An 'open-doors policy' is the best bet for a thriving economy, Muscat says

"You can't have the good aspects of one thing and not make sacrifices. You can't close your doors and expect pensions when you retire," the Prime Minister said

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that economic prosperity was directly correlated to an increase in foreign workers
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that economic prosperity was directly correlated to an increase in foreign workers

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta's doors are wide open and that this is why the economy is thriving.

"Open the doors, face the challenges of globalisation and if the economic winds are blowing, we open our sails and move ever forward," he said.

He was speaking at the Labour Centre in Birkirkara on Sunday.

Despite Malta once again denying access to the migrant rescue vessel, Sea-Watch 3, Muscat insisted that Malta was not like other countries that had their doors closed and who were suffering economic hardship as a result.

"We are seeing countries in Europe that are closing down their doors and who are facing the most basic problems as a result. At the end of the day, its the weakest people in those stubborn nations that will suffer the most," he said.

Muscat argued that economic progress was directly correlated to foreign workers and that this was the method of ensuring sustainable growth. He did concede that there were negative connotations tied to this issue, mostly the issue of geographical space, that if demand for property is high, prices would soar.

"But you can't cherrypick," he said. "You can't have the good aspects of one thing and not make sacrifices. You can't close your doors and expect pensions when you retire," justifying what had been a controversial ordeal for some time now—the increase of foreign workers and the construction of property to cater for those same foreigners.

Making sense: working women

The prime minister said that it made absolutely no sense that the majority of students who were graduating from university were women but that these end up staying at home.

"Up to a certain time, the amount of women workers in Malta was the lowest in the European Union. From an economic point of view, this did not make sense since most women were graduating from university and the government is investing millions in university. Our society was still expecting the woman to be solely responsible for the rearing of children," he said.

Muscat said that this archaic mindset was being propagated and perpetuated by a nonsensical economic model.

"From a socialistic perspective, it sounds good to see that people staying at home are receiving cheques, not having to pay taxes and enjoying benefits. Women didn't afford to work because the expenses of going to work were higher than staying at home," he said, adding that the free childcare policy was a revolutionary programme that liberated the enormous potential of thousands of women.

"It was a very shortsighted concept that allowed women to stay at home because they couldn't afford to work. Now, if they do start working, they don't lose their relief and they don't lose their benefits. These decrease over a period of three years instead. This government gave these people dignity and are now contributing to their economy and to the retirement funds of the elderly. This is a productive model," Muscat said.

Some properties are ugly but...

Muscat said that certain developments in Malta did not make sense and that they were not aesthetically pleasing or coherent with the rest of the environment.

The government has nothing to do with the applications filed, he argued, saying that the administration is often blamed for nonsensical or harmful planning proposals that ultimately do not even get approved anyway.

"This government is the only administration that did not change the confines of Outside Development Zones (ODZ). We are only building developments where previous administrations said we could," Muscat said, inadvertently vindicating the decisions of previous administrations on environmental policy.

"We cannot prevent people from applying for planning permits, whether the applications are nonsensical or not, but we do have to admit that since Malta needs more workers, since the elderly are living longer, since the economy needs to thrive and since people want pensions at the end of their working life, property needs to be built," he said.

Muscat concluded by mentioning the subsidies the government had passed on to rentees. The 2017 budget had subsidised people who rented property and the 2018 budget doubled it again so that couples with children can enjoy subsidies of up to €3000.

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