Youths should lead the discussion on major reforms Malta faces, such as climate change, mass transport and the electoral system. This was Prime Minister Robert Abela’s message to youths during a session of the National Youth Parliament.
The Prime Minister reiterated that climate change is one of the major challenges, perhaps greater than the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that although 2050 seems far away for some, the road to reaching the 2050 targets involves massive changes. The burden of these changes, he added, cannot be put on consumers.
“It’s easy to pass a law mandating a shift to electric cars. But you have to look at the impact on society. That’s why we have adopted a grant scheme of up to €9,000 to incentivise people to make the change. This is the most generous grant in the EU.”
“You should lead these changes. You should lead the discussion on whether to move from gas powered electricity to hydrogen, or green hydrogen,” the Prime Minister said as he recalled how until some years ago, Malta used coal and heavy fuel oil.
Addressing the youths in the room, Prime Minister Abela said that some of these youths will be occupying official positions when these changes come into effect. That’s why, he emphasised that youths should lead this discussion.
Another important reform which must involve youth participation is in the construction industry. “Malta’s RRP approved by the European Commission is focused also on the changes that we need to make to move towards carbon neutral buildings.”
Another important discussion which youths should be protagonists in is whether Malta is ready to go for a mass transport system, a metro system.
As Government is expected to give more details in the coming hours, Prime Minister Abela said that young people will be the ones bearing the fruit if we decide to go for this system.
He added that while this government has made major reforms in transport and infrastructure, we should not stop there and we must decide on the next step.
“I call on you to take this discussion wherever you feel it’s best for your future, for the future of the Maltese society,” he appealed.
Referring to the government’s post-COVID strategy, the Prime Minister said that this strategy was designed with the contribution of so many young people.
“Should we go for more digitalisation? I say we don’t have a choice, and the pandemic was an eye opener for some,” said the Prime Minister as he noted how government services were a step ahead in this regard when the pandemic hit.
“But it’s up to you to discuss and decide which post-COVID Malta do you want to see,” he added.
“Are you happy with the current electoral system? Do you think it needs to change? I for one, believe that it’s a system that served us throughout the years, but needs revision, just like any other legal system.”
He referred to the numerous reforms carried out over the past two years, from the appointment of the judiciary, the Chief Justice and the President of the Republic. These were systems which served us well along the years but we were determined to make an overhaul. This is why we are a reformist government.
On the other hand, the electoral system has had minimal changes along the years. Now it’s time to discuss and come up with proposals.
“Should we retain the 13 district systems? Should we have less or should we adopt one district system? Should the Prime Minister have a prerogative to choose technocrat ministers? I won’t share my views at this stage, but youths should lead the discussion and come up with the right way forward,” the Prime Minister appealed.
He added more issues to the list. Should we have full time Members of Parliament?
Youths should have the right to contest elections
Turning to the Vote-16 subject, Prime Minister Abela said that it’s high time to move forward. We need to ask ourselves. If 16 year olds can vote. Why can’t they contest an election? I believe that it should be up to the electorate to decide whether a particular candidate is worthy or not, and not any law.
“I would be more than happy to vote for 16 and 17 year olds.” Robert Abela said.
He referred to the incident in Saint Paul’s Bay where Labour candidate Carlos Zarb got enough votes to take on the Deputy Mayor role but a particular interpretation of the law meant that he would be deprived of the role which the electorate voted him to.
“I believe that if the electorate votes for you, the law should respect that. But now you should discuss it. I’m ready to implement the changes you propose,” he pledged.