[WATCH] Muscat taps into 10-year challenge to laud 'reformist' Labour government

The Prime Minister promised government would keep implementing change as he gave a rundown of how the country has changed in the last ten years

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat promised that his governement would continue with its reformist agenda
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat promised that his governement would continue with its reformist agenda

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday used the Facebook 10-year-challenge meme to look back at how he feels his government’s vision for Malta has led to change in the country.

The ‘challenge’ is the latest fad to take over social media and requires users to post a picture of themselves in 2009 next to a photo of them today.

Speaking at a political activity in Zurrieq, Muscat said the challenge was a good opportunity to look back at how the government’s reformist agenda had changed people’s lives, even though the changes were not always noticeable.

Running through various sectors, the Prime Minister stressed that much had changed since 2009, with the exception of two things.

The first, he said, was female representation in the Maltese parliament, a subject he said the country needed to have a serious discussion about. 

“It's a sensitive debate but the government will insist on having it because it is a part of our [reformist] nature,” insisted the Prime Minister.

Government has pledged to start a discussion on the possibility of introducing parliamentary quotas for a period of time in order to increase the number of women in Maltese politics.

Something else which had remained the same, Muscat said, was the Nationalist Party (PN). Ten years ago, he said the PN was in government but was “divided from top to bottom”. As a result of these divisions, he said the country and the economy had not been given the necessary attention.  

“Today, everyone [in the PN] votes the way they want, says what they want…nothing has changed,” Muscat said.

The government’s reformist agenda was implementing changes people might not always notice. He said this work would continue.

Malta’s 10-year challenge as seen by the Prime Minister 

1. Water and electricity bills

“Ten years ago, the number one issue for Maltese and Gozitan families were water and electricity bills,” stressed Muscat. “It was only that. No matter how many homes or businesses you went to…the issue would start and end with bills.”

The country, Muscat said, had gone from a situation where people would find ways to avoid using electricity, to one where people had peace of mind.

2. Economy and employment

Malta’s economy has gone from one which was stagnant with few quality jobs, to a vibrant economy where workers are always looking to rise up the ladder and improve their position.

While in the past contractors and service providers would have to fight over a job, “today it is like they are doing a favour when they come to do a job”.

“Ten years ago the main issue was finding a work place. There was no peace of mind that people could work,” Muscat recounted, pointing to the fact that Malta now had the lowest level of unemployment in its history.

According to the Prime Minister, the narrative in the country had changed from people asking for “any job” to people asking for a better one. Such phrases were the real indicators of the health of the economy.

3. Pensions and poverty

Perhaps the segment of the population that was worst hit by the rising cost of water electricity ten years ago were pensioners, Muscat said.

While in the past pensions would never go up, Muscat said he was proud of the fact that had increased for consecutive years, and that they would continue to do so.

Turning to poverty, Muscat said that while ten years ago this was rising in an “astronomical manner”, today it has been halved.  

“At least this government accepts that this poverty before they used to say it is only a perception,” Muscat said.

The reduction in poverty was driven by incentives, such as in-work benefits and free childcare, aimed at getting people into the workforce by “making work pay”.

4. Investment

One would be hard pressed to think of a significant investment in the private sector ten years ago, Muscat said. “Today we can’t keep up with the investment in the country…we are in a situation where we have to decide which investment we want and which we don’t.”

Muscat said he and Economy Chris Cardona were met with long queues of investors during their trip to India this week, with Cardona having to stay behind for an additional two days to hold more meetings.

5. Tourism

From a tourism sector that was showing signs of contraction, Muscat said his administration had allowed the industry to flourish by targeting niche markets in an intelligent way.

Today, the country experiences annual increases in tourists that would only have been possible over a six or seven-year period in the past, with Malta expected to welcome 3 million tourists by the end of the year. 

6. Transport and infrastructure

Muscat said the investment being made in infrastructure was there for all to see, with projects like the Marsa junction and Central Link in Attard set to improve air quality and traffic congestion.

Turning to public transport, Muscat recalled how a reform of the system by the last PN government had led to “strikes and chaos”. The previous administration had come up with plans that were not studied and recalled Malta’s experience with the infamous bendy busses. 

“I am not saying the current system is perfect but it is much much better than what we had.”

The government was now looking to be in a situation where public transport on the island was free for all.  

7. Government finances

Muscat said that his government intended to raise a generation of Maltese people that don’t know what the meaning of the word deficit.

“Ten years ago we didn’t know what a surplus was. If you mentioned surplus to people, they would ask what it was. Deficit, that’s the word everyone knew the meaning of,” Muscat said.

Not only had government succeeded in registering a surplus, Muscat said, but it had also done so while reducing taxes every year.

8. Civil rights and equality

“Ten years ago we were a country without divroce” Musact said, recalling just how much of a taboo it was to speak about it, especially on a political level. 

He said that Malta went from being a country that didn’t recognize same-sex couples to among the best in the world of matter of equality.

“Today you have the right to marry the person you love. Its simple. Before the government used to enter the bedroom and judge you on a moral level. Today the government doesn’t enter people’s private lives.”

9. Healthcare

Out-of-stock medicines have gone from being the norm to an exception, Muscat insisted. “Today if there is at least one medicine which is out-of-stock you’ll find it in the papers.”

This issue, he said, was something that had a big effect on the lives of people that depended on these medicines, especially pensioners.

10. Gozo

Turning to Gozo, Muscat said that ten years ago not a single cent would be invested in Gozo.

“Today you don’t have to go further than the Gozo General Hospital because you can see how a new hospital as well as a new medical school are being built.”