The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

The facts about national well-being

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 9 September 2018, 09:21 Last update: about 3 months ago

Somebody said recently that investors are having second thoughts about Malta, following the other alarmist forecast that, under Labour, the country will beg for a bailout.

Throughout the last five years, the long list of scare tactics and incessant efforts to destabilise the country have consistently been contradicted by the facts. There seems to be no end to official results that repeatedly belie the scaremongering orchestrated by an Opposition that knows no restraints when it comes to its political limitations. The evidently divided group has fast grown into a divisive agent, distancing itself from what the Constitution – and the whole nation for that matter – expects from a party or parties that sit on the other side of the house.

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Our healthy democracy

A fully-functional democracy requires the provision of checks and balances, having its institutions within the rule of law regularly keeping a watchful eye. Furthermore it needs an Opposition that needs to be very clear and credible when it comes to what it stands for, in order to be taken seriously when suggesting alternative proposals – if or when they ever present any. Credibility and the consistency of a good track record on each issue or policy are the basics of what a respectable Opposition ought to be.

Being systematically negative at all costs, and attempting to denigrate all institutions at every opportunity, sends a crystal clear message of unreliability. The political and economic harm they have been trying to inflict on Malta in all EU circles confirm their lack of credentials to offer any sort of relevant alternative. One could say that it is up to them to rectify their political behaviour and heal their internal wounds, but most definitely this internal exercise must not harm the national well-being.

 

Timely replies

Irrespective of any recent attractive surveys, the Labour Government stands on its own strength of two consecutive overwhelming majorities and a robust track record of economic, political and social achievements. Consistently excellent results are the most eloquent replies to all the doom and gloom spread around.

This week's statistics prove that our economic growth during the April-June period was three times that of the EU average. Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter of 2018 amounted to just over €3 billion, equivalent to a 5.9 per cent increase over the same period last year. It said that the increase in economic growth has been mainly driven by an increase in private consumption, which increased by six per cent and which was the result of an increase in worker income.

Moreover, the private business sector is also doing better and contributing to the country’s economic growth. Another factor is that, in 2018, the country’s dependence on government expenditure continued to fall, given that government consumption stood at 16.6 per cent compared to 20 per cent before 2013.

In addition to this, the official results show that the operations of the financial services sector which, according to the Opposition, is passing through a time of uncertainty, in reality grew by €31 million, while the gaming industry grew by €70 million. It all shows that government policies are leading to a substantial increase in the income of workers and businesses.

It augurs well that, in the next budget, we will continue to introduce further measures to sustain the economy so that it can renew itself and create more wealth for a better quality of life. It is, however, sad that such results, together with a climate of full employment and highly optimistic forecasts by the credit rating agencies, are conveniently overlooked by those who can only see and project red lights all around.

 

Our call of duty

The Gozo Ministry is also responsible for ensuring that all public services are provided as required – and as requested and expected – through specific contractual agreements, both with national entities and Local Councils.

Recent days have seen unexpected developments in this respect, which went beyond the Councils’ call. Recyclable waste in Gozo that had been accumulating for some days is now being collected by a private contractor engaged by the government. The considerable amount of rubbish that had started to pile up in various villages is the result of an ongoing dispute between the service providers and the local councils, over the charges paid for its collection.

Last month, Green MT, one of the schemes involved in the collection of recyclable waste, informed local councils in Gozo that they would have to begin paying for the collection service as of 1 September. The local councils however, refused to pay the extra premium for the service, leaving people unable to dispose of their recyclable waste. In my line of duty I wasted no time in bringing up the issue with the Environment Ministry and the Local Government Secretariat, and in the light of communication in August between the contracted service-provider and a number of local councils, we felt obliged to take the necessary steps – from a holistic point of view – to find solutions for the collection of recyclable waste.

The Gozo Ministry collected waste left at bring-in sites in Marsalforn and Xlendi, while a private contractor was also engaged by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) to collect rubbish from – and to clean bring-in sites at – Munxar, Għasri, San Lawrenz, Żebbuġ, Kerċem, Fontana and Għarb. This is being done without prejudice to any legal action that the ERA, as the regulator, might take against the parties concerned.

 

An eminent Gozitan

This week, we have been been grieved by the passing away of Joseph Grech, an eminent Gozitan and President of the Gozo Business Chamber. Joe held various roles during his lifetime, primarily as an educator, with a deep love for pedagogy, academia and learning. His dedication and zeal were key attributes in the roles he held with the Gozo Scouts, where he was not only a founding member of the Victoria Scout Group, but remained involved in the organisation until his last day.

Apart from his work with the Gozo Business Chamber and other entities, Joe worked hard in his roles in various social and philanthropic organisations. Through his charismatic personality, he always distinguished himself as an exemplary person and a real gentleman who naturally found himself in leading roles wherever he was involved. With his demise, Gozo has lost one of its strongest voices and I convey my sincerest condolences to his family.

 

September calls

A Pre-Budget public consultation meeting, specifically for Gozo, will be held this coming Friday – 14 September – starting at 6.45pm at the Grand Hotel in Mġarr. Together with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, I will listen and discuss with all interested stakeholders’ proposals and expectations in preparation for the 2019 Budget. The corporate theme for the 2019 Budget will be ‘Fostering a Quality Culture’.

Applications will be available as from Monday, 17 September, for residents aged 60 and over who are interested in attending the University of the Third Age (U3A) 2018-2019 academic programme in Gozo. Lectures will be held on Fridays, from 9 to 11am,starting on Friday 12 October, at the Gozo University Campus in Xewkija. Applications can be made at the Gozo Ministry, Office of Care for the Elderly.

 

Summer in Gozo

This month, the eventful summer season in Gozo will see further cultural and entertainment activities around the island. The fourth edition of the Stage and Proms on the Sea will be held in the Mġarr harbour area this coming Tuesday, 10 September. The Gozo Ministry proudly presents the Gozo Youth Wind Band, which was one of the beneficiaries of the NGO Assistance Scheme I launched last year. Tuesday’s concert will include popular melodies from London’s West End and renowned encores from The Last Night of the Proms.

The Gozo Ministry is actively supporting various other events this month. These include the Fontana Sports Fest, with numerous activities to raise awareness on ‘Let’s Embrace Mental Health’, the Gozo Fish Festival in Xagħra this coming Saturday and the ‘Wine, Olive Oil and Honey’ festival in Għasri on Saturday, 22 September. The Qala International Folk Festival will run from Friday, 21 to Sunday, 23 September.

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