew ġdida; biex tiżdied il-produttività tal-gvern kollu kemm hu.
Hemm użu ieħor tal-ispazju fiskali li ma għadux moda. Kien daħal għalih il-gvern Laburista tas-snin sebgħin/tmenin tas-seklu l-ieħor li kellu (jew ħaseb li kellu) spazju fiskali tajjeb: il-ħolqien ta’ fond karus għall-futur. Gawda minnu l-gvern Nazzjonalista ta’ wara, għax nefqu kollu f’qasir żmien.
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FUTUR L-EWROPA
Dax-xahar l-uffiċċju tiegħi f’Malta organizza diskussjoni dwar il-futur tal-Ewropa. Il-laqgħa nżammet f’lukanda tal-Qawra u kellna attendenza sabiħa.
Is-suġġett jiftaħ fuq ħafna oqsma tat-tmexxija Ewropea li jikkonċernaw mill-qrib lill-Maltin u l-Għawdxin imma li dwarhom ma tantx isir dibattitu f’pajjiżna. Biss, kif irrealizzajt matul il-laqgħa, kurżità – anzi, għatx għall-informazzjoni – dwar hekk jeżisti bis-sħiħ fil-pajjiż.
Fuq il-Brexit pereżempju, fejn ħafna jifhmu kif dan jista’ jkollu konsegwenzi importanti għal Malta, kemm fil-verżjoni “ratba”, kemm fil-verżjoni “iebsa” tiegħu. Ħafna wkoll mhumiex żguri b’liema mod se jqumu dawn il-konsegwenzi u kif jistgħu jolqtuhom.
L-istess ħaġa tgħodd għal oqsma oħra bħall-immigrazzjoni; żviluppi fiż-żona tal-ewro; it-terroriżmu u t-tmexxija taż-żona ta’ Xengen… Il-lista mhijiex ċkejkna.
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LIEMA PATRIMONJU?
Hemm aktar minn patrimonju wieħed li rridu nagħrfu u ngħożżu. Hemm dak li l-aktar jissemma: tal-binjiet, produzzjonijiet artistiċi u oġġetti kulturali sbieħ li jirriflettu kundizzjonjijiet ta’ ħajja xxamplata.
Biss, jeżisti wkoll patrimonju ieħor: il-fdalijiet li jfakkru kif il-poplu ħaddiem jew skjav tal-imgħoddi kien jgħix, jaħdem, jiddeverti. Fihom hemm ukoll valur qawwi għax jagħtu xhieda li mhux biss is-saffi ta’ fuq fis-soċjetajiet tal-imgħoddi kkontribwew għall-iżvilupp ta’ ħajja dejjem aħjar fil-pajjiż, imma anke “tal-qiegħ”. Jixirqilhom attenzjoni biex il-valur tagħhom jiġi apprezzat.
B’xorti tajba fl-aħħar snin, bdiet tingħata aktar importanza fostna lil dat-tieni patrimonju, wara perijodu fejn donnu li l-uniku patrimonju ta’ siwi kien dak li ħallew warajhom il-klassijiet tal-artistokrazija jew tal-borgeżija għolja.

English Version – Fiscal space

The best analysis that could be attempted of the 2018 budget should focus on how the fiscal space the government presently enjoys is going to be used to guide future developments.

It’s been a long time since a Maltese government could manoeuvre within such a space, as income has continued to surge even if expenditures did not keep back. For decades, the question had been how to balance the books without allowing the national debt to increase “excessively”. Pressures on this basis grew continuously, especially when the eurozone introduced a strict discipline on the budgetary management of its member states.

By comparing the line item expenditures that have been built into the budget, one can assess how in practice the available fiscal space is being taken up: whether to expand recurrent expenditures in order to accomodate administrative, social or cultural projects, already on line or prospective; to jack up existing or new public investment on the infrastructure; or to boost government productivity as a whole.

Then there is another way by which to take advantage of the available fiscal space, though it’s not quite fashionable. The Labour government of the seventies/eighties decade of the previous century went for it, as it had (or thought it had) a good fiscal space for such a decision: the creation of a fund for rainy days and/or the future. The Nationalist government that followed benefitted mostly from the idea: it spent all the accumulated treasure in quite a short while.

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Europe’s future

This month, my Malta office organized a discussion about the future of Europe. The meeting was held at a Qawra hotel and we had a good audience.

The chosen theme impacts on a wide range of sectors in European affairs that are of direct interest to the people of Malta and Gozo. Yet about them there occurs minimal debate here. Still, as I realized during the meeting, curiosity – or better, a felt need for more information – about what’s going on is very strong among people at large.

Like for Brexit, as a case in point, about which many believe it could have important consequences for Malta, in its “soft” as well as its “hard” variants. Indeed many are not sure how these consequences could arise and how they might be affected by them.

The same applies to sectors like immigration; developments in the euro zone; terrorism and the management of Schengen… It’s not a tiny check list.

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Which heritage?

There is more than just one national heritage which needs to be framed and appreciated.

The one that is put up front concerns the buildings, artistic productions and pretty cultural artefacts that accompany a life lived in conditions which allow much leisure.

However there is another heritage: that left by people who were workers or slaves in the past as they lived, worked and were entertained. It also has a huge significance for it gives witness to the fact that the “higher” classes of past societies were not alone to contribute to the development of better lifestyles in a given country. The heritage left by the “lower” classes needs attention so that its deep value can be also appreciated.

Fortunately in recent years, we have been giving increasing attention to this second heritage, after a period of time when it seemed like the only worthwhile testimonial of the past was considered to be that left to posterity by the aristocratic and higher bourgeois strata.