The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

Labour’s long-term strategy

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 3 November 2019, 09:51 Last update: about 2 months ago

‘You have to be focused, alert and adaptive all along for your strategy to succeed.’  Charles de Gaulle, former French President

This year’s budget shows how the Labour government’s long-term strategy and vision for the country is falling into place and proving to be successful, innovative and ground-breaking when compared to other EU states. Rather than merely providing a balance between expenditure and revenue, consecutive budgets have – time and time again – shown that the government’s priorities are social, economic, political and administrative in nature. They encompass what is truly important for the long-term economic and social success of the country.

Accountability

The successes of consecutive Labour budgets are not coincidental. They are the result of the government’s forward-thinking strategy of involving all stake-holders in its pre-budgetry plans. Inter-ministerial collaboration is also instrumental in the government’s successes. This strategy ensures that the government is accountable, performance-orientated and able to adapt and perfect its goals according to both the immediate and long-term needs of the country.

Labour’s budgets provide greater transparency and accountability for all citizens, particularly in respect of the purpose and results of public spending. It also strengthens direct citizen engagement in the budget process.

Indeed, we are now top performers among EU states and bear witness to the government’s superlative record in managing the economy for the common good. These results are attributable to the hard work and determination of all governmental entities and the enthusiasm and collaboration of enterpreneurs and workers who have understood and become participatory in Labour’s vision for the future.

Gozo’s contribution

I note with pride Gozo’s significant contribution towards the government’s economic success. The economic pulse of the island is running at two per cent higher than  in mainland Malta .This is thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm with which the Gozitan people – in ever-increasing numbers – are collaborating with my Ministry to give Gozo the recognition it deserves.The climate of focus and resoluteness that is driving us towards a brighter future as a community has spurred us into renewed confidence in Gozo’s potential as a viable economic operator.

Increased economic activity means more private and sectorial investment and jobs. The 2020 budget, in fact, reflects the economic successes for 2019. A further 20 per cent increase in the  financial allocation for Gozo translates into a further 11 million euros increase in the 2019 budget allocation and is proof of this Government’s determination to help Gozo reach greater heights. It is also proof of Gozo’s economic importance as a direct contributor to the nation’s economy.

2020 Priorities

In my budget speech last Wednesday I emphasised three very important measures that will continue to boost the island’s economic growth: they focus on job creation, strengthening the infrastructure and further improving connectivity. The Gozo Ministry has developed a holistic strategy that pushes forward our ambitious infrastructural and connectivity strategies, while at the same time not defaulting on our commitment to sustainability and to ‘greening’ the island.

The Xewkija Research and Innovation Hub, which will open its doors in the coming days, is a key part of our strategy for Gozo. It is a highly innovative networking and enterprise-supporting facility that will spearhead the drive towards emerging and highly dynamic economic sectors related to the latest in digital applications. Cutting-edge technology will be incorporated into our businesses and everyday life and will be key to the competitive edge that Gozo needs in order to adapt and advance in today’s fast-paced economic world. Artificial intelligence, bio-informatics, cybersecurity and digital ledger technologies are a few of the latest technologies that will be available to Gozo-based enterpreneurs in their quest to improve their operations.

Innovation hub

The hub will take full advantage of the island’s soon-to-be-finalised second fibre optic cable and a robust digital infrastructure. It will capitalise on Gozo’s potential of becoming a base for testing new concepts in digital innovation, prior to their being taken up internationally by other countries. Thanks to this Government’s plan to connect Gozo both physically and digitally to the rest of the world, double insularity will not hamper the island’s progress.

Through capacity-building, the hub will also ensure that Gozo’s economic growth and successes are secured for the more distant future. It will provide an exciting and stimulating environment in which technological innovation will continue in the decades to come and will encourage more of our talented young people to return and settle on the island. This will help reduce brain-drain and hardship and ensure a balanced and productive population.

Job creation

In its quest to carve out new niches of economic activity and create more quality jobs in Gozo, the Government is allocating a total of €2.4 million to private investment schemes and fiscal incentives for companies that wish to relocate to Gozo. My Ministry has also taken the initiative to set up a specific fund so that Gozo becomes a quality Congress & Conference travel (MICE) destination.

In my budget speech I highlighted work carried out by my Ministry towards strengthening the island’s infrastructure in the long-term. This budget’s 10 million euros allocation for roads will be spent on important upgrades to our main thoroughfares. Next year will see the completion of a new health centre and the opening of St Joseph’s Home for the elderly and dementia sufferers. EU funds, to the tune of 11 million euros, will go towards building the Ħondoq ir-Rummien reverse osmosis plant, which will end the island’s chronic dependence on the submarine pipeline and relieve pressure on the aquifer.

Connectivity

My determination to introduce the fourth Gozo Channel ferry on a lease basis was successful and has improved connectivity between the islands way beyond all expectations and enabled the Gozo Channel Company to determine whether a fourth ferry will be necessary in the coming years. Feasibility studies have, in fact, indicated the Company’s consideration for the outright purchase of a fourth vessel. Meanwhile, MV Nicolaus will continue to operate until a new vessel is commissioned, following a call for tenders. It will, however, be taken out of service between 11 November and 10 December in order for it to be modified at the Greek operator’s expense in order to make passenger access easier.

In my view, a permanent link between the islands will further boost Gozo’s ecnomic prospects and encourage more Gozitan youths to settle and work on the island. Connectivity of this kind means that wages and opportunities for high quality jobs are on a par with those on mainland Malta. Studies on the feasibility of the tunnel between the two islands will be concluded in the coming months and a pre-qualification questionnaire will soon be published.

Sustainability

Utmost importance is given to Gozo’s sustainability to ensure that the island’s growth is balanced. Gozo needs to be competitive and, at the same time, retain its old-world charm and pristine beauty. This budget’s target for environmental sustainability is a priority to my Ministry. We are actively taking measures to limit the use of private petrol and diesel vehicles by encouraging the use of public transport, electric cars and buses, bicycles and scooters. The EcoGozo Strategy will be sustained and the green package of the 2020 budget will be another step towards boosting Gozo’s green credentials.

Sustainability is key to the Labour Government’s long-term strategy for a prosperous nation. It will also allow us, as well as future generations, to fulfill our dreams and aspirations. It is not an easy undertaking but I am convinced that together, as one nation, long-term prosperity is achievable. Taking advantage of emerging opportunities and ensuring that all members of society benefit through fair and equitable partaking of wealth, are paramount to the success and prosperity of the nation.

 

 

 

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