4 years in: a round-up of Labour’s second legislature

Typically, in Maltese political history, the second term is seen as the beginning of the end for the party in Government. Since 1921, there have been only two occasions when a Party has held power for three consecutive legislatures. On both occasions the results were quite dire. The Malta Labour Party’s status after the 1981 legislature was decimated for nearly a generation. The same happened to the Nationalist Party after it won the 2008 election by a slim margin.

The political events of late 2019 followed by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic under normal circumstances would have destroyed the prospects of any normal administration. Not so for the Labour Party, which polls show as clearly in the lead ahead of the next general election. Many reasons could be found to explain why this second legislature is appearing to buck previous trends. One could point to the frictionless appointment of a new leader or the modified approach shifting focus towards a broader political approach. The pandemic and its successful tackling, both from a medical and from an economic perspective, will undoubtedly dominate people’s voting decisions. However, the latter cause if anything has solidified probably the strongest cause behind Labour’s electoral support, that is the incredible track record of achievements that have characterised this second term.  Achievements that have confirmed to most of those who voted for Labour in 2013 and 2017 that they remain the party to support.

The last four years have been four years of constant reforms, four years of constant investment in people, four years of new records. Amongst the latter, one notes that this legislature has been the one in history that has led to the largest amount of new bills and amendments to existing bills being passed by Parliament, around 200. It has passed one and a half times the pieces of legislation passed between 2008 and 2013 by the last Nationalist administration. A record 65 laws were passed in Robert Abela’s first year as Prime Minister. By contrast, the first year Lawrence Gonzi was Prime Minister, 17 laws were passed, while in his first year Joseph Muscat passed 20 laws.

The last four years have been four years of constant reforms, four years of constant investment in people, four years of new records.

Had the pandemic not happened, this legislature could have gone in history as the only legislature to have always registered a surplus in Government finances. In 2020 despite all this legislative activity, Robert Abela passed the largest budget in our nation’s history with an overall expenditure of close to €6 billion or twice the last budget of the preceding Nationalist administration.

For the first time in our nation’s history, in 2020, 100 years after the Party’s foundation, a Labour Government spent more than €1 billion on social security benefits. This was nearly €300 million more than in 2012.  Capital expenditure rose to nearly €600 million, or nearly three times the public investment in 2012. In 1920, the few activists who set up the Labour Party dreamt of a state that provided free health and education for all. On the centenary of the party’s establishment, a Labour government was the first to spend nearly €1.5 billion on public health and education, a rise of more than €0.5 billion compared to the amount spent in 2012.

During this legislature, Malta’s GDP per capita adjusted for differences in purchasing power across countries reached for the first time the EU average. For the last four years, Malta’s GDP per capita has consistently exceeded that of Italy, a G7 economy. Under this administration Malta has become relatively speaking one of the ten most productive economies in the Euro area.

Under this administration Malta has become relatively speaking one of the ten most productive economies in the Euro area.

Gozo, which in previous years, had seen its GDP per capita lose speed compared to Malta, has become a veritable dynamo. Gozo’s GDP growth has exceeded that of Malta throughout this second legislature.

The average Maltese family has the second-highest level of net wealth amongst EU families, second only to Luxembourg. Compared to 2012 Maltese families have nearly doubled the amount of bank deposits they hold. For the first time the number of Maltese families that own their property rose beyond 150,000, with an increase of 30,000 since 2012.

The average Maltese family has the second-highest level of net wealth amongst EU families, second only to Luxembourg.

Despite the pandemic the number of persons working started to exceed 250,000. While in 2012, Malta had a deficit when comparing its employment rate with EU average, in 2021 this deficit was turned into an equivalent surplus. Last year for the first time in history the employment rate among Maltese women started to exceed the EU average. Before the pandemic, we registered the lowest number of persons seeking employment in our history, just above 1,600, when back in 2012 there were 7,350 registered jobseekers. Despite the pandemic, the number registering is close to 2,000 or a quarter the number who were registering at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis.

In 2018 the country registered the lowest rate of severe material deprivation in our history, 3%. From a situation where Malta’s rate was the same as the EU average, under Labour the rate fell to less than half the average. Even during a pandemic, the rate remains a third of that registered under the previous Nationalist administration. The dynamism of our economy is such that during a pandemic, our rate fell, while that in Germany more than doubled.

These achievements explain why facing its second general election test, this Labour administration’s position is very different from other second term administrations. At 100, the Labour Party appears as dynamic and vibrant as always, serving as a catalyst to drive progressive change for the improvement of Maltese society. 

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