The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

A safe pair of hands

Owen Bonnici Friday, 21 January 2022, 10:53 Last update: about 5 months ago

One of the things that stands out immediately in any encounter I have with families and people at large is the wide realisation that Robert Abela has proven to be, time and time again, a safe pair of hands.

Almost anyone I speak to agrees that Prime Minister Abela has had a baptism of fire and that he managed to overcome the unprecedented challenges in a very good and effective manner, while at the same time bringing about positive change on major issues.  

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I would like to touch on a number of issues which feature in the daily encounters I have with families and people at large.

Cost of living

Cost of living is, of course, one of the major themes in any conversation one would have with people in their homes.  I find that people are time and time again appreciating the fact that the government is taking all the necessary steps to alleviate the burdens caused by international pressures.

Not only has the government presented one budget after another without taxes, but it keeps taking decisions and intervening to reduce the economic pressure on households and businesses, as it did on the price of fuel, the price of electricity and the price of gas among others.

Many people have friends or family in the UK and elsewhere and they can compare and contrast with what happens here.  Also, another comparison takes place in people’s minds: that with the situation obtaining during the time when the PN was in government.

The Nationalist Party in Government, under the headship of Lawrence Gonzi, had increased electricity and water bills to record levels and also incremented the price of fuel time and time again.  We all remember the broken record they used to repeat: the then Prime Minister himself was very good at repeating the narrative and had a flair in the way he pushed forward the message.  

The people running the country at the time would present facts on the international price of oil as a reason for the increase in bills and surcharges without being able to answer, however, a very straightforward and simple question: why in our country utility prices were always higher than those in other countries?

Even today, Bernard Grech still embraces the same failed policy, as revealed by his own words.

In the meantime, the government is not only intervening and taking the necessary steps to alleviate the financial burdens on our families, but is also working hard to increase the income of our citizens.  

This is not to mention the fact that pensions have increased for yet another year. Children’s Allowance has been strengthened and incentives were provided to help workers with low or medium income, such as the In-Work-benefit.

 

Public debt

The Nationalist Party likes to talk about public debt. Even here, there’s a massive credibility problem.

The last Nationalist government left a national debt that had reached almost 70% of the GDP. Today, after the servicing of record aid and pandemic investment, the national debt is at 57% of the GDP.

When our country exploded with debt and austerity, the results were terrifying for Maltese and Gozitan citizens.  We all remember the rising unemployment which occurred following the 2008 crisis, which was a much smaller crisis than what we had now.  It took six years to be remedied. 

Today, with a global pandemic of mammoth proportions, we have the lowest number of unemployed people ever.

 

Businesses

This is a government that helps businesses. It incentivizes businesses to help them grow and seek further opportunities. During the pandemic, this government gave businesses assistance without holding back.

In the last 22 months under the headship of Robert Abela, the government has disbursed more than €680 million to help businesses, a substantial percentage of which were in the form of wage supplement.  In all, 17,500 businesses benefitted from this assistance - the vast majority were small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed. 

There were no compromises with the lives of businesses.  This is the administration that has helped businesses the most and this direct aid was supplemented by great incentives for further investment.

 

Surveys

Surveys always hit the headlines.  However, they provide you with a snapshot of the situation during that particular period of time.

Truly, every election starts with a score of 0-0.

We must strive to gain the trust of the people on a daily basis.   People trust us because we listen to them and act.  I believe we deserve the people’s trust because we have taken care of people's health, preserved jobs and made all the decisions necessary to keep investment going. 

So we have continued with the reforms in this country while continuing to pursue the building of bridges and co-operation.

What I can say with certainty, while keeping our feet firmly on the ground, is that the country cannot be entrusted to a divided party with a leader who is being led and not lead.

Bernard Grech partisan on Covid-19 

It is not the first time that Bernard Grech has allowed partisanship to ride on sensitive issues of national importance. With Covid-19 he did this all the time.

In a matter of a few days Bernard Grech changed his own version about the Covid-19 advice given by the health authorities. He repeatedly said he was in favour of the new rules. In fact when Bernard Grech was clearly asked if he supported the new vaccine rules which came into force on 17 January, he was clear in his response when he said, “yes we endorse the official decisions”. According to him at the time, official rules should be endorsed because the health authorities have the right expertise and information.

Shortly afterwards, maybe after spending some time on Facebook, he did another u-turn and said they should be withdrawn.

This Leader of the Opposition is as dangerous in the field of health as he is with regards to the economy. What he says today may change tomorrow, like smoke in the wind.

The Prime Minister was clear and consistent. We appeal to people to take the booster because it is in everyone’s interest, particularly the vaccinated people themselves and their loved ones, to have the higher rate of fully vaccinated people possible in our communities.

 

Roberta Metsola

I cannot conclude this opinion article without congratulating once again, MEP Roberta Metsola for being elected President of the European Parliament.

Undoubtedly this is a very important moment not only for her, but also for Malta.

It is also an important moment for all women in Malta: another piece of the glass ceiling has been broken.  

As I have said in my tweet upon Metsola’s election to the European Parliament Presidency, I am sure that she will work to bring this institution closer to the people.  That is fundamental to keep it relevant for the people in the street.

 

 

 

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