Since its foundation in 1920, the Labour Party in Malta has always had as one of its primary aims the creation through legislation of a better quality of life for all Maltese citizens. As we near the end of the present legislature and while acknowledging the immense amount of social and economic progress that has been achieved in the last few years since Labour has been in power, it is worthwhile to reflect on a number of challenges which, in my opinion, should be tackled by a new Labour government, after the next general election.
- Reducing noise pollution
In the first week of January, 2018 it was reported in a section of the Maltese media that an Environment Ministry spokesman had said that Malta was going to have a specific law to tackle noise pollution. This was because the Commission for Noise Pollution which had been set up by the Government in 2016 would be submitting a comprehensive Bill. Included in it would be the proposals of a number of entities. It is pertinent to point out that Eurostat ranked Malta as the country with the worst noise pollution problems within the European Union.
In October, 2019, Environment Minister Josè Herrera said that the proposed law was in an advanced stage of drafting and would be published for public consultation before the year was over. Unfortunately, crisis then broke out which eventually led to the resignation of Dr Joseph Muscat from the office of Prime Minister of Malta. Due to circumstances, the Draft Bill stopped there and since then the situation regarding noise pollution in Malta has not changed.
Indeed, the situation today may be even worse than it was then. The Maltese Islands are a bedlam of noise due to, among various other things, construction works going on in most towns and villages and due to the daily increase in the number of cars on the roads.
Satisfactorily solving the problem of noise pollution should definitely be a must, if Labour is re-elected to power. It is a challenge that should be embraced, something for which the Labour Party is renowned.
- Becoming a more disciplined nation
In his first speech as the newly-elected Leader of the Labour Party on January 12, 2020, Robert Abela spoke about the need for discipline: “I believe a lot in discipline too…it is necessary at this moment…as long as you balance such discipline and are just with everyone.”
It is a fact that for a nation to have real and lasting progress, discipline is absolutely necessary. Although the Maltese nation has made great strides in this regard, there are still a substantial number of people who in their daily life, behave in an undisciplined way which leads to negative social consequences. For instance, many serious road accidents, even fatal ones, could be avoided if some people drove in a more disciplined way. The same applies to many occupational accidents where eliminating lack of discipline in adhering to health and safety regulations would go a long way towards decreasing the number of such accidents.
Another case in point is the irresponsible way in which some people behave when they are outside their home, littering the countryside despite the fact that today one finds litter bins everywhere. One could also mention the undisciplined use of social media with several people saying whatever comes into their heads and without reflecting on the consequences of their comments, sometimes even resulting in highly condemnable hate speech.
Obviously, a disciplined nation can only be created through more education and more enforcement of regulations. It will not be easy but Labour has never been known to shirk from challenges which are difficult. I believe that even faced with such a really challenging task, it would eventually prevail.
- Creating a fully integrated, cosmopolitan society
As a direct result of European Union membership, Malta today has a considerable amount of foreign EU nationals who live and work on the island. This number is further increased by a number of people from non-EU countries who also live and work in Malta because they have been granted refugee status. This relatively new situation has presented Maltese governments with the challenge of integrating these people into Maltese society and educating the Maltese so that they will be able to accept and understand people whose religious beliefs, culture and way of life is different from their own.
Unfortunately, some Maltese still find it hard to understand that we are living in a globalised world where modern Europe has become a cosmopolitan place having people from vastly different backgrounds interacting peacefully and in a tranquil manner in their everyday life. In Malta we have sometimes witnessed incidents of xenophobia and, most condemnably, even racism, which highlight the need for more education among several Maltese and more understanding that people from other countries who live and work in Malta are making a very valid contribution towards sustaining our social services, keeping the economy strong and enriching our culture. It is also a pity that some Maltese, for purely partisan political gain, have sometimes fanned the flames of xenophobia for their own narrow interests, scaring many with the threat of “an invasion of foreign workers who will steal the jobs of the Maltese”.
The tough challenge facing a future Labour government is how to achieve a truly integrated, cosmopolitan society. The present government is facing the challenge using the tools of education as well as law enforcement where there are sizeable communities of foreigners in certain towns and villages. This policy seems to be bearing fruit. Given an adequate amount of time, even this seemingly daunting challenge could be overcome.
There are many other challenges which the Labour Party in government would have to face in the near future if it is again successful at the polls. I have concentrated on the above three as they do not immediately come to mind when speaking about future challenges should the Labour Party remain in power. However, I believe that, if positively tackled, they would further expedite the progress we have already seen in our country since 2013 and continue to improve the quality of life of all Maltese citizens and other people living on these islands.