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Follow us live for Budget 2019 as presented by Labour finance minister Edward Scicluna • This live-blog refreshes automatically

File photo: Edward Scicluna walks into parliament with his budget briefcase
File photo: Edward Scicluna walks into parliament with his budget briefcase

Welcome to MaltaToday's live-blog for Budget 2019 - tweet your views using #MaltaBudget18

20:42 That's it from the Chamber. Stay tuned for press conferences by Opposition leader Adrian Delia and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat Yannick Pace
20:42 Wrapping up, the minister says next year’s budget will be the second one with no new taxes, the third one with a surplus, the fourth budget with an increase in pensions, the fifth budget offering in work benefit and the sixth budget offering citizens free childcare. Finally, he says it will be the seventh budget with a reduction in taxes Yannick Pace
20:39 NGOs with an income that does not exceed €10,000 will be exempt from paying tax next year Yannick Pace
20:38 Scicluna says that the government will continue working on a reform that will seek to have a more gender-balanced parliament. In the coming weeks a green paper will be published in this regard Yannick Pace
20:36 Scicluna has started to conclude and is pointing out that the government has continued with its reformist policies by granting 16-year-olds the right to vote Yannick Pace
20:34 All students will have free access to sites administered by Heritage Malta together with two accompanying adults Yannick Pace
20:31 18 open spaces and pitches which have not been maintained over the past years because local councils could not afford to do so will receive the necessary maintenance and upkeep Yannick Pace
20:30 Sports – Work will start on an indoor pool at the Kottonera sports complex. Yannick Pace
20:26 The Barts medical school in Gozo is expected to be completed by next year, with the second intake of students having started this month Yannick Pace
20:25 In order to strengthen primary healthcare, Scicluna says the government has continued to invest in health centres and will be focusing on the north of Malta over the coming year Yannick Pace
20:24 Work is underway for a new hospital in the vicinity of Mater Dei which will include a Psychiatric Outpatients section Yannick Pace
20:24 Scicluna says that it is time that mental health be given the attention it deserves. 2019 will see investment in a mental health clinic in the north of Malta. Day centres and hostels will also be set up to allow those with mental conditions to continue living within the community Yannick Pace
20:21 Apprenticeship programmes will be extended while a revision of courses at MCAST and the University of Malta will ensure more students can follow courses relevant to the industries present in Malta Yannick Pace
20:20 This will also apply to SEC exams Yannick Pace
20:20 Students will no longer pay to sit for MATSEC exams Yannick Pace
20:20 Mid-year exams will be removed, and continuous assessment introduced. Yannick Pace
20:20 On Education, government will be working to ensure more students move onto to post-secondary and tertiary education. Yannick Pace
20:16 Geological and seismic studies on a possible tunnel between Malta and Gozo have been completed. The project has now moved onto the design phase Yannick Pace
20:14 Companies creating jobs in Gozo for a period of three years will continue to benefit from a 30% refund on the workers’ salary Yannick Pace
20:13 Discussions will continue with the aim of offering Gozitan students lodging in Malta. Yannick Pace
20:13 All Gozitan employees working in Malta will be able to get a partial refund on their ferry ticket, which to date has only been available to government workers Yannick Pace
20:11 Workers who travel between the two island every day will be able to benefit from an increase of €1.50 everyday if they organise collective transport between them. This will impact up to 1,000 workers Yannick Pace
20:10 This will also be given to Maltese patients that need treatment in Gozo Yannick Pace
20:09 Gozitan patients who still need to travel to Malta for treatment will be have their travel reimbursement extended to adults accompanying patients to Malta Yannick Pace
20:08 Turning to Gozo, Scicluna said that the Gozo Regional Committee will be implementing the government’s strategy for the island Yannick Pace
20:07 The process for third country nationals to apply for work permits has been simplified and Identity Malta will now be setting up a board to ensure that all rules are being followed. The agency will be introducing more online facilities and offering more services in Gozo Yannick Pace
20:06 On the IIP scheme, Scicluna says that Malta has among the strictest due diligence systems. This, he says, is what makes Malta’s programme so exclusive. “We are proud of this and will continue working for us to be at the forefront of this important sector.” Yannick Pace
20:03 A study has been commissioned that will lead to the modernisation of the Corradino Correctional Facility. This will include more human resources, better security and better accommodation and food facilities Yannick Pace
20:01 A joint innovation centre has been established to develop the concept of Safe City. In the last months work was on going to install facial recognition technology in non-public places. Next year, after consultation, the technology will be implemented in Paceville. Marsa is also being considered for the implementation of this type of technology Yannick Pace
20:00 Modernisation of police vehicles and district offices will continue during 2019 Yannick Pace
19:59 Police Corps will get a new Command and Control Room equipped with the “latest technology” Yannick Pace
19:58 This will include investment in new equipment like a tunnel x-ray van Yannick Pace
19:57 Investment in the Customs Department will increase for the country to be better able to fight illegal activity and clamp down tax and duty avoidance Yannick Pace
19:56 An agency that will be responsible for overseeing all government concessions - past, present and future – in order to ensure that all obligations are being met Yannick Pace
19:54 Fiscal incentives for film industry will increase, while modernisation work will take place on the Rinella tanks and film studios Yannick Pace
19:52 Tourism is expected to continue to increase over the coming year. Increasing connectivity to Europe will be a priority. The government will be looking into the eco-contribution from recent years to ensure it is collected more effectively Yannick Pace
19:50 Air Malta saw a double digit increase in passenger numbers and has for the first time closed the year without any losses Yannick Pace
19:49 Air Malta, Scicluna says, has continued to grow over the last year. “Slowly slowly we are moving towards having our airline be the airline of the Mediterraean.” Yannick Pace
19:48 A plan of action to help start-ups grow will be another of the government’s aims. A start-up visa will be introduced in order to attract international companies Yannick Pace
19:46 Malta will also be working to attract e-Sports companies that will complement Malta’s iGaming industry . "Malta can be a primary jurisdiction" Yannick Pace
19:45 Tech.mt will be a new agency that will look to promote Malta as a destination for such disruptive technologies Yannick Pace
19:45 Government will publish a feasibility study on a regulatory for disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and other technologies which complement blockchain Yannick Pace
19:41 The Malta stock exchange will be helping Fintech start-ups. A Fintech Accelerator will help these companies develop and grow Yannick Pace
19:39 The government has prepared a plan of action to be implemented over three years that will continue to strengthen Malta’s regulatory and supervisory bodies against money laundering Yannick Pace
19:37 Malta with cooperate with other countries working against tax avoidance. It will strengthen its regulatory framework and will strengthen and increase transparency in its tax systems Yannick Pace
19:35 He says Malta is in favour of investment and will not tolerate those that use Malta or its regulatory framework for personal gain and tax avoidance Yannick Pace
19:35 Government will be clamping down on tax avoidance by foreign companies or individuals that may come and live in Malta under one scheme or the other Yannick Pace
19:29 A new control hub for fishermen will be set up in Marsa and a scheme will be opened for the restoration of wooden fishing vessels older than 25 years Yannick Pace
19:29 Scicluna says the agriculture sector must be restructured to ensure its profitability and to attract more youths to it Yannick Pace
19:28 Agriculture and fisheries – efforts will continue to promote Maltese products Yannick Pace
19:28 In addition to a tree for every child that is born, a tree will be planted for every car that is imported to Malta Yannick Pace
19:28 In addition to a tree for every child that is born, a tree will be planted for every car that is imported to Malta Yannick Pace
19:27 Work will start on a national strategy for the protection of the environment Yannick Pace
19:26 “Waste separation is a civic duty and for this reason we will intensify efforts to ensure that everyone separates his waste” Yannick Pace
19:26 “Waste separation is a civic duty and for this reason we will intensify efforts to ensure that everyone separates his waste” Yannick Pace
19:24 The government, he says, must invest in technology to convert waste to energy as it is not feasible to take up large tracts of land to dump waste Yannick Pace
19:23 Turning to the environment, Scicluna says that waste management remains one of the country’s biggest challenges. Yannick Pace
19:22 This will also apply to electric cars Yannick Pace
19:22 Those buying bicycles or electric-bicycles will be eligible for a VAT refund Yannick Pace
19:21 People with a disability will also be given a free talinja card Yannick Pace
19:21 Scicluna says the government will be extending a scheme for free public transport to 14 and 15-year-olds, as well as those over the age of 20 who are full-time students. Yannick Pace
19:20 Government will offer incentives and schemes for developers to create parking spaces using the latest technology Yannick Pace
19:19 He says government understands criticism that road works need to keep in mind the environment. He says €1 million will be allocated for the inclusion of green areas. Yannick Pace
19:17 The government’s plans to redo all of Malta’s roads has started, with €100 million to be invested in the coming year Yannick Pace
19:17 He says incentives to shift to different modes of transport are working Yannick Pace
19:16 On infrastructure, Scicluna says the government was committed to redo all of Malta’s roads in the shortest time possible. Yannick Pace
19:15 First time buyers, second time buyers, schemes for vacant properties in Urban Conservation Areas as well as purchasing properties in Gozo will be extended. This will include a refund on restoration expenses Yannick Pace
19:14 Work is currently ongoing on 500 housing units with a further 700 units planned. Scicluna said that a number of state properties that are in a dilapidated state will be refurbished and used for social housing Yannick Pace
19:14 Work is currently ongoing on 500 housing units with a further 700 units planned. Scicluna said that a number of state properties that are in a dilapidated state will be refurbished and used for social housing Yannick Pace
19:13 Scicluna said that those over 40 who want to buy a house will be able to pay half the price of the house, with the government paying interests on a property Yannick Pace
19:12 Government is in talks to offer tenants fiscal incentives in return for affordable housing for a period of seven years Yannick Pace
19:11 Assistance will vary between €3,000 and €5,000 a year Yannick Pace
19:10 There will instead be two criteria for eligibility: a) the families gross income b) that the existing criteria exceeds a benchmark for that family Yannick Pace
19:10 As of next year there will be a “radical change” in the assistance given to those in need of affordable housing. A means test on an applicant’s assets will be scrapped Yannick Pace
19:08 The budget will include measures that don’t stifle the market but that protect both tenants and landlords Yannick Pace
19:08 On housing, Scicluna said that economic growth has brought about more challenges and a higher demand for affordable housing Yannick Pace
19:07 The government will pay the last tranche of payments to those who paid more VAT on their car in 2008 Yannick Pace
19:07 A maximum of €2,000 will be granted to those who marry Yannick Pace
19:06 VAT rate on printed books is 5% and will be extended to electronic publications. This will also apply to those who buy musical instruments Yannick Pace
19:05 To contribute to a reduction in plastic, a tax rebate will also be given to those who install a reverse osmosis system in their homes. Yannick Pace
19:05 Tax rebate on private tuition will increase by €300 Yannick Pace
19:04 Parents who send their children to independent schools will see a tax rebate intended to counter increases in tuition fees Yannick Pace
19:02 As of next year, there will no longer be medical evaluation for people taking care of elderly people over 85 Yannick Pace
19:02 Allowances for carers for the elderly will increase to €140. Yannick Pace
19:01 Allowance for children with a disability will increase by €5 a week Yannick Pace
19:00 The scheme will be extended to another 600 people Yannick Pace
19:00 From January the weekly allowance for people with a disability will increase by €10, from €140 to €150. Government had pledged to increase this allowance gradually for it to eventually match the minimum wage Yannick Pace
18:59 Another government savings bond will be issued for those over 62. Over 6,300 pensioners are expected to be eligible Yannick Pace
18:58 After the introduction of a bonus in 2014 that is paid to people who haven’t paid enough national insurance to qualify for a pension, the bonus will now be increased by €50. Those who paid more than one year of contributions but less than five years will see their bonus increase to €200 while those who had paid more than 5 years will see their bonus increase to €300 Yannick Pace
18:54 For COLA not to be taxed next year, all income from pensions under €13,000 will not be taxed Yannick Pace
18:53 All pensioners will get a €2.17 increase, over and above COLA. Yannick Pace
18:52 Scicluna says that government will be increasing pensions for a fourth consecutive year Yannick Pace
18:51 Members of the country’s security forces will be given benefits in cases where they injured Yannick Pace
18:50 Social security laws will be amended so that self-employed people who go out of business can access unemployment benefits Yannick Pace
18:50 Workers will get a second tax refund next year. The measure will cost €11.5 million and over 200,000 workers will be eligible Yannick Pace
18:49 For the first time in 11 years and in some cases 23 years, government will be increasing children’s allowance. This will apply to families with a gross income of €20,000 who will benefit from an increase of €96 per child Yannick Pace
18:48 Following last year’s agreement on the minimum wage, all employees on the minimum wage will get a €3 increase over and above the COLA Yannick Pace
18:47 Next year, workers will be given a second public holiday falling on a weekend as the government had pledged before the last election Yannick Pace
18:47 All workers, pensioners and people of social benefits will be eligible. Students will get a pro-rata increase Yannick Pace
18:46 The Cost of Living Increase will be €2.33 a week Yannick Pace
18:46 Now for this year’s measures Yannick Pace
18:46 A 1.3% surplus is expected in 2019, with national debt falling to 43% Yannick Pace
18:45 A 2.2% increase in exports is expected over the next 12 months Yannick Pace
18:45 Malta is expected to maintain strong economic growth, which will continue to be driven by investment and private consumption. Yannick Pace
18:44 Scicluna says that according to the latest statistics, this will be third year in which a surplus is registered. “Not only have we reached our aim of debt going below 60% but we have reached 47%.” Yannick Pace
18:43 He says the number of employed people exceeded 200,000 people, with a record low unemployment Yannick Pace
18:43 Economic growth continued to be diversified, Scicluna says, adding that all sectors experienced an increase in gross added value Yannick Pace
18:42 Private consumption increased by 6% which in real terms. In a year this reflects a €700 million increase Yannick Pace
18:41 In 2017, the Maltese economy grew by 6.7% in real terms, while in the first six months of 2018 a 5.4% growth was registered. “This compares well with the 2.2% growth registered across the EU.” Yannick Pace
18:41 “The government will be ensuring that public finances remain sustainable by registering a third surplus,” Scicluna says. “At the same time it’s pledge to reduce families’ tax burden will be kept so much so that for the second consecutive year there will be no taxes, direct or indirect.” Yannick Pace
18:40 Scicluna says that the government is now in a position to implement measures aimed at improving families’ quality of life. Yannick Pace
18:39 He says that together, these measures have resulted in a reduction in unemployment as well as people needing benefits. “This has led to a substantial decrease in poverty, with the percentage of families suffering from material deprivation falling from 20% in 2012 to 8% in 2017.” Yannick Pace
18:38 According to Scicluna, most families today include individuals who did not previously work but who were now in employment. The vast majority are women or youths who have benefitted from budgetary measures like free child care, the government’s breakfast club, afternoon school services, among others. Yannick Pace
18:38 “This is in contrast with other European countries, where Malta often classifies among the top performers, as well as with the situation Malta was in before 2013,” the minister stresses. Yannick Pace
18:37 Scicluna says the country was experiencing unprecedented economic growth which has brought about a budgetary surplus. Investment in Malta has increased, as have innovation and private consumption, exports as well as tourist numbers. Yannick Pace
18:37 He says that he is happy that this vision has not only become a reality but is now taken for granted by the nation. Yannick Pace
18:36 Finance minister Edward Scicluna kicks off his speech by stressing that the government’s vision is that of having a country which classifies among the best within the European Union. The government, he said, has been working tirelessly to ensure this is accomplished in the shortest time frame possible. Yannick Pace
17:20 Welcome to our Budget2019 live blog: proceedings are expected to start at 6pm... follow us live here! Matthew Vella

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