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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Money (it's a gas)

I've just finished working with my colleagues in the MaltaMedia newsroom to produce a special online feature about the government's budget for 2005.

I must say that I was never a fan of budget speeches. The fact that MaltaMedia Editor-in-Chief tells me that this is a budget of firsts makes it a little more enticing. However, I must admit that as I get older I am quite fascinated by the workings of governments. In Malta's case the budget is a grand performance, in more ways than one.

First there is the elaborate performance people see on their TV screens from the house of parliament, including both the debates as well as the press conferences and after-event discussions. Then there's also the perform-or-else factor that comes with every budget.

This year's budget brings a couple of surprises with it. Well, at least they're not what I expected, but then again the Gonzi government has a lot of work to do if it hopes to keep working beyond the next four years.

The first thing I never expected was a roll-back on the way public holidays that fall on weekends are compensated by giving workers an extra day off during the week. And this measure comes from people who made a huge deal in the early 80s when Mintoff abolished most religious public holidays from the secular calendar. I suppose there was some reason to the old man's madness. What a performance that was!

Another unexpected measure was the introduction of an increase in children's allowance to parents with more than four children to encourage a higher birth rate. Only a government with a catholic agenda could propose such a thing and keep a straight face. The last thing that Malta needs is a larger population! Hasn't anyone in government ever considered that our tiny islands may already be overpopulated as they are?

I wonder how long it will take for a different government to change either one of these two measures in the future. Then again the first is a reversal by the same party in government, while the second is certainly a way to appeal for votes...even though I imagine we're years away from another general election. Then again election campaign funds cannot buy future votes the way clever budgetary measures really can.

To read today's blog entry without knowing much about me you'd think I really know what I'm talking about. To be quite honest, other than the part about performance, I know very little about politics, so your opinion is as good as mine.

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