I vividly remember my first home visits, back in 2012, in preparation for my candidacy in the 2013 general election. In Malta we practise “intimate democracy”; home visits are a must. As we approach my third experience as a candidate, I can compare my first home visits with those I am experiencing now.

When people welcome you into their homes and the door closes behind you, something happens. These prospective voters open their hearts and tell you exactly what they think about the state of the nation, not least how it is affecting their lives and families.

Today, the main issues which are of concern to the voters of Malta and Gozo are those related to the environment, overdevelopment and the cost of living. However, there is one issue that is, I would say, THE main issue: quality of life.

Hand on heart, in the run-up to the general elections of 2013, these issues were not as strong and profound as they are now.

As a candidate on the twelfth and thirteenth districts, I am meeting people who live in the northern part of Malta. The two districts cover most of Naxxar, St Paul’s Bay (including Qawra, Bugibba and Xemxija), Mellieha (including Manikata) and all the localities of Gozo.

Although the realities faced by people living in these localities vary from one location to the other, the main issues and concerns are common to all. And no, this is not my personal perception. I often discuss my home visits with colleagues and they recognise these concerns: they are shared across the board and in all parts of the country.

Recent surveys and studies are offering further evidence that these findings correct.

For instance, take the Expat Insider report on the Quality of Life of 2018. Published in 2019, it analysed living conditions in different countries. Who did it define as “the biggest loser”? Malta.

That year, Malta fell from 19th to 38th place. Why? The sudden evaporation of peace of mind.

It wasn’t a one-off result. It foretold a trend.

A few days ago, another survey was published. EY’s Generate Youth Survey revealed that 70% of our younger generations would rather live elsewhere.

Even here, the main concerns resemble those we are experiencing in our home visits. The top concerns are overdevelopment, the environment, traffic, Malta’s bad international reputation, the economy, COVID-19, climate change and much more.

Simply put, our younger generations have given up on our country. It is a serious crisis. They have lost hope.

As the redoubtable South African archbishop and social leader, Desmond Tutu, once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Sadly, our present and future generations are not seeing this light. 

It is our moral duty, as legislators and politicians, to create this light and clear the darkness. My honest question: Do we have the will to make this change?

In my opinion, Bernard Grech, the Opposition leader, has this will. Grech is driving PN relentlessly to offer our voters the much-needed change this country needs — one that will renew faith in a future in Malta and hope in the younger generations.

In Grech’s recent speeches, we have seen him rising from strength to strength. His reply to this year’s budget speech, as well as other speeches, particularly his poignant speech on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Maltese parliament, proved to be game changers.

Grech’s main message — that the person should be at the centre of our politics — has seeped down to MPs and candidates. The vision can be seen in practical terms in the well-thought-out proposals put forward by PN’s policy clusters. Every policy is informed by the fundamental values of dignity, social well-being, social justice and fairness.

The disgraceful events and scandalous decisions of recent years have given politics (and politicians) a bad name and alienated ordinary people. The government’s continuous propaganda, in overdrive, and its total control of the national broadcaster continue to attempt to make it difficult for PN to showcase its policies and demonstrate that an alternative, decent, prosperous Malta is possible.

Despite the obstacles, we’re still penetrating the fog of propaganda. Our constant contact with people, and Bernard Grech’s perseverance in getting the message across, are having the desired effect.

Of course, the road is still long and steep. We must continue to work hard. We cannot do this alone. We need the help of each and every person of good will. The need for change is urgent.

Giving up, at this stage, is definitely not an option. If 70 percent of our younger generations have lost hope, we are duty-bound to convince them that leaving the country for work or study experience is fundamental, but we need them to come back with fresh ideas.

A Nationalist government would let them be the change this country so badly needs. Our vision is of a truly democrat government, inviting the participation of all people of good will.

Claudette Buttigieg

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Deputy Speaker Parliament of Malta.Kandidat f'isem il-Partit Nazzjonalista għall-Elezzjoni Ġenerali fuq it-12 u it-13 Distrett.