21 NOVEMBER 2001

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Cartoon this week: Bait or bomb?

What is in store for us, Mr Dalli

Once again, November has crept around the corner and Budget Day is already upon us. This evening Finance Minister Mr John Dalli will spell out the economic conditions that we are to live by over the next year.
However, despite the dire foretelling that have been issued from various camps, there are unmistakably strong indications that this year’s budget will be positive, with a fair share of benevolence thrown in for good measure.
For starters, it is certain that the government’s fiscal targets will be reached ahead of their deadlines.
One should expect the introduction of a substantial impetus to spurn the development of the country’s small and medium sized enterprises, the backbone of a good economy. In this vein, due consideration is likely to be given to the middle classes, which was on the receiving end of the brunt of last year’s budgetary measures.
Mr Dalli is also expected to lay out the red carpet for the government’s privatisation drive, the announcement of which is long overdue. It is also expected that the players of the Malta Stock Exchange should react positively to the furnishing of the drive’s concrete details.
Indeed, a kind budget for next year will come as a breath of fresh air to both the business community and the population as a whole – after the dark clouds that had formed in the wake of the last budget, which held no favourable surprises for anyone.
A simple application of common sense should tell anyone that this afternoon’s measures should be widely placating, given that this could very well one of the last budgets before the next elections and the present administration could undoubtedly do well with scoring some points.
Despite the difficult times of late, the turmoil of the world’s financial markets and the slow down and practical stagnation of certain sectors, one must say that Malta has not fared badly at all. New businesses are still being created and the unemployment rate is holding relatively steady, which is more than can be said for many economies.
Mr Dalli is also expected to be concentrating on means of incentivising business growth, while also ensuring competitivity.
The bulging and unwieldy public sector is expected to be toned down a few notches and measures to ensure cost effectiveness in this sphere should be introduced.
Tax evasion measures should be fortified. In fact, one of the only parties that is expected to be grossly disappointed by this afternoon’s budgetary measures will be the country’s notorious tax evaders. Mr Dalli, only yesterday, said that the government will be reaping the harvest of the Tax Compliance Unit to the tune of Lm40 million over the next five years.
In short, Mr Dalli this afternoon may well be revealing his more generous side while also ensuring that Maltese businesses have a future to look forward to. This he will do after having steered through some difficult times.
We are all dying to see what is in store for the business and financial sector.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt