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MALTATODAY 28 August 2019 Midweek

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4 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 28 AUGUST 2019 THE focus of the government's budget for the coming year will be maintaining the country's level of economic growth, while also ensuring that wealth is dis- tributed fairly, Finance Min- ister Edward Scicluna said on Tuesday. Speaking during a press con- ference on Tuesday launching the ministry's pre-budget docu- ment on Tuesday, Scicluna said the government wanted there to be a serious discussion on what the country needed before the budget. He said that like others before it, the budget would be focusing on the distribution of wealth. The pre-budget document is titled 'Maintaining inclusive growth'. The minister said the govern- ment had both a moral and po- litical responsibility to ensure that wealth was distributed evenly and fairly across society. Turning to European Union Statistics on Income and Liv- ing Conditions (EU-SILC), Sci- cluna insisted that while one could not hope to completely eradicate poverty, it was impor- tant to compare Malta to other European countries. He said there was a lot said about people living in poverty, but stressed that the reality was that the number of people liv- ing in poverty had fallen from 25% to 19% between 2017 and 2018. During his speech, Scicluna made reference to economic and European statistics, quot- ing the latest survey on poverty issued by the Eurostat. "A lot is said about families and individuals in poverty, but no matter whether the situation is good or bad, one has to com- pare Malta to other countries," he said. Scicluna said that the reality is, that the number of people at risk of poverty or social ex- clusion had fallen from 25% to 19%. This, Scicluna said, was a re- sult of the government's efforts to distribute wealth as evenly as possible through its annual budget, which over the years has included increases in hous- ing benefits, children's allow- ance, pensions, as well as tax refunds. Scicluna also said that while the country's economic growth will continue, it would not be as large as that registered in 2015. "We are expecting the eco- nomic growth to be sustained, but the rate will go down from 7% to between 5 and 6%, which is still very good," Scicluna said. Asked about the recent price hike on fuel and milk, Scicluna insisted that the increase need- ed to be considered within the context of increased income and couldn't be interpreted alone. Reduction in poverty as a result of past budget measures, minister says Finance minister Edward Scicluna said that the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion had fallen from 25% to 19% JAMES DEBONO A characteristic villa area in Lija could be rezoned to permit 13.5-metre high apartments, if a recently presented 'zoning' appli- cation is approved on a 2,000 square metre site. A characteristic villa and its gardens facing a public garden along Triq Gio- vanni Barbara in Lija cur- rently occupy the 2,000 sq.m site, now earmarked for apartments. The site is currently des- ignated by the local plan as a residential priority area, where only low-rise villas are normally al- lowed and where build- ing heights are limited to a maximum of two floors and a semi-basement. But a zoning applica- tion by the site owner is proposing a change in planning rules to per- mit "terraced and flatted development" rising to 13.5m, which is the equiv- alent of three floors and a semi-basement, as is the case on the opposite side of Triq Pawlu Galea – but not the case with all oth- er properties along Triq Giovanni Barbara. Residents fear that the rezoning of this large site could pave the way to the rezoning of other proper- ties, which are even closer to Vjal it-Trasfigurazzjoni where the historical Bel- vedere is located. Presently apartment blocks are not allowed in the whole row of vil- las along Transfiguration Avenue from the junction to Naxxar Road and the to the Belvedere, including those along Triq Giovanni Barbara. The local plan itself has bizarrely omitted a row of houses located be- tween the Belvedere and the church from the villa zone, an omission which was only rectified in 2009 through the issue of an emergency conservation order to protect views to the Belvedere, after pro- tests from the local coun- cil. Lija's villa area faces three-storey apartment block rezoning Presently apartment blocks are not allowed in the whole row of villas along Transfiguration Avenue

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