The Church in Malta has urged the Government to “think of the long-term common good” in the preparation of the 2020 Budget.
Driving the news
The Maltese Church’s Justice and Peace Commission released a series of recommendations last week in response to the Government’s release of its Pre-Budget Document.
“Using economic growth as the most important yardstick by which progress is measured is simplistic and most of the times misleading”, the Commission said.
“Ethics and sustainability are key in the measurement of progress and should be given their due weight in the decision-making process”.
The big picture
The Maltese Church’s recommendations for the Budget fall under three headings, coinciding with three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: no poverty, good health and well-being, and decent work and economic growth.
“These encompass the country’s current most pressing issues”, the Commission said.
With regard to help to the poor, the Church said the Government should focus on areas such as “the need for dignified and affordable housing”, domestic abuse and at-risk youth.
The Commission added that “local studies have shown that refugees and asylum seekers are amongst the individuals at the highest risk of poverty and social exclusion”.
For that reason, the Church expressed its deep “concern” that the Government has framed Budget issues to do with migrants “as a security issue rather than a humanitarian one”.
“The authorities are perpetuating the idea that such individuals are in some way a peril to our society”, the Commission denounced.
It also renewed a 2018 plea that the Government “view asylum seekers as individuals with their own rights, rather than viewing them simply as a collective issue posing a problem to our nation”.
With regard to the good health and well-being goal, the Maltese Church implored the Government to prioritise mental health and good air quality.
On the decent work and economic growth issue, the Commission denounced that Malta “continues to record higher than expected growth rates, low unemployment figures and controlled inflation levels”.
In the face of the “precarious” and “unstable” labour market, as well as the reality of increasing prices, the Church said “the current minimum wage is simply not sufficient for someone to live a dignified life in Malta”.
While cautious on a “clean-cut increase” increase in the minimum wage out of inflation concerns, the Commission suggested to the Government “that the redistribution mechanism… be improved, to ensure that the lower income groups can make ends meet and have a decent standard of living”.
Why it matters
The Maltese Church Commission concluded its message insisting that the present wave of economic growth in the country “should be enjoyed by all” and no vulnerable people should be left behind.
The Church echoed sentiments expressed by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, to the effect that we need to move away from “a politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, … driven to produce short-term growth”.
“True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good”, the Maltese Church insisted.