The Malta Independent 20 June 2018, Wednesday

The people’s choice is my mission

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 11 June 2017, 08:39 Last update: about 2 years ago

"Politics is the art of the possible and the attainable, but most of all it is the way to the next best time for the country". This wise saying by German statesman Otto Von Bismarck perfectly describes what a historic majority voted for on 3 June.

I personally feel honoured, although humbled, by the trust my fellow Gozitans have shown in me for the fourth time running. I am also very grateful to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for entrusting me with the Gozo portfolio, and I am fully determined to implement Labour's vision for Gozo - more so because I myself penned most of the specific proposals in our manifesto. I heartily embrace this opportunity to continue the work started by my predecessor and to adopt further measures in line with the electoral targets as approved by our Gozitan majority. At the end of the day, politics is not an honour but is essentially a service - and the real honour for me is in serving our people.


History is our judge

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. All of us who have been elected are merely servants of what that decision carries with it. It is up to us to be loyal and fully committed. History has its own method of evaluating people in politics according to the legacy they leave after their time in power. What matters most is the impact on people's lives of the policies and measures taken. 

This is particularly true when those politicians have marked their time in power with legacies that can last for generations. A classic universal saying says that a politician thinks of the next election, but a statesman thinks of the next generation. As a matter of fact, the political process does not end on Election Day. We certainly understand that choices are made on that day but they are only a judgement on how people have been individually affected during the preceding years. Last Sunday's result is a case in point.

The more intelligent people are, the more they base their choice on the policies and plans offered by different parties. The feasibility of the proposals on offer, together with the credibility of those who propose them, play an important role when voters fill up their polling document on the day. They count even more than the loads of promotional material that jammed their letter-boxes during the preceding weeks. Last Saturday's result has clearly shown that Gozo's electorate has been eloquent in choosing the way forward under an administration that had walked its talk during its first four years in office. 

Election results

In its methodology, history considers election results as part of an era in a country's life within a sequence of generations and scenarios of economic and social needs and remedies. Results are, however, a reality that affects people in different ways. Some may get euphoric when their choices have been vindicated at a national level, while others try to accept the hard reality of being or becoming part of a minority. Once election fever has cooled down, we all need to realise that, whatever the choice made, we are still the same people with the same family units and roots that form the same nation that needs to trust its own resilience with pride. 

It was indeed a short but a very hectic electoral campaign, throughout which the electorate was being targeted by the Opposition with the meanest tactics of hatred and division ever.  Results however prove the people's growing maturity. They had been making up their minds all through the past four years. Dr Joseph Muscat's first four years in government have been marked with a long series of firsts in almost all aspects of the nation's life, and this alone gave a sense of wellbeing that had not been felt for long decades.

An overwhelming majority led to a landslide victory for Labour, proving the nation's great sense of judgement. Credibility is essentially basic when people are asked for their opinion at the polls. But it is not a one-time judgement. People need to stay involved in the process by continuing to pay attention to the conversation and developments throughout the period between elections. They are not merely observers, but beneficiaries or victims - depending on to what extent politicians listen and decide.

People and politicians

Politicians must be fully aware that people evaluate their performance through the unfolding of events throughout a whole legislature and not on last-minute efforts or promotional material, however colourful it may be. This has always been my way of doing things when entrusted with the responsibility for the elderly and people with a disability whom I will always treasure. That same truth will still guide me during the years I will now serve as Minister for Gozo.

The structure of the cabinet for Dr Muscat's second Labour Government is a clear indication that we will continue along the same road, strengthened with our latest manifesto proposals. Although it is not on our books to sing our praises, we are aware of the successes achieved this far. The main reason we pride ourselves on the economic results attained is because they made possible the implementation of our strong social agenda, which is the core reason for our existence. For us, the definition of 'progress' is the improvement in the quality of life of the vulnerable and those in need. We call it 'prosperity with a purpose'.  

Our record of accomplishments on social measures is second to none. Over the past four years, we reduced the number of people in absolute poverty from 39,000 to 19,000. We now need to move on to the next level. A total of 19,000 people in poverty is a lot and we must continue helping these people, as a society is only as strong as its weakest members. We are happy with the results achieved in our first four years, but there is still much more to do. Poverty must be eradicated and with the latest economic results announced - even during the electoral campaign - we feel we are on the right track to reach this ambitious goal.

Moving forward

The Labour movement managed to tear down the perception that economic competence and a strong social agenda are paradoxical - that you can have one but not the other. These two qualities go hand in hand. Economic growth with no improvement in the quality of life is pointless, as is a strong social agenda with no strong economy to sustain the measures required. Both are necessary for a sustainable, socially conscious, society that introduces new measures aimed at reaching out to everybody.

Fiscal responsibility is something this country had not experienced for decades. We registered a surplus of more than €100 million for the first time in 36 years and, as a country, we can boast of having one of the healthiest economies in Europe. We will be committed to using this surplus to reach out and spread further the fruits that our economy is producing.

My mission in Gozo

In my new role as Gozo Minister, I welcome the Prime Minister's forecast that the coming years will be a new and bright chapter for the Gozitans. My own vision goes along that same thought and I feel encouraged by the people's strong appraisal of Labour's policies.

It is clear that the Gozitans have also chosen to stay the course. For the past four years we have had a Labour government that has not wasted time twiddling its thumbs but has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up in Gozo too for the best times that are yet to come!


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