Integration, connectivity, and a sense of overcrowdedness

Steve Ellul, PL candidate for the upcoming European elections, discusses the three key issues that have consistently come up in his conversations with the electorate.

Throughout this campaign trail I am encountering people coming from different walks of life.  As from day one, I said that my campaign will be one that believes in people – and built around people. Working together always beats going alone.

One point which comes up very frequently is the sense of overcrowdedness. This is a general common feeling across different districts. Many recognise the indispensability of foreign workers in specific sectors such as health and tourism but many are genuinely concerned about the increasing numbers of foreign workers and the impact on the local infrastructure.

I believe we have the responsibility to provide solutions rather than taking an easy-way-out populist approach to this subject like many are doing here in Malta and across Europe. First of all, we need to have proper controls on third country nationals’ applications to work in Malta. It is imperative that only those whose skills are needed in our economy are allowed. We shall not tolerate the abuse of foreign workers by a few agents who consider them as mere numbers. It is important that the authorities keep ramping up enforcement on this front. I also believe that we need to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable economic model which reduces the dependency on low-skilled workers whilst increasing Malta’s competitiveness through an upskilled workforce.

I don’t agree with anyone arguing that we Maltese are racist. To the contrary, as socialists we cannot tolerate the abuse of migrant workers who risk their lives hoping for a better future. Indeed, we must prevent the Mediterranean crossing from becoming a perilous route marred by illegalities and human trafficking.

The kitchen holds a special place in every home. Over coffee, families with children on the autism spectrum or with special needs, like Down Syndrome, express their desire to see their children integrated into the community with proper access to the job market.

Despite progress, concerns linger about their future employability. Currently, one in five persons dependent on unemployment benefits has a disability. A small number of large Maltese firms circumvent obligations to employ people with disabilities by paying what I believe is a very insufficient contribution.

I believe that we must provide these individuals with the real possibility of becoming active contributors to our economy. This would be an essential step in their quest for independence and integration. Hence, this is why I proposed eliminating the €10,000 capping that presently applies to the contribution of large firms who decide not to employ people with disabilities and instead pegging the contribution with the median wage of all workers that these companies need to employ. I also believe that government agencies should also share in the same obligation to employ these individuals. Furthermore, I also think that employers should be provided with the necessary training so that they are better placed to provide an effective workplace environment that would enable employees with some form of disability to be proactive contributors.

I also dedicate Saturdays to Gozo. One point which has been raised recently is that of the reliability of connectivity particularly in the light of a consistent increase in the economic activity of the island which usually translates in higher volumes of crossings.

Photo: Viktor Vella

There have been noticeable improvements in the last years – the fast ferry is indeed one of them. There are, however, issues such as gaps in the winter schedule which need addressing. Currently, four vessels serve the two islands, but there are times when maintenance reduces the number to three, when one of the ferries is undergoing maintenance or repair work.

I believe that it is time to reconsider having another vessel crossing from Mgarr straight to the Grand Harbour, particularly during peak hours. This trip might be ideal for businesses and Gozitans studying at UOM or working in Malta as it would also reduce vehicular traffic in the north side of the island. EU Funds can be utilised for this as it is crucial for us to ensure the sustainable development of Gozo as an island of opportunities whilst respecting its pristine beauty.

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