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MALTATODY 20 March 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 20 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 20 MARCH 2022 Wages are paid in money, not words Editorial IF workers' salaries were paid out in words, instead of money, there would be no doubt about it whatsoever: Malta would boast the highest minimum wage in the European Union (if not the entire world). With an election just a week away, both main par- ties have now published their electoral manifestos. And as expected, both these voluminous publica- tions – each running into hundreds of pages – are replete with what Hamlet once described as: 'words, words, words'. Many of these words are indeed about 'improv- ing local salaries', 'addressing precarious employ- ment', and other issues directly relating to working conditions. And on paper, they look commendable enough. But neither Labour nor the PN has actually com- mitted itself to any specific wage increases, so far. And as Moviment Graffitti's Andre Callus aptly pointed out in recent weeks: this is doubly anoma- lous, given that Malta has registered a sustained pe- riod of mammoth economic growth, in recent years; and yet – despite all this newfound prosperity – is still home to tens of thousands of workers, who are somehow eking out a living on just a few hundred euros a month. Faced with this reality, the two political parties owe the country more than just a series of well-meaning (but ultimately ineffectual) empty promises. And they clearly know this, too: judging by how much of their respective electoral manifestos, are in fact di- rected specifically at low-income earners. But it is painfully clear that both parties are still wary of any commitment which would increase ex- penses for businesses; but which would make work pay for a neglected category of workers. While Labour is now committed to raise the mini- mum wage over and above COLA increases, the PN is committed to reward companies paying a living wage – the amount of money required by a family to live a decent life – with fiscal incentives in line with (as yet undefined) ESG criteria. Both these promises are at best vague; and at worst, unrealistic. The Labour Party, for instance, has pledged an upward revision of the national min- imum wage; but without specifying by how much it will increase, or even within what timeframes. Nonetheless, it remains more practical that the PN's approach: which was to propose a 'living in- come' which places the financial onus squarely on the private sector – unwittingly, raising questions about discrimination against public sector employ- ees – while stopping short of defining the mecha- nism whereby such a wage would even be calculated in the first place. To be fair, the PN is also committed to paying a full "minimum wage" to all those who lose their jobs for the period of a year; while both parties are now (rightly) committed to outlawing zero-hour con- tracts. But all this still seems to missing the wood for the trees. The PN, for instance, is promising tax credits for lower earners, starting from 10% credit for those who earn less than €20,000, and a massive 10-point tax band cut from 35% to 25% for higher earners €60,000-€80,000. And on top of its living income proposal for busi- nesses – which, once again, does not commit to how much a 'living wage' should even be – it is also pro- posing a month's salary in the way of a bonus for teachers, health workers and other frontliners. Surely, there is something wrong here. If both parties are so keen on improving the financial con- ditions of low-income workers… why not simply increase their wages instead? And instead of con- voluted proposals, that are based mostly on poor- ly-defined mechanisms, and criteria which have not yet even been established… why not come up with a clear, detailed vision, for a strategy that will usher in incrementally higher wages, over time? This is, in fact, the problem with both parties' pro- posals regarding wages: there is simply no plan to ensure a gradual increase in salaries; but instead, rafts of tax cuts which hinge on the possibility of sustained economic growth in future. This would be problematic, even at a time when economic growth is more or less guaranteed. But it simply makes no sense at all, to pursue this sort of strategy at a time when the world is bracing itself for a period of intense economic uncertainty. Surely this will not address the problems faced by low-income earners on account of inflation, or high property prices. Because as Callus also rightly pointed out: unless those words are matched with tangible, realistic and quantifiable targets… we will be forced to conclude that expressions such as 'liv- ing wage', 'living income' and 'fiscal incentives' are in reality just empty buzzwords, with no real mean- ing at all. At the end of the day, wages are paid in money, not words. 20 March 2012 Marsascala murder scene was under police surveillance POLICE are said to be holding a suspect who allegedly was involved in a shooting which has left one man dead and another critically wounded during a heated argument in the basement of a Marsascala residence. Informed sources said that the incident hap- pened in the basement of a residence in Guzep- pi Lanzon Street in Marsascala, which has been under police surveillance for some weeks. The basement is said to be three floors beneath the street level. Sources explained that the people involved in the shooting are all well known to the police, and were under surveillance over their regular meetings inside the basement in connection with a series of hold-ups and robberies around the island. Investigators however, are still trying to establish the identity of the dead man who was killed with a shot to his chest. The other man has been hit in the shoulder. A woman, known for her connection to one of the men and who lives in the house above the basement, was held for questioning. According a reconstruction of events, police were informed of the shooting at about 6:45pm. The first officers who arrived on the scene from the mobile squad unit were approached by an injured man in the street who claimed to have been hit by gun fire in a drive-by shooting. Further investigations established that the shooting never happened in the street but in- side the basement, while a search in the area yielded three parked cars belonging to suspects involved in the shooting. The dead man was discovered inside one of the cars, and was being held by another man who was understood to be critically injured. Two ambulances took the two injured to hospital, while one of them was admitted for immediate surgery. He is in imminent danger of dying. Senior police investigators are on site, while forensic experts are conducting thorough in- vestigations. An inquiry is being held by Magistrate Nev- ille Camilleri. Quote of the Week "There is a deafening silence on mental health. Let's work on normalising mental health issues... It's easier to speak about a toothache, than a broken heart." Mario Galea, outgoing Nationalist MP, and mental health advocate MaltaToday 10 years ago

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