The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

A government for the people

Owen Bonnici Friday, 4 June 2021, 07:29 Last update: about 15 days ago

This week marks four years since the holding of the 2017 general election which saw the re-election, by an increased majority at the polls, of the Labour Party.  

These were four years which reinforced the widespread established view that the Labour Party is very strong not only with regards to fair and just wealth distribution but, more importantly than that, very strong on wealth creation.

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Year after year, the Labour Party has established itself as the natural choice for more economic prosperity and this has come about as a result of hard work, a clear vision, the ability to take decisions in an efficient manner and by being close to the people, all the time.

These were four years of continued investment in Malta and its citizens, four years of major reforms, brought about one after the other. These were four years of continued modernization and change for the better.  Four years wherein we saw, in January 2020, a renewed leadership at the helm of the country which kept building on the lots of good things which were done previously and reformed those sectors which needed further change.

This very good work kept going on even during the midst of a cruel global COVID-19 pandemic which affected each and everyone’s way of life. In my view, throughout the pandemic, the government, led by Prime Minister Robert Abela, took strong and important decisions which were crucial in order to protect both the lives and livelihoods of the people at large, their families and businesses.

Our country’s economy is growing from one year to the next.  Last year’s budget, for instance, was the largest budget in the history of country with an expenditure of more than EUR 5.9 billion.  This represents an almost 200% increase over the last budget of a Nationalist Administration.

Another example: this government was the first one in the whole of our history which invested more than EUR 1 billion on social expenditure.  This represents and increase of EUR 300 million over the last year of a Nationalist Administration.  On a same vein, this is the first Government which invested EUR 1.5 billion on health and education- a huge increase of more than half a billion Euros over the last Nationalist Administration.

This led to increased wealth amongst the people of Malta and Gozo.  For instance, for the first time in our history, our national wealth per capita reached the EU average (it was 87% of the EU average in 2012), surpassing that of Italy.   Italy as we know is a member of the G7.  Malta is now one of the 10 richest economies in the European Union.

An international study concluded that in 2017 Luxembourg and Malta come first and second in terms of wealth in families in the whole of the European Union.  The study concluded that Maltese and Gozitan families have an average of EUR 81,000 net assets, which is double the amount of the result obtaining in Germany.  

Even in the midst of a pandemic, Maltese and Gozitan families increased their bank savings by 10% over the last year which represents an increase of EUR 1.2 billion.  For the first time in our history Maltese and Gozitan families have more than EUR 14.5 billion deposits in local banks.  Compare this to 2012: families than had a total of EUR 7.5 billion deposits.

It is normally said that the best way to gauge whether an economy is moving forward or otherwise is by studying the employment levels.  Before the pandemic, we had the smallest amount ever of people registering for work (1,616 – June 2019).  In the last month of a Nationalist Administration there were 7, 350 registered unemployed with the number also surpassing the 8,000 figure in prior months.

Let us take a look at the flip side:  We registered the largest amount of people working in the history of our country (more than 250,000).  This is a massive increase of 150% over 2012.  We currently have an employment rate which surpasses that of the EU (74% compared to 68%), a massive improvement over 2012.

These positive results are obtaining across the board – whether in terms of increased female participation on the place of work, improvement in the wealth per capita in Gozo or a reduction in the number of people who are materially deprived.

Another positive result is the threefold increase in the funds allocated to research and innovation.  This is a direct investment in the future of our country and in the talents of our scientists and researchers who are in a position to create solutions, services or remedies which make a marked difference for those who use them.

Of course, when I look back at the last four years, I cannot help but recall reforms and work which I oversaw and filled me with great satisfaction.  I would like to name some of them: the seamless and very efficient split, following a Constitutional reform, of the dual role of the Attorney General, the increase in the number of female members of the judiciary, the creation of the Court Services Agency which laid the groundwork for further modernization, the fantastic work related leading up to Valletta2018 which gave our Capital City a new lease of live and the myriad of schemes of financial assistance which we launched in order to assist various art forms, including those at community level.

Maybe the greatest achievement is that while we did all this, we stayed close to the people, with our feet firmly planted in the ground.  People at large expect that their elected representatives stay close to them and this is something which, in my view, we succeeded in doing whatever the challenges that the country was facing at that moment in time.

No one is saying that the Government was perfect all the time.  But what we can safely state is that we were, are and remain a Government for the people.  We care deeply for the people and we will continue giving our all to see Malta prosper and move forward.

 

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