The na­tion’s suc­cess is ev­ery­one’s wealth

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

are now dar­ing to de­pict a false sce­nario.

The strong so­cial as­pect

In my role as the one re­spon­si­ble for the dis­abil­ity and elderly sec­tors, I can proudly say that the 2017 bud­get adds up sub­stan­tially to all that was given in pre­vi­ous bud­gets. After having reached the high­est lev­els of em­ploy­ment among peo­ple with dis­abil­ity over the past months, the gov­ern­ment is now de­ter­mined to help peo­ple with a se­vere dis­abil­ity that are un­able to ever having a job. The an­nounced reforms in the dis­abil­ity pen­sions will even­tu­ally have th­ese peo­ple earn the na­tional min­i­mum wage. On its own, this is a life-long dream come true for th­ese peo­ple and their fam­i­lies.

The coun­try caters for more than 17,000 per­sons reg­is­tered with the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, of which over 7,000 are blue badge hold­ers. The long list of new laws we have en­acted in such a short span of time proves our de­ter­mi­na­tion to se­cure the le­gal force for th­ese peo­ple’s rights. Laws re­flect our in­tent, but tan­gi­ble ini­tia­tives and projects prove our de­ter­mi­na­tion.

This we do dif­fer­ently but in line with the poli­cies and strate­gies we have set our­selves. When I was en­trusted with th­ese du­ties, learn­ing and train­ing pro­grammes were ba­sic. We have since strength­ened our learn­ing hubs for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity and next year will fur­ther up­grade ex­ist­ing ones and open a new one that will host ini­tially 50 per­sons. The in­no­va­tive project will see a co­or­di­nated train­ing scheme in­volv­ing our clients to­gether with their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies and car­ers, en­sur­ing con­ti­nu­ity be­tween the train­ing cen­tre and in­di­vid­ual homes, as well as our new per­sonal as­sis­tance scheme with a fund­ing of one mil­lion euro.

Up­grad­ing the elderly sec­tor

Apart from pen­sion in­creases, broad­en­ing the cri­te­ria of the car­ers’ pen­sion and tax ex­emp­tions for older peo­ple, we re­main con­stantly com­mit­ted to pro­vide high qual­ity ser­vices in res­i­den­tial homes, to the ex­tent of set­ting up an Author­ity to reg­u­late th­ese homes as per na­tional stan­dards we es­tab­lished ear­lier this year. My Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tar­iat is equally de­ter­mined to up­grade its ser­vices in the com­mu­nity care sec­tor. It is in fact our pri­mary aim to en­cour­age older peo­ple to con­tinue en­joy­ing their fam­ily home as the State pro­vides the re­quired sup­port.

It is very pos­i­tive that within less than 12 months we have al­ready re­ceived 150 ap­pli­ca­tions for the newly launched live-in carer scheme – be­sides hun­dreds who in­quired about it – with some peo­ple al­ready ben­e­fit­ing from the scheme. The re­formed ‘Meals on Wheels’ scheme will now of­fer a more var­ied menu with spe­cific health re­quire­ments and food hy­giene safe­guards, be­sides off­set­ting all wait­ing lists. The same goes for other home-care ser­vices, through more at­ten­tive re­vi­sions of older prac­tices and service cri­te­ria. We will also have an in­no­va­tive com­mu­nity-based service which is respite at home to en­able care givers to take a rest.

Both for elderly care within the com­mu­nity and res­i­den­tial homes, over the past year we con­tin­ued to in­vest in more beds through fur­ther pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship agree­ments. The bud­get de­bate also gave me an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain how we have in­vested heav­ily in re­fur­bish­ing old peo­ple’s homes as well as in open­ing new learn­ing cen­tres for the elderly on both is­lands. The gov­ern­ment is also broad­en­ing the scope of th­ese cen­tres and we are con­sult­ing with NGOs as well as the church to re­vamp the learn­ing and so­cial pur­poses of such pro­grammes.

The trans­for­ma­tion of St Vin­cent de Paul

The Long-term Care Fa­cil­ity at St Vin­cent de Paul can be con­sid­ered our flag­ship in the elderly sec­tor. We not only in­vested heav­ily in ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ments and up­grades, but we also en­sured the fairest ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dures, know­ing well that the res­i­dence is run by pro­fes­sional peo­ple. This pre-empts the ten­u­ous cheap claims of dis­crim­i­na­tion as used to be the case years ago.

Among ma­jor projects we now have in place a pain relief clinic, a vas­cu­lar surgery clinic as well as a den­tal lab that have been added to the Fa­cil­ity’s pro­fes­sional ameni­ties. Th­ese are com­ple­mented by var­i­ous other ini­tia­tives of a so­cial na­ture, in­clud­ing a new cat café for the res­i­dents’ pets and a ‘boċċi’ court for the elderly who re­mem­ber the tra­di­tional game in their own vil­lage. A num­ber of wards which lacked the ba­sic san­i­tary re­quire­ments and the main Ruzar Briffa Com­plex multi-mil­lion project were up­graded. All is sup­ported by our hard-work­ing staff who are pro­vided with in­ces­sant train­ing, which be­sides per­sonal en­rich­ment through univer­sity ac­cred­i­ta­tion, can guar­an­tee the best qual­ity service they give our elderly clients.

The new so­cial mea­sures of the 2017 bud­get and the sub­stan­tial ad­di­tional funds en­trusted to my Sec­re­tar­iat are proof enough of the gov­ern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to sus­tain and en­hance the ser­vices we pro­vide in both the elderly and dis­abil­ity sec­tors. They re­flect the so­cial con­science – which es­sen­tially char­ac­terises all Labour gov­ern­ments in his­tory. It en­cour­ages me to strive harder in build­ing, year after year, a fair so­ci­ety based on equal­ity, equity and in­clu­siv­ity.

Dr Caru­ana is Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for the Rights of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­ity and Ac­tive Age­ing

As a line Min­istry, the Min­istry for Gozo is in­volved in var­i­ous dis­cus­sions and plan­ning ses­sions through­out the year to put for­ward our ideas and plans for the com­ing years.

On a more lo­cal level, this was an­other pos­i­tive bud­get for Gozo. Among the most no­table was the in­stal­la­tion of sec­ond fi­bre-op­tic ca­ble at a cost of around €3 mil­lion which will help at­tract more IT com­pa­nies to the is­land. It was also an­nounced that a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process will start on how to tackle park­ing prob­lems in the cen­tre of the is­land. The bud­get also con­firmed the start of a fast ferry service be­tween Gozo and Val­letta. The gov­ern­ment has also launched the process in which proper fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies are to be started in or­der to ver­ify whether a sub­sea tun­nel is doable or not.

Be­fore go­ing for­ward, it is im­por­tant to re­state again the role that na­tional bud­gets play. A pri­mary role is to map the way for­ward for the next year in terms of pri­or­i­ties and vi­sion. As the Prime Min­is­ter has said on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, each one of the yearly bud­gets is part of a road-map. Each one is part of a vi­sion that aims to make Malta a coun­try where ef­fort is en­cour­aged and where wealth is dis­trib­uted fairly. To be able to dis­trib­ute wealth, it must be cre­ated first. This is of­ten ig­nored by some with an agenda or with a naïve world view. This is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant for this year’s bud­get be­cause its main terms con­cern the dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, a few days be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion of the bud­get, it was an­nounced that the in­ter­na­tional credit agency, Stan­dard & Poor’s, has up­graded Malta rat­ings; the im­pli­ca­tions of this goes be­yond sim­ply rhetoric. The un­der­lin­ing rea­son why S&P de­cided to take this de­ci­sion was mo­ti­vated by Malta’s de­clin­ing deficit and debt ra­tio on the back of a strong and sus­tain­able econ­omy. Th­ese two con­di­tions, that is, ro­bust macroe­co­nomic devel­op­ment and strong fis­cal con­sol­i­da­tion, were miss­ing for most of the last quar­ter of a cen­tury. In­stead, un­der this ad­min­is­tra­tion bud­get targets have been reached, thus en­hanc­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment in the eyes of ex­ter­nal in­sti­tu­tions. More­over, the real econ­omy has reg­is­tered im­pres­sive per­for­mance year in, year out since the change in gov­ern­ment. This did not oc­cur by chance but as high­lighted by the same credit agency, it was the re­sult of in­sti­tu­tional reforms, huge in­vest­ment in the en­ergy and health sec­tors, as well as mea­sures that en­cour­age work ef­fort.

This is the ex­act op­po­site of what the Na­tion­al­ist Party spokesper­sons used to fore­cast be­fore the last elec­tion. We all re­mem­ber the sce­nar­ios they used to de­pict in which a labour gov­ern­ment would mean eco­nomic stag­na­tion and high un­em­ploy­ment. Their then deputy lead­er­ship man­aged to sum­ma­rize their thoughts in the now in­fa­mous ‘bail-out’ phrase.

When the Op­po­si­tion re­al­ized that they could no longer use such ar­gu­ment, they switched to some­thing more sub­jec­tive. And in they kicked with a se­ries of un­founded cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. All of a sud­den, eco­nomic in­ep­ti­tude was no longer an is­sue. How­ever, while cor­rup­tion can­not be mea­sured, its ef­fects can. Strong eco­nomic growth and sound man­age­ment of pub­lic fi­nances sim­ply do not take place where pol­icy mak­ers and in­sti­tu­tions are cor­rupt. It is only nat­u­ral to ask what level of cor­rup­tion ex­isted un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion given the re­sults they man­aged to achieve in terms of eco­nomic growth and pub­lic fi­nances.

As this bud­get has again shown, this Labour gov­ern­ment de­liv­ers. It is what re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence to the daily lives of those that live on th­ese Is­lands. We are aware that the suc­cess achieved in the last years has raised ex­pec­ta­tions, but we are com­mit­ted to con­tinue work­ing even harder to bet­ter the op­por­tu­ni­ties for a bet­ter qual­ity of life.

Dr Re­falo is Min­is­ter for Gozo

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.