Stay­ing con­nected with the peo­ple

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Dr Re­falo is Min­is­ter for Gozo

This was fol­lowed by more re­cent events in the US where a con­tro­ver­sial Repub­li­can can­di­date is the Pres­i­dent-elect. There could be a thou­sand rea­sons be­hind these de­ci­sions. One can point one’s fin­ger at the skills and tal­ents, or the lack of them, of the par­ties in­volved in the cam­paigns or come up with more so­phis­ti­cated rea­sons. What is per­haps be­yond doubt is the fact that in both in­stances there was a very ev­i­dent el­e­ment of anger, which played a cru­cial role in the fi­nal out­come. And the main source of anger orig­i­nated from the tra­di­tional work­ing class.

It is widely ac­cepted that among these com­mu­ni­ties, the EU ref­er­en­dum was viewed as a ref­er­en­dum on al­most every­thing. It was about schools, em­ploy­ment and low wages. It was about the ef­fects of im­mi­gra­tion. It was about those that have the means and those that felt in­creas­ingly vul­ner­a­ble to glob­al­i­sa­tion. The same can be said of the sit­u­a­tion in the US. In both in­stances the work­ing­class peo­ple’s voices were rarely heard out­side their com­mu­ni­ties, and al­most never in the po­lit­i­cal or me­dia sphere. On the con­trary, they were of­ten sub­jected to a ramped-up cam­paign rhetoric in which they were la­belled as un­in­formed or even ig­no­rant. When­ever these com­mu­ni­ties tried to talk about the ef­fects of im­mi­gra­tion on their lives, they were ac­cused of racism.

We can con­tinue to dis­cuss and dis­agree on the real motives that brought about these re­sults. It might be a dis­cus­sion with­out a con­clu­sion. How­ever, we must not ig­nore the pos­si­bil­ity that sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments can even­tu­ally be voiced also among us.

This is why it is fun­da­men­tal that peo­ple con­tinue to see a bet­ter fu­ture for them­selves and their chil­dren. This can only be achieved if op­por­tu­ni­ties are con­stantly cre­ated. Peo­ple must look for­ward to the com­ing days and feel se­cure enough to plan for to­mor­row. The best way to guar­an­tee this is by cre­at­ing qual­ity jobs for the men and women of to­day and by pro­vid­ing a good and solid ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren.

As a gov­ern­ment, we have striven to put this into prac­tice. We have cre­ated the right en­vi­ron­ment for job cre­ation and have put all our ef­forts to at­tract and en­cour­age in­vest­ment and we man­aged to do that. Dur­ing the first three years of this ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of Goz­i­tan res­i­dents work­ing full time in­creased by well over 1,300. This amounts to an av­er­age in­crease of nine full-time jobs per week over the last three years, which is twice the in­crease of the pre­vi­ous three years. This was not the re­sult of some magic for­mula but was achieved be­cause the pri­vate sec­tor was pre­pared to in­vest. In fact, the pro­por­tion of peo­ple liv­ing in Gozo that work with the pri­vate sec­tor rose from 54 per cent in 2010 to 55 per cent in 2015. We are con­fi­dent of our abil­ity to con­tinue cre­at­ing more and bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties in the com­ing years.

It is our aim that no one falls be­hind in our so­ci­ety. Even if it might not be pos­si­ble for ev­ery­one to be first in class, it is our duty of of­fer a fair chance to ev­ery­body. A fair chance means not only pro­vid­ing equal op­por­tu­ni­ties but also of­fer­ing sup­port to those who most need it. If nec­es­sary, we must be pre­pared to dis­crim­i­nate pos­i­tively in favour of the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our com­mu­nity by of­fer­ing not only fi­nan­cial sup­port but also our en­cour­age­ment and more sup­port. What­ever we choose to do, we must stay closer to the peo­ple and make sure they feel an in­te­gral part of a com­mu­nity.

When look­ing be­yond our shores, we must learn to look be­yond the ob­vi­ous. We must pay greater at­ten­tion to the un­der­cur­rents and make sure we avoid the same pit­falls in which other larger com­mu­ni­ties have stum­bled. We are do­ing that by stay­ing close to the peo­ple and by con­tin­u­ing to of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties that help peo­ple to be op­ti­mistic about their fu­ture.

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