Muscat says inclusion will top Government’s agenda in 2016

Muscat says that the integration of those with a disability in the worforce is one of the challnges of next year

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that inclusion and social issues will top the government’s agenda for the upcoming year.

Speaking at a political activity at the Labour party club in St. Paul’s Bay, Muscat spoke about the party’s achievements throughout 2015 and said that social inclusion particularly of those with a mental or physical disability would top the agenda next year.

Praising the efforts made by past administrations to integrate children with mental and physical disabilities in the educational sphere, Muscat explained that more integration was necessary in the employment sector.

“We cannot have an a la carte integration, and sadly inclusion seems to stop at educational institutions at the moment,” Muscat said, referring to the government’s enforcement of a law to have 2% of the workforce in companies employing over 20 people occupied by individuals with a disability.

Referring to the Malta Employers Association’s opposition to the move, Muscat said that he felt it was necessary to break rigid ideas and to give those with a disability the dignity they deserve.

Under the law, by 2017, companies who don’t fulfil the disability quota will have to pay an annual €2,400 fee for every disabled person they should be employing, capped at €10,000, with funds generated through this initiative going to the National Fund for Integration of People with a Disability.  

“The next step after this will be to look at those who cannot integrate in the employment sector either because their impairments do not allow them to do so for some reason or another,” he added.

Muscat expressed the government’s commitment to verify which cases are genuine and how to help those in these conditions. He further added that he wished to give these members of society at least a minimum wage pension to allow them to continue living their life in dignity.

Making reference to the quality of life and the state of the economy, Muscat said that during the coming year, families would benefit from an additional €80 million for the second year in a row, following reductions in electricity bills.

“As a result of the government’s measures, energy is no longer one of the top concerns for the public,” he added, further pledging the government’s commitments to continue enforcing such changes to improve the country’s quality of life.

Muscat also made reference to the parliamentary session about the land transfer for Sadeen's private 'American University of Malta’ held between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, and  said that the PN had been inconsistent in its position towards the university by first saying it agreed with the project and then jumping on the environmentalist bandwagon to ciriticise it.

He further accused the PN of being somewhat racist in their criticism of the investors and in treating them as unimportant given the fact that they are Jordanian.

Referring to the opposition’s criticism of the title of Higher Education rather than University, Muscat said that giving the institution this status was the first, “lawful” step in establishing the status of University.

Muscat also discussed the development of tourism and pledged the government’s commitment to further increasing tourism throughout the year and of achieving better quality of services and employment in the sector.

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis also spoke at the activity and said that the government had managed to increase tourism in the winter months thanks to important events like CHOGM 2015 and the Valletta summit on migration.

“This year we will reach a record 1.8 million quota in tourist arrivals,” he said, adding that the projected new ITS campus, would help to further address issues like quality and conditions in employment opportunities in the sector.  

He added that the party had also managed to make Education a sector of economic and increased opportunities.

Zammit Lewis further added that the American University of Malta, planned for the south of the island would translate into more tourism for the area and stronger economic development.

Discussing Air Malta, Muscat also said that the government would do all that was necessary to ensure the sustainability of the company. He pledged his determination to strengthen the company and make it a driving force of the local economy once again.

Muscat added that the government would continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of the government to the people and he promised that the success achieved during the last election would not be the pinnacle of the party’s success.

Labour MP Luciano Busuttil also addressed the activity and looked forward to a year where the government would further strengthen the economy for the people.