The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

National post-pandemic strategy: how do we remain resilient and competitive?

Owen Bonnici Friday, 23 July 2021, 11:37 Last update: about 3 months ago

This is what Malta will do in order to make sure that we, as a country sustain our resilience and our competitiveness:

* Strengthen and prioritise a compliance and enforcement culture. Nurture a national conscience built on purpose, public interest, good governance, transparency and accountability.

* Support investment in digital infrastructure, skills and services. Close the digital divide to ensure all members of society and all types of business are fully able to embrace digital technology to improve the way we live and work.

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* Foster the safeguarding of natural assets. Focus on systematic education, conservation and the transition towards a more sustainable way of living in harmony with the environment for the bene t of current and future generations.

* Reinforce disaster recovery preparedness, critical capabilities and ecosystems to enhance resilience. Ensure the availability of critical physical and social infrastructure such as food, water, energy and health as well as digital, air and sea connectivity.

 

The National post-pandemic strategy seeks to answer three key questions through 114 distinct initiatives.  The third and last questions deals precisely with the initiatives we must undertake in order to remain competitive and resilient.

The pandemic was a learning experience for the whole world.  It came unexpectedly on us and it threw a light on the need that we have as a country to increase our ability to respond to future crises.

To this end, disaster-recovery capabilities must be strengthened and long-term plans for more robust sea, land, air, energy and digital connectivity must be established. The post-pandemic strategy in fact proposes the creation of a framework for the setting up and financing of a disaster-recovery fund that can provide a safety net for future generation.

Resilience is not only about funds and safety nets but in intimately linked with the need of protecting our natural resources which is an issue that is of great concern to citizens. Let me explain.

It is a fact that for many people the only solace throughout the height of the pandemic was nature.  Many went on foot or used a bicycle to enjoy open spaces or explore parts of the island which were previously unknown to them.

People engaged with nature in a way which was different from before.

Malta has its own distinct natural landscape and even more distinct built environment that ranges from Inajdra and Hagar Qim to the impressive fortifications and bastions.  Truly our country is beautiful and rich in history.

Arguably even more impressive than our land environment is the sea which surrounds us and the fantastic world which lies underneath.  The water which makes us an island is full of biodiversity and opportunity, in equal measure.

However, all these assets are under threat from rapid population growth, pollution, climate change and over-development.  The environment was the number one concern during a public consultation in 2020 on the reform of Malta’s Constitution, with concerns also raised about preserving our heritage and patrimony.

Truly, balancing the needs of our economy with the need to protect our surroundings has been a huge challenge for Malta for many generations, particularly so given the small size of our country.  The Ombudsman’s Opinion on the State of the Environment Report 2018  listed a number of urgent problems needing to be tackled, including over-use of private cars; noise and air pollution; soil erosion; inefficient management of resources and waste disposal; the presence of nitrate in groundwater and mercury in marine waters; marine litter and micro-plastics; and over fishing.

We have no other option but to invest in tackling these problems and preserving Malta’s natural assets if we want our country to remain resilient and competitive. Work on this front had already started prior to the pandemic and the government is in the process of developing a National Strategy for the Environment, underpinned by a Vision for 2050 and strategic framework based on ‘wellbeing first’.

I believe we have a huge opportunity to strengthen our environmental resources at a time when public appreciation of natural assets is at its peak. To achieve this goal, we need to learn from the spirit of community that has been characterized our country during the pandemic.  Also, we must bring together research, innovation, public policy, the private sector and society to advance together the green agenda.

The pandemic has also thought us how crucial it is that society pulls the same rope to follow laws developed in the common interest.   We must foster a greater sense of responsibility at community level, founded on principles of good governance, transparency and accountability.

This means pushing forward a culture of ethical behaviour to make sure that everyone contributes to the common good. We also want to make sure every individual and business has equal access to the world of digital technology, to improve the way we do things, we work and live.

To this end we will invest in robust infrastructure, while supporting adults, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable, to develop the digital skills they need in today’s world.

I am confident that we will make it and Malta keeps going from strength to strength.

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