IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE ECONOMY.
This is the message that is resonating around the globe and increasingly more so in Malta. The human race is living dangerously. We are causing untold damage to the environment. Climate change will exert a price and is in fact already doing so in countries that are experiencing long periods of drought, extreme weather conditions and even obliteration due to rising sea levels. This is partly the reason for the increased movement of people across borders.
As a small island state, we should be on the forefront fighting against climate change but we are not. Sadly, this government is keener to push the idea of making hay while the sun shines, of exploiting resources today at the expense of tomorrow. While GDP growth is positive and welcome, it is not an effective tool to measure how society is faring. Quality of life is made up of more things than material wealth and sadly, the GDP calculation while important for measuring the state of health of the economy is not good enough to gauge the wellness of society.
Our society, our nation, is undergoing a period of rapid change brought about by government’s policy of growing the economy by increasing the population. The rapid increase in the number of feet on the ground on this island is contributing to positive GDP figures. However, by government’s own admission, it is also contributing to a rise in the number of people living in poverty or at-risk-of poverty. It is contributing to inflation, most markedly in the housing sector. It is contributing to environmental degradation, particularly when it comes to air quality but not just. It is putting a massive strain on the country’s infrastructure. It is causing pressure on our education and health system which are finding it difficult to cope with the increasing number of students and patients. None of this is represented in GDP calculations.
This is all leading to a growing level of discontent about the way this government is ignoring sustainability. People rightly expect a government to protect the interests not just of today’s generations but also of the generations to come. People expect progress to happen in a balanced framework that sees the whole society moving forward in manageable manner.
The Nationalist Party is putting forward proposals of how a country can move forward in a balanced and sustainable manner. Our proposals are not being put forward on the eve of an election. We are sharing them now, half way through a legislature, urging government to consider making some of these suggestions his own. Our country is facing challenges, most notably in the financial services sector and in the housing sector. The Opposition is willing to help government overcome these challenges. This document is proof of that. We are literally putting forward hundreds of proposals, proposals that were born out of discussions and consultation processes in the past weeks and months.
There is another way of doing things and we are putting forward precisely our thoughts on this.
WE ARE THE ONLY OPPOSITION IN EUROPE THAT PRESENTS A COMPREHENSIVE PRE BUDGET DOCUMENT.
In fact, I reckon we are the only Opposition in Europe who presents such a document. Neither are we expected to present a balanced budget. The onus for that is on government. What we are expected to do, is to present credible and alternative policy proposals to those of government. This document is a testament to how much Partit Nazzjonalista takes its duty seriously.
Our country is living through a conundrum. While the economy is flourishing we are seeing poverty on the rise. While government is balancing its books, we are seeing a growing environmental and social deficit. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it should not be this way. Economic growth should move hand in hand with environmental improvement and societal well-being. In this document, we put forward ideas and proposals of how this balance can be achieved. Perhaps the time has come for the country to revise the whole budgetary process. I fully support the suggestion put forward by the Chamber of Commerce for budgets that look at a multi-annual perspective. We should widen the scope of the budgetary process not only to look beyond one year but also to look beyond economic and fiscal policy. Let us turn this exercise into one that truly aims to make our society better. Let us transform this exercise from one that is number focused to one that looks deeper and harder into how society is faring.
Malta needs to start taking a bigger advantage of its size. We can make things better quicker, faster than others. We can address poverty because we know exactly where the problem is and what the root of the problem is. We can address the scourge of rubbish and dirt in our localities if we find the will to do so. We can address the degradation of our towns and villages if we want to. We can make Malta greener if we make it our mission to.
The question is whether we want to remain focused solely on economic growth or whether we want to improve the quality of life in Malta. The two are not necessarily opposite aims. We have made them so or rather this government has made them so due to its lack of planning and thought. I would like to thank all those who contributed to this document. The Opposition has limited resources at its disposal, a limitation that is felt even more during an exercise such as the drafting of this document. I think the time has come for this country to dedicate more resources towards strengthening the pillars that underpin our democracy, not least by improving the resources available to members of Parliament.
MARIO DE MARCO
Download a copy of the Pre-budget document from this link: