Financial prosperity should result in better quality of life says Church’s Justice and Peace Commission
The Justice and Peace Commission believes that the financial prosperity currently being experienced should translate into a better quality of life for everyone, and said as much in its proposals for the upcoming budget.
In its document, the Commission made recommendations in relation to five major focus areas: transport, the environment, health, affordable housing and migration which are highlighted below.
More long-term solutions, rather than quick-fixes, are needed. These could include the improvement of our infrastructure to allow public transport, carpooling, walking and cycling to really become valid alternatives to private vehicles. Implementing the Malta Transport Strategy 2050 and the Malta Transport Master Plan for 2025 is also encouraged. Alternative solutions such as teleworking could also be considered.
The provision of a Circular Economy model, which could be applied to the local scene, is necessary. Authorities are to work for a cleaner island through the introduction of more green areas. Moreover, forward planning for the efficient use of land should be ensured, along with the protection of our environmental heritage.
Targeting environmental and traffic issues should already be leading to healthier living. The problem of obesity must also be tackled, with concrete actions such as increasing the amount of physical activity in schools, the introduction of measures to limit the consumption of unhealthy food and incentives to walk and/or cycle. Resources should be directed towards mental healthcare to provide quality services to both patients as well as members of their family and/or carers.
In order to alleviate some of the financial burdens incurred in respect of housing, the government should look into different schemes, such as (i) a shared ownership housing scheme; (ii) a government mortgage guarantee and (iii) a deduction of the interest on loans from taxes. The Commission awaits the publication of the White Paper on the rental market and hopes that it will include various solutions.
In terms of foreign workers, the government should ensure that optimal and equal working conditions are enjoyed by all, irrespective of their nationality. This could be done through the setting up of a legal advice office to provide third-country nationals with information about their rights and obligations. Local legislation should be amended to include the effective protection of migrant workers who report abuse. Integration programmes are also encouraged. In terms of asylum seekers and refugees, the Commission renews its plea to respect the humanity of these individuals. The Government should invest in the Initial Reception Centre where such individuals are first welcomed. Further efforts should be invested in the family reunification of such individuals, both recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.
The Commission concludes with the words of Pope Francis: “technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress”, and calls for a change in the way we consider progress not just in mere economic terms.
“We need to change the way we consume and treat the environment; the way we make our daily decisions, and how we invest. The government can assist in changing these behavioural traits through further investment in the educational system and by ensuring that education does not focus solely on enabling students to pass their examinations but also on enabling them to become critical thinkers, mature discerning adults and therefore responsible citizens. Only in this way will we be able to make sure that the economic benefits will truly lead to a better quality of life for everyone, including current and future generations,” the Commission said.