The national Budget for 2019 has come and gone, with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna taking to Parliament on Monday night to announce what the Maltese population will have to look forward to over the upcoming year.
The Budget touched upon a variety of subjects such as social issues, the environment, infrastructure and others, with measures affecting persons of all walks of life and all ages. Students themselves will be affected by a number of these measures. This is The Yuppie’s rundown of those measures.
Increase in stipends
As part of the Budget’s Cost of Living Adjustment mechanism (COLA), student stipends will see another increase. It is not immediately clear exactly the quantity of this increase, but Minister Scicluna said that it would be on a pro-rata basis on the general COLA increase, which is of €2.33 this year.
Free Public Transport for Students
Free public transport was already available for everyobe between 16 and 20 years of age as of the last Budget. This year, free transport will remain available for all 16 to 20 year olds, but the scheme has been expanded to include three more demographics. As part of this year’s Budget, free public transport will now also be available for all those between 14 and 15 years old, all full time students above the age of 20, and all persons suffering from a disability.
Extension of subsidies on alternative transport
Students, and the general public, will for another year be able to take advantage of subsidies on alternative means of transport such as pedelec bikes, electric bikes and scooters. Also related to this, the grant for the installation of more bicycle racks has also been extended.
MATSEC exams now free
As of next year, all SEC and MATSEC exams – so O, I and A level exams – will be free of charge. This builds on a measure introduced in last year’s Budget wherein the government paid half of the fees themselves.
Revision of courses at University, MCAST, other institutes
Scicluna announced that a revision in the classification of courses at University, MCAST, and other licensed educational institutions will be taking place in the hope that they would provide further incentives for students to choose courses which are relevant to respective industries. The minister also noted that more work will be done to improve apprenticeship programs in various sectors.
Increase in grants for Gozitan students
As a Gozitan student organization, GUG believes that an increase in the subsidy given to Gozitan students residing in Malta help to cover some of the expenses incurred, particularly that of accommodation. This is possible under certain conditions. The GUG organization wished to also see more about the Gozo University Campus budget, since it has been a while that a refurbishment was mentioned. If this campus is to be used, the environment needs to be an adequate and suitable one.
Tax Exemption for Voluntary Organisations
A proposal which could be more relevant to student organisations than students per se, as of next year voluntary organisations which register a yearly income that doesn’t exceed €10,000 will be exempted from all taxes.
Extension of VAT reduction to electronic publications
To complement the reduction in VAT to 5% on CDs, USBs, SD cards and DVDs; all electronic publications such as e-books and e-newspapers will also have the same, reduced 5% rate as VAT.
Strengthening of Youth Parliament, more informal education
Scicluna said that the government will be strengthening the Youth Parliament by encouraging more youths to participate and help them attain the necessary skills to be capable of taking responsible decisions whilst recognising the importance of taking an active role in society. A regional youthwork service will also be created to provide informal education in schools and after school-times.
Are these measures enough? Does more need to be done in the youths sector, or in other sectors? Have your say in our comments boards on our Facebook page.