The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Leave no one behind

Ivan Bartolo Thursday, 9 September 2021, 09:08 Last update: about 2 months ago

The politics that I embrace is one of social inclusion. In a society where the family background has for many years influenced the development of children, we need to see how our politics will be one which recognises the potential of every person and promotes their overall development.

In practice, this is how we can carry out politics that essentially puts the human being at the centre of every good decision. This should be the aim of every politician; to see how to drive social politics in a manner where no one is left behind.

The economic and social development alongside national economic growth, should offer a balanced approach, where every citizen is considered and recognised through his ability. The state must practice politics which elevates citizens according to what they have to offer, and in the same way, offer an adequate space so that who does not have the means, will still manage to reach the same horizon.

These thoughts are the starting point for the proposals which I have pushed forward for many years during my parliamentary work. They are the foundation of what I want to achieve when the Maltese are ready to entrust the Nationalist Party in Government. These are ideas that, until that day comes, I must continue to practice and present, so that through all possible means I can influence the thinking of those entrusted with the policy making of our country. I want my parliamentary work to be worth, if anything, just that. I strive to work more towards ideas of equality and equity between the social stratums of our country, which are becoming more evident, nowadays.

Measures which work according to your reality

I want us to have measures that work and address the different realities which exist today. The poverty of an 80-year-old is not the same as that of a newly married couple who are workers within a reality of poverty in their state. An elderly woman’s fear is that she will suddenly suffer from illness and will not have the sufficient finances to support herself. This is vulnerability at its best; if you do not have money for an emergency, then you are vulnerable! Poverty for a mother raising her children alone differs from that of an elderly woman. Poverty for this mother is that she will not be able to afford purchasing baby medicines and diapers and daily life expenses, which continue to rise, especially when having a new-born or children who are growing up, who are always in need.

The measures we present must be simple, but which leave an immediate impact, according to the reality of the individual in the state he is at the moment. We often see vulnerable people moving from one stage to another, in their life, affecting their habits and living in their actual state, making it impossible for them to come out of poverty at the first opportunity they have.

Measures must be aimed at elevating individuals from the situation that they are in, rather than providing them with temporary healing.

The fight against poverty and social exclusion

The reality of our country is that we remained dependant on low wages. Moreover, the fact that we have one of the highest rates of early-school leavers, does not help. The present incentives are not bearing the necessary fruit. There is an immediate need to review the National Strategy leading to poverty reduction and social exclusion so that it is truly relevant to today’s life and starts to address the country’s social needs in a concrete way. This should cater for the existing needs, as well as for the emerging ones, surely during and after the pandemic (since the gap between those who are well off and those who are at the bottom of the social stratum, widened more).

It is with the creation of what economists call ‘Minimum Living Income’ – a guarantee of minimum income – that we can begin to raise the living standards of workers and even of various professionals who have to make a living out of low wages. Simultaneously, we must ensure that we achieve social justice in those sectors of the population that depend on obsolete social benefits.

Another reality which is leading to poverty amongst the working population is the Government’s failure when it comes to social accommodation. We have not yet seen the promised revolution since the start of this administration. We have not seen an infrastructure which guarantees that every type of family or individual which needs help, and which finds suitable accommodation that already exists in our country. What we do not have yet is the political will and measures in place to make this happen in an equitable way.

Fighting social exclusion

The pandemic continued to increase the pain of the socially excluded: the elderly, the sick, the disabled and those families with low-income. Here we are talking about thousands of Maltese people and families. Politics must appreciate more the work of those professionals who work in the social field. The time has come as well for Local Councils to become an instrumental part in the implementation of this social politics so that in every locality, no one is left behind.

Ivan Bartolo is a Nationalist Party MP.


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