The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Small but resilient

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 16 May 2021, 09:07 Last update: about 2 months ago

"The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived." - Robert Jordan, American author.

These two words encompass our reality. Despite the general perception that small island states are isolated, disconnected, remote, insular, vulnerable, and needy, in Malta the opposite is true!  We are a sovereign state, capable of governing ourselves and solving our own problems with success on many fronts. We are proud islanders living and thriving on tiny specks in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Despite our colonial past, we have succeeded where others have failed and will continue to succeed because we are resilient, adaptable, and capable.

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Thanks to the Labour government, the narrative of old - Malta the island fortress, dependent on its colonial masters for survival - is a thing of the past. The last eight years of Labour government have seen our tiny island's economy turn a massive deficit left by the Nationalist administration, into unprecedented surpluses. Ours is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU.  Despite the pandemic and the economic shocks sustained by most countries; the EU forecasts our economy to grow by 4.5% this year - the fourth highest in the EU.

 

Changes for the better

The phenomenal changes Malta has seen in recent years, particularly the past eight years, are no coincidence. Behind the successful long-term plan that is being implemented year in, year out, is the Labour Government's belief in the capabilities and resourcefulness of the people.  As psychologist and feminist Patricia O'Gorman said, our resilience increases as we recognise the magnitude of what we have already accomplished. The Gozitan and Maltese people are fully aware that this is at the basis of what we have achieved and, consequently, our past defines our future.

We are islanders, but this means we are adaptable, open to new ideas, innovative and unique. With this in mind and the overarching goal towards sustainable development, the Labour government has been all along doing its utmost to push our country to greater prosperity and sustainability. Let's make progress, not excuses!

 

Entrepreneurship

The Labour Government is aware of the dynamic entrepreneurial resourcefulness of our private sector and is doing its utmost to reward and bolster all its endeavours. Entrepreneurship is a key component of our continued success. The innate resourcefulness and astuteness of our entrepreneurs when faced with real challenges and the creative ways with which they adapt to circumstances is admirable. Our entrepreneurs are proof that the narrative that small island states cannot stand on their own two feet is wrong!

We still recall that in the not-so-distant past certain factions predicted that our manufacturing industry will cease to exist. In reality, it is still well established, advanced, and competitive.   Its continuous innovation at creating products and processes that are focused on high value-added operation has helped to give our country the competitive edge necessary to boost our economy.

 

Education

This is why education is vital. In Malta, tertiary education, as in most of the developed world, is central. Young people need to prepare themselves for working life, and working adults refresh and upgrade their skills. My Ministry through the University of Malta and MCAST is doing its utmost to assist in the development of a highly skilled workforce. It is this government's firm belief that skilled labourers help to expand the capacity of innovative economic sectors. This increases the country's potential for economic growth.

My Ministry goes beyond focusing on tertiary education. We understand that in today's volatile world, other education or training pathways need to be diversified. Our youngsters and adult workers need to be well equipped to face all challenges that come their way.

 

Vocational and professional training

The contribution of vocational and professional education training to economic competitiveness and sustainability is an important aspect for the socio-economic viability of the country. Various studies show that economic success depends on the availability of skills offered at different levels. The country's economic and social challenges can only be surpassed through the vocational and professional training of our workforce.

MCAST is a fine example of how my Ministry focuses on universally accessible vocational and professional training, that is responsive to the needs of the individual and the economy. MCAST students are being prepared for careers in different sectors in close collaboration with the local industry. This ensures that the knowledge, skills and competences within their programmes apply to a dynamic economy.

 

Island resilience

It is my belief that despite the many hurdles we face as an island state, our flexibility and adaptability will win through. The Labour Government's long-term plan for the country places the best interest of every citizen at the core of every decision it takes. Working together as one  is the way forward. It is the only way we can succeed as a healthy and prosperous society.

We are islanders living on two tiny rocks in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is up to us to tap into our inherent resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness to ensure that future generations have the tools and skills necessary to survive and live in dignity. As American educator Barbara Jordan states, 'A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.'

 

Dr Caruana is Minister for Education


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