Em­pow­er­ment for na­tional growth

Em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als means trust­ing peo­ple’s skills for their own and na­tional growth. The na­tion’s em­pow­er­ment is best served through rapid eco­nomic growth with equally rapid so­cial im­prove­ments.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Justyne Caru­ana

Since tak­ing of­fice in 2013, the Labour Gov­ern­ment has been fo­cused on eco­nomic growth and cre­at­ing jobs and, all along, that com­mit­ment has given the coun­try the best of re­sults. Con­sec­u­tive bud­get mea­sures have proved that the best way to lift peo­ple out of poverty and boost em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties is to en­sure that our GDP grows faster.

We have suc­ceeded in bring­ing the pri­vate sec­tor work­ing to­gether within a bet­ter struc­tured pub­lic sys­tem and en­cour­aged prof­itable en­trepreneur­ship that has fur­ther en­hanced the coun­try’s growth in many sec­tors. Over the past six years we have – and we will con­tinue to – lay healthy foun­da­tions for a new gen­er­a­tion of in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth. It is our re­solve to con­tinue ex­pand­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies and en­sure that in­no­va­tive busi­nesses have the sup­port they need to thrive and grow in the years to come.

An­other first

It seems that there is no break when it comes to the pos­i­tive re­sults that Labour is achiev­ing. This week, Euro­stat con­firmed that in – real terms – our Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct for the third quar­ter of 2018 in­creased by 7.9 per cent com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod last year and GDP amounted to €3,252.6 mil­lion, an in­crease of €281 mil­lion com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. Euro­stat also re­ported that Malta’s eco­nomic growth was the high­est among all EU and Eu­ro­zone coun­tries, and four times the EU and Eu­ro­zone av­er­age of 1.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent re­spec­tively. Gross Value Added in­creased by €218.4 mil­lion, com­pared to the same quar­ter last year (GVA) is the net re­sult of out­put val­ued at ba­sic prices less in­ter­me­di­ate con­sump­tion val­ued at pur­chasers’ prices).

Pub­lic con­sump­tion ap­pears to be at its high­est and this is a di­rect re­sult of the calm fi­nan­cial and fis­cal at­mos­phere that is at the ba­sis of the in­creas­ing feel-good fac­tor all around. Although wise sav­ing and dili­gent spend­ing is typ­i­cal for Mal­tese and Goz­i­tan fam­i­lies, this week we have learned that, ac­cord­ing to Euro­stat fig­ures, eat­ing out and ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion ac­count for a fifth of what fam­i­lies spend – the high­est rate in Europe. Euro­stat data showed that, last year, 20 per cent of a fam­ily’s ex­penses con­sisted of meals in restau­rants and stay­ing in ho­tels. This was slightly higher than the pre­vi­ous year, with the EU av­er­age stand­ing at 8.8 per cent.

Em­ploy­ment growth

In an­other re­port this week, Euro­stat also con­firmed that dur­ing the same pe­riod this year, Malta sta­tis­ti­cally had the high­est growth in em­ploy­ment among all 28 mem­ber states. Be­tween July and Septem­ber this year, the num­ber of jobs in Malta and Gozo in­creased by 4.9 per cent com­pared with the same pe­riod in 2017. This growth rep­re­sents more than twice the av­er­age in­crease among all EU coun­tries, which stands at 1.8 per cent.

In fact, statis­tics show that the num­ber of peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing for work in Oc­to­ber stood at 1,790, a re­duc­tion of 22.8 per cent com­pared with the same month in 2017, and the num­ber of peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing as un­em­ployed was down by over 520 com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing month last year. Reg­is­tered un­em­ploy­ment lev­els fell in all age groups, ir­re­spec­tive how long they had been reg­is­ter­ing for work com­pared to Oc­to­ber 2017. At 232, the num­ber of peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity reg­is­ter­ing for work was down by 63 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

Sta­tis­ti­cal fig­ures are in­tended to mea­sure the ef­fects of eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial ini­tia­tives and the re­sults achieved are proof that the Gov­ern­ment’s con­stant com­mit­ment to the em­ploy­ment sec­tor per­fectly matches the coun­try’s growth in GDP. It is in­deed an achieve­ment for a small but re­silient na­tion to sur­pass the growth rates of larger economies in the EU. It also stands to prove how neg­a­tive and fu­tile the ob­sti­nate ob­ses­sions of the Op­po­si­tion are when it tries to dis­count or ob­scure such tan­gi­ble and na­tion­wide suc­cesses for the sake of stay­ing afloat when it comes to mak­ing head­lines over less im­por­tant is­sues.

Our chil­dren and school­ing

Once again, pe­ri­odic facts and fig­ures help us bet­ter gauge the ef­fi­cacy of mea­sures taken by the state in var­i­ous sec­tors. An­other Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice re­port that caught my at­ten­tion this week was that the av­er­age num­ber of days ab­sent per stu­dent has been in de­cline over re­cent years. In fact, stu­dents missed an av­er­age of 11.5 days dur­ing the aca­demic year 20162017 com­pared to an av­er­age of 15.4 days dur­ing 2012-2013. There was also a fall of 26.6 per cent in the num­ber of unau­tho­rised ab­sences – from 275,262 days dur­ing the aca­demic year 2012-2013 to 202,101 days dur­ing the 2016/2017 scholas­tic year.

Mean­while, the to­tal num­ber of ab­sences by stu­dents in pri­mary and se­condary schools fell by 25.1 per cent, with stu­dents miss­ing 531,730 days dur­ing the 2016-2017 scholas­tic year com­pared to 710,161 dur­ing 20122013. This shows that closer mon­i­tor­ing of so­cially vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies and other so­cial sol­i­dar­ity mea­sures, such as in-work ben­e­fits and the ta­per­ing off of al­lowances, are also pay­ing div­i­dends in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

The re­port also gives a clear pic­ture of how the school pop­u­la­tion is spread around both is­lands, with around 57 per cent of stu­dents in pre-pri­mary, pri­mary and se­condary lev­els en­rolled in state schools, 29.2 per cent in Church schools and the re­main­ing 13.2 per cent at­tend­ing pri­vate schools.

Over and above all the statis­tics, we can­not but ap­plaud col­league Evarist Bar­tolo and his team for en­sur­ing the best sys­tems for ed­u­cat­ing our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions through the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of a huge co­hort of ed­u­ca­tors who should al­ways be highly ap­pre­ci­ated by par­ents and fam­i­lies. The lat­est mea­sures for free trans­port to all schools adds up to the Gov­ern­ment’s bold choice for free child­care, break­fast and home­work classes, to­gether with in­creases of chil­dren’s al­lowances, are all di­rect and tan­gi­ble sup­port to any type of fam­ily struc­ture. All this and more proves Labour’s com­mit­ment to sup­port the strong

Well done!

This year’s Naħseb Fik (I am Think­ing of You) Christ­mas cam­paign, led by the Gozo Min­istry, has been a to­tal suc­cess, with all the gift re­quests ful­filled. More than 400 el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple will now ben­e­fit from this fourth year of the cam­paign. The gen­eros­ity shown by the Goz­i­tan and Mal­tese peo­ple knows no bounds and a huge ‘well done’ goes to ev­ery­one for such a prompt re­sponse to these wishes – in just three weeks since the launch of the cam­paign.

Through such a cam­paign and oth­ers like it, more di­rect sol­i­dar­ity is be­ing dis­played be­tween gen­er­a­tions, within the fam­ily and the amongst whole com­mu­ni­ties. This is a very strong way of car­ing for oth­ers in that, with­out know­ing each other, we still feel the bond of hu­man af­fec­tion dur­ing these fes­tive hol­i­days.

Ev­ery year, tra­di­tional exhibitions, dec­o­ra­tions, re­li­gious func­tions, con­certs and cel­e­bra­tions are all part of the fes­tive sea­son but let us all ad­mit that hu­man sol­i­dar­ity and care are the very essence of the Christ­mas spirit.

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