Robert Abela has now been Prime Minister for 24 months. These have been some of the most challenging months in Malta’s history, notably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given this background one would have been pleased if PM Abela simply kept the ship of state going.
Yet a close analysis of social and economic data reveals that despite the unprecedented challenges, Abela’s first two years in office will go down in history as a time of major achievements.
For the scope of this anniversary we have selected 24 records, one for every month in office.
Let’s start with the economic records. In 2021 Q2 Malta registered the largest ever GDP growth rate ever observed, with real GDP rising by nearly 15%.
In the following quarter, 2021 Q3, official statistics show the highest ever investment level in our economic history with total investment during these three months amounting to €932 million. This shows how strong investor sentiment remained despite the pandemic.
It is no surprise that the latest available figures, covering 2020, show the highest ever level of foreign direct investment in Malta at €4,643 million.
In 2020 Malta had the highest number of active businesses ever recorded, with 53,348 entities operating on our islands. Given this record, the next record is not surprising.
Abela’s first two years in office will go down in history as a time of major achievements.
In 2021 Q3 our economy recorded the highest ever employment level in history, with 268,987 persons in gainful employment.
What is more surprising is that despite an ongoing pandemic that was forecast to decimate female employment, instead in 2021 Q3 we had the highest ever female employment rate. At 66% this even surpassed the 63% rate observed across the EU.
Similarly, despite a pandemic that everyone expected would have spread havoc in the tourism dependent Gozitan economy, at 14,313, there is a record number of Gozitans working in Gozo.
While international institutions worry that in other countries the pandemic has set social conditions back by a decade, in Malta things have continued to progress. In October 2021, those registering for work were just 1,254 – the lowest number ever recorded.
Banking data show that a month earlier, in September, Maltese households held the largest ever amount of bank deposits with local banks, at €15,202 million or nearly double the amount deposited in March 2013.
Instead of the housing market collapsing because of the pandemic, we now have the highest ever number of homeowners in history, at over 162,000.
Conversely the waiting list for social accommodation is at the lowest level on record, with just over 1,300 requesting this assistance.
Similarly in 2021 Q3 Malta had the lowest ever number of persons depending on social assistance, well under half the number in 2013.
In 2020 Malta had the lowest rate of early school leavers in history, at two-thirds the rate under the last Conservative administration.
At the same time for the first time ever more than a quarter of our workforce had successfully completed a university degree.
The economic and social success of the Abela administration is attributable to its staunchly progressive economic strategy. This has two main pillars: maintaining the lowest possible burdens on households’ purchasing power and constantly pushing upwards public investment.
In 2020, the tax burden fell to a record low ratio of 30.4% of GDP, relatively speaking a tenth less than under the last Conservative administration.
Instead of hiking fuel prices twice the EU average, as that administration had done, in December Maltese consumers faced the lowest diesel prices in the EU, 26c or a fifth lower.
While in less challenging conditions, a Conservative Government had raised electricity prices by three times the EU average rise, under Robert Abela households have the lowest electricity bills in the euro area, paying 10c4 or 45% less.
It comes as no surprise that whereas before 2013 Malta’s inflation rate was always higher than that in Europe, Malta now has the lowest inflation rate in the EU, at less than half the EU average.
Under Robert Abela, Malta was awarded the largest ever financial package from the EU, at €2,250 million. These funds will be used to make sure Malta successfully completes its digital and environmental transformation.
The Abela administration has overseen an unprecedented environmental investment. Amongst its achievements, one can single out the more than 70,000 trees planted since 2020, the lowest ever proportion of water wasted during water production, the largest amount of energy generated by solar panels, the largest number of vehicles running with alternative power, and the fact that more than a third of plastic waste is being recycled.
Under Robert Abela, the state’s investment in health has reached unprecedented levels, with €973 million voted for this purpose in the Budget for 2022.
This is surpassed only by the €1,213 million voted for social services, another record for our country.
This continued investment follows the most generous financial assistance ever provided by Government, which served to shield our nation’s families and businesses from the economic impact of the pandemic. In a direct way, Government allocated €1,500 million in assistance and this was supplemented by another €2,500 million in indirect assistance thanks to loan moratoria and state-guaranteed loan.
The final record we choose to mention is possibly the most impressive. One would have expected a Government that had to handle what possibly was the largest administrative challenge ever to hit our islands to have just focused on dealing with the pandemic. Instead, the first two years of Robert Abela as Prime Minister will go down in history as the most comprehensive legislative programme ever attempted. In 24 months, there were 165 bills on which debate was begun or was concluded.
In two and a half times the time, the last Conservative administration looked at three-quarters of the number of bills the Abela administration dealt with.