The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Watch: Government has already completed 55% of its 2017 electoral manifesto - Muscat

Albert Galea Thursday, 23 May 2019, 18:45 Last update: about 3 years ago

Speaking in Birgu, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat started his speech by saying that they had come to the victorious city so that Malta is victorious.

He spoke of a journey which started six years ago, when the Maltese people had started to give up and feel hopeless, wherein the Labour party had taken the spirit of the people along with its principles - social justice, inclusion, national togetherness - and told them that this country cannot content itself with the identity of others, and that this country is capable of being the best in Europe.

The choice was not between red and blue, he said, but it was between going backwards and forwards - and the people in 2017 chose to keep going forward, Muscat said.

He said that they had, in increasing pensions year on year, creating new jobs in every field, fulfilled the trust that the people had given to them and their roadmap.  He said that they had returned a quality of life felt in the pockets of the people, and that people had faith in the fact that the best of times - to quote the party's 2017 electoral slogan - for the country is indeed now.

 

He said that for six whole years, the government had kept utility bills down and not over-burdened the people with more taxes.  He mentioned free childcare, which saved at least €4,000 for each family, before going onto other benefits such as those for first time home buyers as well as examples of successes which have ultimately reduced poverty in the country.

He said that they had brought two thirds of those in poverty out of that situation, but noted that the work will not stop until there is absolutely nobody in such an economic situation.

For the first time in a quarter of a century, the government had increased the minimum wage.  "Is it enough?  Definitely not. I will be the first to say that it is not enough to sustain a family", he said.  

However, he said, measures will be introduced for minimum wage to increase automatically and so that no single person can spend more than a year on that wage.  He said that the government wants to get to a situation where everybody is paid more than the minimum wage, but that he wanted to see a situation where the minimum wage is enough to sustain a family.

The story was similar for pensions, he said, which had also been untouched for 25 years.  He said that the government had found a situation where the children have to help their parents as they were not enough.

He spoke of medicines which were meant to be free, but turned out not to be, and "obscene" utility bills which threw pensioners into poverty.  He said that the Labour government had changed this situation, saying that more and more medicines were made free and even those which were not, were made cheaper year after year - much like their utility bills, which were reduced by 35%.  Coupled with the pension increases, Muscat said that this is nothing next to what the government still has to give them.

For youths, Muscat said he had only three words for them: "work, work, work" - a defiant assertion which brought about chants of "Joseph, Joseph" from the crowd.  He said that not only will today's youths have enough jobs in this country, but at this rate, so would the youths of their future.

He noted that traditional sectors would continue to improve, but so would new ones, citing news that Bet365 will be expanding its operations on the islands and the recently launched e-sports strategy which will create another 2,000 or so jobs.

"All this is for our youths, to create better work for them", Muscat said to more chants.

He said that there are new challenges to face; to not only get work, but to make sure that it is of quality and that it is enough for us, our children and for others.

He spoke of the sentimental outpouring from the Maltese after the murder of a man - Lassana Cisse - on the simple basis that he was black, and he praised the Maltese people for rejecting far-right rhetoric and the rhetoric of those who say that the government had burst Malta with foreigners: "the only thing we have burst Malta with is work", Muscat said.

He said that Maltese had suffered similar discrimination when they had gone to other countries, and that the Maltese would not do that to others.

However, he said that for those foreigners who thought they could do what they wanted - the rule applied to everyone.

"The road for this country is integration and working together - we have seen people Maltese working together with those who have only one difference; their skin colour - these are our brothers as well", Muscat said.

Whoever uses the Great Siege of 1565 to say that the Maltese had fought against foreigners and using it as a symbol is incorrect; "the Maltese were fighting shoulder to shoulder with those from every corner of Europe - our history is a story of race which whilst welcoming others, always expects to have its fate in its hands", he said.

The next challenge is also for equality - to remove the differences between men and women, saying that it is unacceptable that a woman is paid less than a man.  He said that he will keep insisting to have laws for equality enshrined in law but also in practice.  He said that the next step is that in the national Parliament there are more women representing the Maltese people.  "others do not want to put their necks out on questions like this - we come here, even the night before elections, and say that we are the change and we will be the change in this country and we will keep insisting for change as long as we have your faith", the Prime Minister said.

Only two years after the last elections, not even half way through the government's mandate - the government was working on or had concluded 55% of their electoral promises.

He mentioned various proposals listed in the manifest - removal of tax on overtime, a motorsport track, added days of leave, alleviating hunter's concerns - since all of these are in the manifest; they will all be done.

He said that this was the time with joy and unity that the Maltese people would give its judgement on who had Malta in their hearts.  He appealed all to vote for all of the party's candidates, citing the last MEP elections in 2014 where the party had started with a 33,000 vote majority in the first count and ended 200 votes down, leading to a scenario which gave equal seats to the PN and the PL.  

"I am proud to say that in Parliament, I agree with each and every single one of them and each and every single one of them agrees with me", Muscat said.  He said that he would put himself at the forefront and not hide from anyone - in a choice which he called one that is between Adrian Delia and Joseph Muscat.

Closing off his speech, he appealed with every sect of society - youths, pensioners, Maltese and Gozitans to "be with me again" to truly show that Malta is in their hearts.

Malta's one of the greatest countries in the world - Fearne

Deputy Prime Minster Chris chose to focus on the Labour Party's vision of making Malta one of the greatest countries in the world.

He said that had the party founders a hundred years ago been here today, they would not believe that that same party had made Malta one of the greatest countries in the world.  He spoke of past Labour Prime Ministers who fought for this vision, saying that Joseph Muscat was now making it a reality.

He quoted a report by The Lancet, which spoke of the progress in the medical sector of 200 countries across the world, in saying that Malta was placed in ninth place - ahead of big countries like Germany, Japan, Australia, and the United States.  He said that this means that, not only in the health sector but in other sectors like education, environment, infrastructure, quality of life Malta can be one of the top ten countries in the world.

To get there though, "we cannot sleep", Fearne said.  He said that there are two important levels to continue this work; at EU level and at local council level.  Particularly in the former case, he said that two important things are secured and sustained for the country; liberal values and rule of law, the former which has to be protected from populism and the far-right and the latter which, he said that the Labour party had always believed in it.  On local councils, he said that this was the key level to start change at and said that local councils had to continue to improve the quality of life of residents and make sure that all work together.

A promotional video kicked off the evening, with the clip running through a variety of the Labour government's past achievements.  The government's three-year running surplus, increase of pensions, and it's saving of Air Malta all got their air time during the short video, which was juxtaposed with Joseph Muscat's speech from the party's most recent mass meeting, which was on May 1.

Following that, a video taking aim at the PN featuring Opposition Leader Adrian Delia, PN MEP David Casa, PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami and former PN leader Simon Busuttil, all of whom attracted a mass of shouts and boos from the gathered crowd, whilst another similar such video attracted similar reactions. Labour's message at the end of this video appealed to viewers not to let "them" - ostensibly, the PN - create division and to stop their arrogance.

Photos Michael Camilleri


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