Innovation and commitment
If anything is certain, it is that change will happen whether we are prepared for it or not.
Certainly, staying within the status quo comfort zone will not deter change from happening. Change does not happen by chance, it is the normal process in our country’s way of moving ahead with time.
The Prime Minister’s key speech at Labour’s AGM last Sunday spelled out the need to be fully prepared to pre-empt the need for change by being innovative in our ideas and planning. We need to bring the future into the present so that we can do now what needs to be in place tomorrow. Labour has always been the agent for change, and it not surprising that, historically, it always had to face stubborn opposition from those who sat by idly – albeit comfortably – almost hoping that change would never come and that things would be as they have been for centuries.
The need for change
In today’s constantly and fastchanging world, change and innovation play an extremely important role for any nation – let alone our own young and yet resilient nation. A committed government must acknowledge the need for change, and there needs to be an identifiable reason in order to make that specific change necessary. The endeavours of this government are precisely directed towards the intrinsic need for further equality and equity in a fair society that is able to turn challenges into equal opportunities for all.
On the other hand, an administration – and any political party for that matter – that fails to recognise the need for change is doomed to failure. The Labour government is fully aware that it is the responsibility of a focused government to be responsive and aware of the need for change and be prepared to take the necessary measures with a sound corresponding legislative backing.
In my opinion, Dr Muscat delivered one of his major speeches throughout his first 10 years at the helm of the Labour Party, defining the characteristic dynamism for which Labour stands. It was loaded with vision, passion and determination and it reminded me of his very first speech, in June 2008, when he spoke of his dream but, in no time at all, showed that he is a brilliant doer – garnering the largest majorities ever, to sustain his way forward.
It has all paid off, with five consecutive years that have not only wiped out decades of economic failures and deficits accumulated by Nationalist regimes, but have placed the country among the best achievers in the EU in almost all areas. Sitting on our laurels, however, is neither our style nor our strategy. We have, in fact, set ourselves the task of laying down a stronger footing for the future generations of Malta and Gozo. We have tangibly directed the way forward because we had a clear vision and implemented our strong will for change, without adding further fiscal burdens on families and businesses. And yet, the best results kept flooding in with a regular momentum.
The country’s economy has this week again been declared by the European Commission as one of the fastest growing economies within the EU, with record low unemployment and moderate wage growth. Such growth is also being projected to remain in the comings months, according to the European Commission’s Spring 2018 Economic Forecast, adding that the current account and budget balances are also set to remain in surplus.
In sharp contrast with the Opposition’s criticism with regard to the public sector, growth was reported to be predominantly driven by the private sector, which helped to fuel export growth and accounted for most of the increase in real GDP growth. Private consumption growth also remained steady, while real GDP growth is forecast to average 5.8 per cent for 2018 as a whole, with a strong performance of the services sector, particularly in areas such as tourism, remote gaming and professional services, all of which are expected to sustain the sizeable current account surplus.
While the unemployment rate is forecast to remain at its record low, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio, which fell to 50.8 per cent in 2017, is forecast to decline further to 43.4 per cent by 2019.
The EC forecast also indicates that current expenditure growth is projected to remain strong in all its components, including the implementation of investment projects co-financed by the EU. The Gozo Ministry is well geared up to keep the island on a high placing on the country’s agenda, through a lot of spadework in preparation for longawaited projects, as listed in our electoral programme, and more.
It was, in fact, excellent news this week that the Planning Commission has granted planning permission for a museum and cultural centre for Gozo. The Gozo Museum had been an electoral promise since 2010 but was actually planned in 2012, when the previous Nationalist Government had identified the site for it to replace the disused Boys’ Lyceum school in Victoria. In 2015 the Ministry applied for EU funds and eventually submitted the relative plans to the Planning Authority last year. The tendering process is already on course for converting the disused school building into the museum that Gozo has deserved for many years.
This museum will bring together various historical and cultural collections currently housed in smaller museums in the Cittadella. Exhibits will include artefacts from the island’s natural history, archaeology, folklore, art and ethnography, with an introduction to visual arts. The plans also provide adequate space for temporary exhibitions, as well as other amenities and a conference area.
Work will include the restoration of the 1950’s modernist architectural building, which was designed by architect Joseph G. Huntingford. The Gozo Museum will be among other major projects to be taken in hand in the coming years, true to our electoral pledges a year ago.
Gozo’s Sports Festival
In our quest to further establish Gozo as an all-year round destination, the Gozo Ministry is supporting the Gozo Sports Board in organising a sports festival, starting off this weekend through to mid-June. The full programme includes games and competitions in around 27 disciplines, turning the island into a wide-spread sports village.
I am determined to encourage more participation by Gozitan children and athletes in a vast range of sportive events. The six-week festival will include a football tournament for female players, snooker and chess competitions, football matches in which around 20 nurseries from Malta will participate, basketball, squash, badminton, soft ball, tennis, car modelling, aeroplane modelling, athletics, gymnastics, cycling, motorcycling and horse races. The event is another initiative from the current budget that provides for sporting events in addition to the various thematic festivals which, in recent months, have become overwhelmingly popular in Gozo.
During the same period – and particularly between 18 and 20 May – the island will be in a festive mode with the Gozo Alive weekend festival. Gozitans and visitors will be entertained by various local and international bands, together with street performances by dancers, fashion parades, concerts and collective art exhibitions on display in various churches and public places all around Gozo.
Through such programmes, the Gozo Ministry is being innovative and committed to further create special attractions for tourists, while they enjoy the unique and serene environment the island can offer. In this way, too, we are fast changing the idea that Gozo’s tourist industry is only a seasonal activity.