Q&A | Changing people's lives for the better | Clayton Bartolo

The outgoing Labour administration has been the most pro-business government that Malta has ever seen, Clayton Bartolo tells MaltaToday

How did you first get involved in politics?

I have been involved in politics for a long time, considering that I am still young at just 29. I started my involvement in the Labour Youth Forum (FZL) back when I was still a teenager, and from there on, things progressed until – at 20 years of age – I contested the local council elections and I was elected. I was, and still am, the youngest councillor ever to be elected to the Mellieħa Local Council.

Four years ago I contested the general election on the 12th district, and at the same time I also contested the local council election. I was elected deputy mayor of the Mellieħa Local Council, and since then I have worked tirelessly in a number of areas which were assigned to me as part of my council responsibilities. These included a number of EU-Funded Programmes, where the council has also managed to place third in all of Europe, and a large number of successful cultural and popular events, all of which have put my beloved locality on the map.

Which part of the political life appeals to you?

I see politics as being a vocation rather than anything else – where the politician elected is by the people and needs to act for the people. This means that all persons involved in any level of politics, whether it’s the local council, Parliament or even the European Parliament, are duty-bound to try and change the people’s lives for the better. They need to be in sync with the changes which are taking place in society, as I believe that politicians need to manage change rather than allow the change in society to take over our lives. When one helps a person to lead a better life, a simple “thank you” is all it takes to make it all worthwhile.

Why Labour?

I have been brought up in a hard-working middle-class family, where we have been taught the value of hard work and to appreciate the positive results which such hard work leads to. I see the Labour Party as representing all workers, and since its election in government, this has been the most pro-business government that Malta has ever seen. Being pro-business means being pro-workers, since at the end of the day, business and the workers go hand-in-hand together.

If elected, what do you personally hope to change?

The present administration has been a catalyst for change in a number of sectors, however, there are still issues which need to be tackled. I come from a locality where there are a lot of farmers and fishermen, all of whom have mentioned to me a number of problems which they encounter on a day to day basis. I believe that this sector, with all its challenges, needs to be seriously addressed in order to ensure that more young people become involved in it to help Maltese fresh produce take centre-stage once again.

Based on your door-to-door encounters, what are the top three concerns of families?

When the people look back on the past four years they understand that this government has managed to create wealth and jobs for all the people. Therefore, going forward, they want stability in our country so that such creation of wealth continues to increase. Coming from a relatively rural district, I met with a lot of hunters and trappers, all of whom raised their concern that this age-old tradition would be abolished.

These people know where they stand and agree with the Labour Party’s proposals on this subject. Young families are also interested a lot in the educational sector, a sector in which the present government has continued to invest in. If re-elected, this government will continue to invest in this important sector, and the education system in Malta will surely give us better results.

Which are the three key Labour proposals for youth and students?

There are a number of solid and costed proposals in these sectors. Among these we find the opportunity for students to make use of free public transport, a whole year of free internet for young students to help them pursue their studies after they finish their secondary education, and a the removal of the SEC exams’ fees.

On the other hand, young families will continue to benefit from the first-time buyers’ scheme, an €850 grant to all young people who are interested in going to a different country to learn another language and the construction of a sport car race track for all car enthusiasts.

Do you think that students are satisfied with the Labour government’s performance?

I honestly believe that students have been at the centre of a number of positive decisions which the government took in the past four years. The investment in education covered infrastructure and a better educational system. The government also kept its word on the tablet pledge, and it is now putting forward a number of positive proposals for the next legislature.

This election has been characterised by allegations of corruption, with the PN accusing Labour of betraying the electorate’s trust. Why should the PL be trusted again?

There is a huge difference between making allegations and actually acting upon them. This has been the first government to actually start tackling corruption by introducing the whistle-blower act, removing the prescription on acts carried out by politicians and also introducing the party financing law – three laws which previous adminsitrations were always reluctant to introduce and never did.

On the other hand, this has also been the first government to keep itself under check and it managed to implement 90% of its electoral pledges, making it the first government to keep its word on nearly all its pledges.

Which, in your opinion, was the government’s best decision and worst mistake over the past four years?

The government’s forte is its economic management and the creation of jobs and wealth. This economic success has also underpinned other major social changes which took place over the past four years such as the increase in pensions and the reduction in utility bills, which are leaving more money in the people’s pockets. Another important aspect is the introduction of new civil rights which brought about a big change in people’s mentality as well.

I think that the worst mistake would be to try and accelerate change in a society which had become used to the status quo. While the government had all the right intentions at heart, certain decisions may have been seen as too radical and rash when in fact they could have been explained better.

Which, in your opinion, was the opposition’s best decision and worst mistake over the past four years?

The opposition’s proposals never really took off – it tried to please too many sectors of the Maltese society by always opposing anything which the government proposed. However, this may also prove to be its achilles heel, since the people are fed up with negative, divisive and destructive politics.

On the other hand, the opposition’s best decision was in fact a u-turn in itself. After opposing the introduction of divorce and civil unions, the opposition totally backtracked on its position and now agrees with these civil rights, even though I think that this change of heart may have been driven by political expediency rather than by anything else.

Clayton Bartolo is a PL candidate on the 12 district.