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.
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.
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.
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
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.