Staying connected with the people
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.