28 NOVEMBER 2001

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Cartoon this week: AS the Welfare Reform Commission in need of reform

A no nonsense budget

Typically, the days after the budget are laden with jubilant and critical commentaries. There is no beating round the bush. With budget 2000 a breeze of cautious optimism had been anointed.
There was good reason for the Finance minister John Dalli to sound positive. In the normal circumstances one could wish for better things than to stand in for a Finance minister.
There are indications that we are definitely on the right track and one of the better descriptions for the budget was undoubtedly that this was a pro-business budget.
In this sense there is no doubt that it was. The retailers represented by the ever sensitive GRTU were appreciative of this.
The budget also reaffirmed a commitment to lighten the load on the middle class. The changes were not grand but they indicate a certain trend which points to a reform in the tax bands.
Another very significant proposed reform pointed to the way contributions related to the national insurance contributions should be tackled.
The proposal aims to distinguish between contributions which are marked for pensions and the ones which are for health insurance.
There was also benevolent support for reforms in agriculture.
Two other very significant steps are linked to the overlap between investment and business commissions and bodies. And here again the proposal though not fully articulated aimed to underline to need for a common denominator in their marketing strategies.
The final very significant proposal referred to privatisation and here the attempt to divest the state from controlling and over burdening itself should be appreciated.

Fire and brimstone from Sant

From the other side of the border, it has been fire and brimstone. Alfred Sant has not been very hard on the budget. His first riposte was directed at the veracity of the statistics provided.
A challenge which he continues to make but which is strongly rebutted by the Finance minister and government as a whole.
The second accusation is that the government has not attempted to reduce public spending.
Here again the government retorts that Dr Sant should be specific. Is he calling for a reduction in government staff complement?
What exactly is he proposing when he calls an across the board cut?
Dr Sant tune is amplified by Tony Zarb, who is kind enough to support the opposition’s cries. We also support such Thatcherite trends but is Dr Sant and Mr Zarb aware of this?

The Welfare reform commission

Dr Lawrence Gonzi was very correct in calling for a swift conclusion to the welfare reform commission’s findings. His call came after a report in a newspaper which ventilated the concerns of Mr Galdes the Chairman of the Commission. An unfair concern indeed, considering that the commission has waited light years to put its act together.
And more so when one recalls that the commission which has an advisory role chooses to interact with political statements, a role it is definitely not cut out to play.

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