First Comments on budget speech - 25/11/2003

As reported in di-ve news (click on link to hear comments)

Dr Martin V Balzan,

We see the budget as being positive because it has two clear objectives: government wants to join the Euro within a certain period of time and thus it must reduce the deficit in three years' time to less than 3 per cent of the GDP.

It also has a clear objective of a sustainable health sector. The rise of VAT to 18 per cent was mentioned and a linkage was made between VAT and the sustainability of the health sector.

The expenditure of Lm43 million on the new hospital was also mentioned. This is a very substantial amount.

There were various things about the health sector which were mentioned. One of these was that government that the question of free medicines will be changing from a concept of a blank cheque to a concept that there is a limit somewhere. I think that government is planning to curb abuse.

Government also mentioned the Yellow Card which covers chronic illnesses and the means test was mentioned too. We can only comment on whether the means test is a good things or a bad thing when it is actually in place. We still have to verify this one.

It was also mentioned that elderly persons residing in old people's homes will be paying 80 per cent instead of 60 per cent. This may seem as a negative measure at face value, but it might lead more families to keep their elderly in the family. Only time will give us counsel on this one.

It was also mentioned that foreigners covered by an exchange agreement will be charged accordingly. This is a thing that we requested and we are happy that it was implemented.

Another two things were also mentioned. There is the introduction of a medical audit for invalidity pensions. We still do not know how this medical audit will be taking place. We will be commenting when we become aware of what it will entail.

It was also mentioned that certain health centres will be closing down at night. We say that it is better if discussions are held beforehand because if we do not discuss and think out things well, we could end up with a counter-productive measure with more people going to the emergency department at St Luke's. There should be discussions on this before it is implemented.

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