Soup kitchens of great benefit but government has to do more to address poverty, ADPD says

ADPD - The Green Party says that the increase in GDP is of no benefit to the poor and that the increase in rent and food prices was stressful for many families

ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci and Secretary General Ralph Cassar together with Franciscan Fr Marcellino Micallef during a visit to the Franciscan Soup Kitchen in Valletta (ADPD)
ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci and Secretary General Ralph Cassar together with Franciscan Fr Marcellino Micallef during a visit to the Franciscan Soup Kitchen in Valletta (ADPD)

ADPD – The Green Party said that soup kitchens like the one in Valletta are of great benefit to the poor and those at risk of poverty but said that government should do more to address the reasons for poverty.

During a press conference on Saturday morning at the Franciscan friars’ soup kitchen in Valletta, ADPD Secretary General Ralph Cassar said that it was evident that the increase in spending on essential items was stressing families that are struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck.

Cassar said that this reality starkly contrasts with the government’s boasting about the Gross Domestic Product increase.

“A government that claims it wants to distribute wealth more equitably is hiding behind the GDP to give the impression that this statistic of economic wealth is of benefit to the poor. But who exactly is benefiting from this wealth? Certainly not pensioners or single-parent families,” Cassar questioned.

He said that raising a family on one salary has become increasingly challenging, especially for those renting from an unregulated market, “where prices are inflated beyond comprehension.”

Cassar referred to the latest Caritas survey, which found that a family of four has an increased expenditure of €1,500 more on food per year.

He argued that although external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion in Ukraine have an impact, the government could do much more to improve the quality of life, especially for the poor and those at risk of poverty.

"From an economic standpoint, it is of concern that despite the trumpeting of an increase in GDP, there are around 100,000 people in Malta at risk of poverty and social exclusion, according to NSO as of December 2022. This is the result of an economy based on a policy that keeps wages as low as possible,” Cassar stated.

He added that European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit expressed his concern about the economic model on which Malta is basing itself.

Schmit said that despite the low unemployment rate, many sectors paid low wages.

“We are in a situation where a considerable number of people in employment are at risk of poverty. They are still on the brink of poverty because they can barely cover their daily needs with their salary," Cassar concluded.

ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci said it was time to start addressing poverty and the cost of living with a long-term plan.

She said that an increase in the generation of renewable energy would mean a reduction in money spent on energy that could be spent on long-term social initiatives.

“We want rights not government handouts. We want a government that spends wisely,” Gauci said.

“We reiterate our call for the introduction of a living wage - a minimum wage that allows one to live with dignity. This should be introduced over a relatively short period of time because people are suffering.”

Gauci said that her party wants more decent affordable housing, emphasising that a good percentage of those at risk of poverty live from rent to rent.

She said that the government could also encourage housing cooperatives, which can offer an alternative to renting from the private market and provide long-term peace of mind for many people.

“The COLA should be given twice a year and a new economic model is needed based on the well-being of the person and not held ransom to the GDP statistic. We want to get out of the mediocrity we seem to be stuck in and aspire to a better quality of life,” Gauci said.

She said that the Maltese government indulges in vanity projects like a Film Festival that cost millions and “wastes” money on green walls that end up being removed.

“Then we have people who have to go to the soup kitchen to eat.”

Gauci said that while projects like the Franciscan friars’ soup kitchen are of great benefit because they offer a community for those most vulnerable that even the social net does not support, more attention should be paid by the government to addressing the reasons for poverty.

She argued that there is also a need for projects like the soup kitchen to be supported by the state with the services of professionals in social fields.

"We want to move beyond politics that only looks at statistics and not the health and quality of people's lives. We must move from a policy that promotes rampant consumption at all costs to a policy that safeguards our mental and physical health, where nature - from the open spaces, to the air and water, and the sea are safeguarded because they are the source of our well-being.”

Gauci said that every job must be a dignified job and generate an income for a decent life, and that it was not acceptable for businesses to make profits off the backs of workers at risk of poverty.

“A business that is not able to pay decent wages has no place in our country. At the same time the government should see how to better regulate agencies that offer cheap labour, this is contemporary slavery. Finally, it is imperative that the minimum wage becomes a decent wage with which one can live with dignity," Gauci concluded.

READ ALSO: Valletta Soup Kitchen feeds over 30,000 guests in 2022, 86% were Maltese