The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

A plan for a better and healthier society

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi Sunday, 18 July 2021, 08:38 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta will take the setback of the  pandemic in its stride and turn it into an opportunity towards  sustainability. In the wake of the shock of a public health emergency that tried our society and our systems, including health and education, the government is intent on investing in the resilience of our social infrastructure.

The Recovery and Resilience Plan presented to the European Commission is aimed towards addressing pressing social issues by investing in people, developing, and upgrading systems sensitive to our collective growth.

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Notwithstanding our timely and effective response to it, the pandemic serves as an important lesson that will now guide us to ensure the resilience of our health policy and system. 

Some €50 million out of a robust investment of €345 million from the grant component of the Recovery and Resilience Facility will be directed towards the national health system. The envisaged investment primarily focuses on the digitalisation of the health system, including the integration of new and emerging technologies.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Our policy to induce resilience seeks to strengthen the preventive measures in the health sector. In line with the review of the national legislative framework, European grants in this field will also be invested in  the setting up of a Blood, Tissue and Cell Centre for Malta thus seeing through the next step in the upgrade and development of interventions and treatments in  the local health services. 

Alongside our health sector, pressing challenges pertaining to our education system ought to be addressed to be sufficiently resilient.

In addressing the Country Specific Recommendations, we aim to beef up our preventive measures in combatting the persistent phenomenon of early school leaving which is ultimately reflected in the general social wellbeing of whole families. With a focus on skill acquisition that is recognised, and that targets both youths and low-skilled adults, such efforts will reinforce the resilience of the labour market which subject to current trends will generally need to be need more flexible and specifically needs to be more digitally apt.

Government policy in this remit will focus on the development of new educational pathways towards inclusive and quality education. The main investment in this regard as part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan for Malta is a projected €41 million to set up a centre for vocational education excellence that will consolidate the efforts already undertaken in the past years especially across the secondary school framework.

Inducing the resilience of Maltese society relies on our ability to detect the sign of the times and adjust. Sustainability dictates that we take important measures in our efforts towards carbon neutrality which means that there must be significant investment in in the region of €110 million to implement a new transport strategy and to promote multimodal and collective mobility solutions, alongside a renovation strategy.

The renovation strategy is intrinsically connected to the education and health sectors. Among the public buildings that will be subject to deep retrofitting with energy and resource efficient measures, are public schools and public hospitals. Furthermore, the recovery and resilience plan for Malta consists of the construction of a pilot near-carbon-neutral school to serve as a model for the future.

A carbon neutral future depends on our ability to instil good practices in the new generation. A near-carbon-neutral school will present the best possible future-proof learning experience to students and serve as a model on which to build a resilient society.

In a world driven by data and advanced digital systems, both our public spehere and private sector will need to catch up in their digital transformation. The investment planned significantly exceeds  the minimum thresholds set by the European Commission and will render a superior public service, including our healthcare system, and a more prepared and able labour force.

In reflecting the outreach and consultation with social partners the national recovery and resilience plan is fitting to addressing  pressing social challenges in the short term and prepares our society for the future. By investing in the most sensitive aspects of our social infrastructure, the plan promises to make a build a healthier, and more resilient society. 

 

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds at the Office of the Prime Minister

 

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