The Malta Independent 24 September 2017, Sunday

Success is all about good leadership

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 10 September 2017, 08:42 Last update: about 14 days ago

Many of our aims take time to be achieved, but the first days have shown our determination. The proverbial first hundred days of a government are indicative of its commitment – more so when the results are evident to everyone.

 

It is all about leadership and management. Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together, to realise a meaningful and rewarding purpose. Managing is about organising, coordinating and laying the necessary groundwork for a collective success. The first Labour government under Dr Joseph Muscat has amply demonstrated these skills, and the long list of firsts achieved proves its successful performance. 

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I honestly feel proud to have been part of this hard-working team, ably led by Dr Muscat, our inspiring national leader, who has soon risen to undeniable statesmanship. I am likewise honoured to form part of the current administration that is fast reaping the positive results of the last four years and further strengthening the nation’s wellbeing.

 

More firsts for 2017

The journey we began in March 2013 has yielded results far beyond what experts could have expected. Despite all the doom and gloom, all the threats and attempts by a disorientated Opposition aimed solely at destabilising institutions, the country has gone from strength to strength. Against all forecasts for domestic and foreign investment, the snap election last June totally deleted the usual economic slowdown around election time. The latest statistics prove that economic growth has continued peaking during the first six months – including May and June – to figures that are three times higher than the European average.

Malta's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) soared by 6.4 per cent in real terms in the second quarter of this year compared to the same three months last year, well above the European average of 2.3 per cent. GDP amounted to €2,657.7 million, an increase of €209 million over April-June 2016. 

Two key factors brought about this economic strength. Workers had more money in their pockets, with income reaching €603 million, or 38 per cent higher than under the pre-2013 administration. Consequently, private consumption continued rising by 4.4 per cent over the same quarter in 2016. The second factor was that the private sector was booming, with profits €234 million higher than they were this time last year. The rising profits were spurring entrepreneurs to invest in their businesses, with investment reaching €253 million, or 42 per cent higher than under the Nationalist governments. 

 

The Budget surplus

The Labour Government’s continued budget surplus – another first – was helped by the fact that public sector expenditure was kept under control, unlike what used to be the habit during election time by previous administrations. We can boast that while public expenditure by Nationalist governments reached approximately 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, under the previous Labour administration that figure fell to 16 per cent. Moreover, the financial services and online gaming sectors grew by 7.4 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, giving the lie to the Opposition’s alarming election talk of industry players ‘packing up and leaving the country’.

In sharp contrast, the 6.4 per cent growth rate is three times higher than that recorded during the last year of the PN administration. This manifestly successful performance will be reflected next month when the 2018 budget will launch the first measures for implementing Labour’s election proposals. It will prove once more that only strong political leadership and diligent financial management can secure our economic growth rate among the best within the European Union, bolstering the wellbeing of Maltese and Gozitan families and businesses.

 

The voluntary sector

It has always been a reality that, notwithstanding national structures and measures, and regardless of the country’s economic strength, there is – and always will be – room for individuals or groups who offer their time and skills to help others without expecting anything in return. The voluntary sector is a blessing in our communities, to the extent that many have flourished and established themselves at national level.

Soon after taking office at the Gozo Ministry, I decided to show the government’s appreciation of the sterling work these organisations carry out so in July I launched the Ministry’s Non-Governmental Organisations Assistance Scheme. This is aimed at improving the social, cultural, economic and ecological fabric of Gozitan society, as well as promoting and encouraging a culture of participating in volunteer activities in Gozo. The scheme is also aimed at stimulating the cooperation and networking between voluntary organisations and at fostering cooperation between them and the Gozo Ministry through collaborative projects, initiatives and other activities. It should also further encourage such entities to ensure full transparency and accountability in all aspects of their operations.

This week, after a due selection process undertaken jointly with the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, I had the pleasure of publishing the results. A total of 38 submissions were received from NGOs working in various sectors and 16 were selected to benefit from the scheme. The maximum amount of financial assistance to the NGOs was not to exceed €5,000 for the implementation of projects, events and initiatives during this year.

Whilst thanking all those who submitted their applications, I confirm the Ministry’s commitment to the volunteering sector in Gozo. The successful response and the variety of objectives in this year’s scheme will spur the Gozo Ministry to launch another scheme in 2018 to further support the work of the voluntary sector in Gozo.

 

Gozo’s sports facilities

Bringing out Gozo’s full potential and supporting individual efforts to develop the island’s attractions has – from day one – been my foremost commitment as Minister for Gozo. This was reiterated during a courtesy meeting I had this week at the Ministry with the National Olympic Committee. I brought up the fact that Gozo offers a level of sports facilities that should be exploited more by national associations which, in turn, would help attract more sports tourism to the island.

I stressed that the Government is committed to continue investing in sports facilities in Gozo, with Gozitan athletes steadily making a name for themselves as well as for the country. This can be achieved through strengthening the cooperation between the Gozo Ministry and the National Olympic Committee. Another important topic during our meeting was the contribution Gozo can make on a national level, when it is Malta’s turn to host the Games of the Small States of Europe in 2023. Gozo should be included in the hosting of sporting activities during this international event since the island is an integral part of the national territory.

We also reviewed the calendar leading to the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held on the Gold Coast in Australia, where Gozo will be hosting the Queen’s Baton Relay along the tour to its final destination in Australia. The royal baton will be brought to Gozo on Saturday, 23 September, with visits scheduled to Għasri and Għajnsielem.

 

An overall success

With an already packed cultural calendar this summer, an estimated 6,000 people attended the Gozo Special Edition of the International Food Festival, which took place in Xewkija last Saturday. Held for the first time in Gozo, the Festival offered seven international cuisines, with no fewer than 50 different dishes in a safe and clean environment. The festive atmosphere was further enhanced with entertainment by folk-singers and bands, to the delight of Gozitans, Maltese and hundreds of visitors from elsewhere.

This popular event showed that the culinary niche needs further attention from the tourist industry, which is a major contributor to Gozo’s economy. The government is determined to promote events such as these that demonstrate the Gozitans’ organisational skills. Together with other departments and entities, the Gozo Ministry is already planning to have a wider variety of events for next year’s cultural programme in Gozo, intended to be spread throughout the whole year.

During our first hundred days in office, we have shown that we are fully committed to exposing the full potential of Gozo and its resilient people, celebrating everything that the island has to offer: a wealth of natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage.

 

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