4 years but not done yet

Rule number one for passing judgment is to look at the whole picture. The positives and the negatives. That’s what people do in the comfort of their homes when reflecting on a government’s performance.

Facebook presents us with two extremes – a somewhat characteristic of the Maltese. You find those who believe that the government is infallible, and on the other side, you find a group of people who declare that this country is cursed and that they are ashamed to be Maltese.

But these extremes represent a small minority of the population. The majority, or at least we would hope so, analyses the whole picture before stepping in to pass judgment, and rarely speak up on Facebook.

Numerous surveys have shown time and again that Maltese people give a positive outlook to the current government – or a thumbs up, in social media terms. Some, including members of the Opposition, are puzzled by this as they still fail to understand how and why. But it’s the fact that the majority of people look at the bigger picture that Labour keeps winning at the polls.   

The key to this government’s success is that it keeps implementing measures that make a difference in people’s everyday life.

The key to this government’s success is that it keeps implementing measures that make a difference in people’s everyday life.

COVID-19

There’s no better example than the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the general consensus in the country is that government has managed to control the pandemic despite not having a how-to-deal-with-a-pandemic manual.

From the leadership shown in convincing member states to agree on the joint-procurement of vaccines; to ensuring enough doses from different sources; the vaccination rollout and the cautious lifting of restrictions.

Another consensus exists on how the public rates government’s aid to families and businesses during the pandemic, only made possible thanks to the good management of finances in the past few years. While other countries saw unemployment shoot up and governments unable to provide meaningful assistance, the Maltese Government invested 3.3 billion in aid. Among these, the wage supplement and the voucher scheme which left a huge impact.

Rule of Law

These four years started with the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, which shook the whole nation. As did other stories linking people in power and business to criminal activity. A dark chapter which will have long lasting effects.

But it is evident that the Labour Government has learnt its lesson, identified the flaws and proceeded to implement wide ranging reforms which no prior government had the will to carry out. From limiting the powers of the Prime Minister, to the appointment of the President of the Republic and the judiciary, changes to the AG’s office setup and the successful reform of the Police Force. Structural changes which have put Malta closer to the European system, with tangible progress, earning praise from international institutions.

Civil Liberties

On civil liberties, the signs were clear from day one, with the first Act of Parliament of the new legislature to pass being the Marriage Equality Act. An achievement few thought possible. The list grew bigger with amendments to the IVF law, new legislation on gender-based violence and the more recent divorce law amendments. Again, these were changes which improved the lives of thousands.

Delivering on pledges

As we hit the 4th anniversary, we learned that government has implemented 84% of the projects and measures pledged in the electoral manifesto. A substantial rate, compared to what we were used to under previous administrations, and considering the unprecedented challenges faced. A number of these implemented projects were considered quasi-impossible by some. These include the Marsa Junction, the fast-ferry service and the pre-1995 rent reform. Another set of measures which made a big difference in the daily lives of so many.

What are the challenges we face in the coming months?

Environment and planning

To be fair we have seen a number of positive steps, such as the ban on single use plastics and that waste management has finally become a national priority. But unfortunately, it still feels that the environment often ends up succumbing to the pressures for development. We need to step up our efforts on urban greening, prioritise the aesthetic element of buildings, and protect what’s left of our rural land. This is not only essential for our sake and the sake of our children, but also as it affects Malta’s brand with tourists.

Malta’s taxation regime

This could very well be Malta’s biggest challenge in the coming years, with the European Commission’s sustained pressure for harmonised taxation. To this end:

  • A collective bi-partisan effort is needed, with Government, Opposition and the 6 Maltese MEPs uniting together in defending our taxation system which has been in place for decades, and which the European Commission has been aware of even before Malta’s accession to the EU. Efforts should also be geared towards explaining the importance of such a regime applied by the smallest Member State, at the EU’s periphery, not forming part of mainland Europe.
  • We need to develop contingency plans, together with social partners, on how to retain competitiveness in various sectors, should the European Commission’s plan succeed.

These challenges can only be faced if political will is complimented with a collective effort. A win over these challenges is not a win for Labour or the PN, but a win for Malta.

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