Looking forward to 2020 | 20 things to look out for in the new year

This list is the only one you may want to refer back to at the end of the year

Heath Minister Chris Fearne, outgoing Prime Minister Joesph Muscat and Labour MP Robert Abela
Heath Minister Chris Fearne, outgoing Prime Minister Joesph Muscat and Labour MP Robert Abela

1. New prime minister

The Labour Party elects its new leader on 11 January. The choice is between Chris Fearne and Robert Abela, who have billed themselves as the change candidate and the continuity candidate, respectively. The new leader will become Malta’s next prime minister, ending Joseph Muscat’s six years at the helm of the country. This will be the first time that the new leader will be elected by the PL’s members.

Businessman Yorgen Fenech
Businessman Yorgen Fenech

2. Yorgen Fenech’s compilation

The compilation of evidence against alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder will continue and is likely to drag on. The prosecution will want to tie up any loose ends by presenting all the evidence at hand. But we can expect legal contestations by the accused to continue in the constitutional court.

Former chief of staff Keith Schembri is still being investigated by police for homicide
Former chief of staff Keith Schembri is still being investigated by police for homicide

3. Caruana Galizia murder trial

The compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia was briefly re-opened last month to include the testimony of pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma. In 2020, George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat could expect to stand trial, where they face a possible life sentence.

Former chief of staff Keith Schembri
Former chief of staff Keith Schembri

4. Keith Schembri’s fate

It will have to be seen whether police investigations into the Caruana Galizia murder will lead to further arrests and arraignments, not least that of the Prime Minister’s former chief-of -taff Keith Schembri. The new year will seal the fate – either way – of Schembri and possibly that of others who have been mentioned by the middleman and Fenech.

5. Caruana Galizia public inquiry

The public inquiry’s nine-month term will come to an end in the second half of the year and its deliberations and conclusions are expected to shed more light on the workings of the State and its failings. Among other aspects, the inquiry will determine whether the State did enough to prevent the murder and offer protection to the journalist.

6. Economic blues

The Central Bank of Malta has warned that if political uncertainty persists into the new year, the sudden drop in consumption and the brakes on investment witnessed in December could have an impact on public finances and the economy. The new administration taking over from Muscat in January will have to act fast to rekindle trust in the institutions and end the uncertainty.

Opposition leader Adrian Delia
Opposition leader Adrian Delia

7. Adrian Delia’s future

Opposition leader Adrian Delia may have to deal with rumblings within his party unhappy over his performance. Despite polling data showing the PN posting gains since October, the progress is not proportional to the magnitude of the crisis in the country. Delia has struggled to win the hearts of his own voters, leaving him in a vulnerable state in 2020 as he deals with a new Labour leader and a new challenge from Repubblika.

2020's first anti-corruption protest took place on Sunday
2020's first anti-corruption protest took place on Sunday

8. Repubblika’s challenge

The civil society NGO may flirt with transforming into a political party, in what could upset the applecart for the PN. Repubblika has grown into an organised entity with a strong appeal to disenfranchised Nationalists who do not see eye to eye with Adrian Delia. Whether Repubblika can widen its appeal and rock the political establishment is uncertain but it will definitely put PN exponents who have cosied up to it in a difficult position.

The football feast will take place in 12 cities across Europe
The football feast will take place in 12 cities across Europe

9. Euro 2020

The Euro 2020 finals will start on 12 June with the opening match seeing Italy face off against Turkey. For a whole month, we will be regaled with a feast of football but this time there will not be a single host country. Games will be played in 12 cities across Europe with the final and semi-finals being played at Wembley Stadium in London.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

10. Brexit

The UK will leave the EU on 31 January but for the next 12 months, negotiations will be held to determine the future relationship Britain will have with the bloc. The UK will head into uncharted territory as will the rest of Europe. Uncertainty will impact Malta’s economy but this will be contained, according to a recent study released by the Central Bank of Malta.

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

11. US election

In November, the US will elect a new president. The outcome will impact the world economy, especially if incumbent Donald Trump wins and pursues a disruptive international agenda. Who will win the election is hard to predict at this stage, especially since the Democratic Party’s field of potential candidates is still wide open. Maltese descendent Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate, will capture imagination domestically.

12. Pay transparency

The government has pledged to tackle the gender pay gap by implementing a policy of pay transparency. Incoming Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis placed this on his agenda when appointed minister last summer but whether he will deliver on the proposal this year remains questionable. Employers are opposed to the principle but the matter is also on the agenda of the incoming European Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen. 

13. Tokyo Olympics

The premier world sporting event, the summer Olympics and paralympics, will be held in the Japanese capital. The events kick off on 24 July and end on 9 August. Malta will have its own small contingent at the games and with no Olympic medal to its name yet, it is unlikely Tokyo will bring about a change in fortunes.

14. Malta’s space strategy

The global rush to send robotic probes to Mars will pick up pace this year as the Red Planet becomes humanity’s next frontier. Malta plays no part in space exploration but the country will adopt its own space strategy in 2020 to capitalise on the commercialisation of the sector, which is predicted to generate $2.7 trillion worldwide in the next 30 years.

This should be the year when material progress is registered on the proposed tunnel between Gozo and Malta
This should be the year when material progress is registered on the proposed tunnel between Gozo and Malta

15. Gozo tunnel

This should be the year when material progress is registered on the proposed tunnel between Gozo and Malta if the new prime minister keeps this top of his agenda. The government has issued the conceptual design and international tender, will initiate the planning application. A tunnel cannot come too soon for many Gozitans but remains a big bone of contention for the environmentally conscious.

Gozo Bishop Mario Grech
Gozo Bishop Mario Grech

16. A voting cardinal

Gozo Bishop Mario Grech will take up his new Vatican job as secretary general of the synod of bishops in August. Appointed to this role by Pope Francis last October, Grech will be leading one of the highest pastoral organs of the Catholic church. This could put him on the road to become cardinal, making him the first Maltese with the right to vote when a new pope is chosen. Meanwhile, Gozo waits for its new bishop.

17. Libya’s troubles intensify

Turkey’s decision to send soldiers to the North African state, could see Libya’s internal strife intensifying. Turkey is aligned with the UN-recognised Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. Military support could strengthen the GNA in its fight to keep the Eastern-backed General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled army at bay. Malta may see the strife on its doorstep develop into a full-blown military escalation.

Malta national team coach Devis Mangia
Malta national team coach Devis Mangia

18. Football’s new dawn

The Maltese national football team starts training under new Italian coach, Devis Mangia, who will also be in charge of the Malta Football Association’s coaching set up. The holistic make-over will include the formation of a Malta XI team to compete in the Italian Pro Lega league in a bid to groom a crop of young Maltese players. Success will only start to be measured in March 2021 when the qualifying tournament for the next World Cup commences.

19. A new energy plan

A damaged interconnector has exposed the weakness of Enemalta’s back-up option, which relies on aged diesel plants at Delimara. In 2020, the company will be working on drawing up its energy plan for the next 15 years. The plan will outline whether the company should invest in a new interconnector cable, a new gas plant, batteries to store electricity from solar farms, or a mix of these. It will also outline the timeframes for these investments.

20. Expensive streaming war

IPTV subscriptions, which include Netflix, covered almost 17% of the population, according to a Broadcasting Authority survey last October. But in 2020 expect Netflix to face competition from the likes of Disney+, Amazon Prime and Apple TV Plus. Consumers may have to fork out more in monthly subscriptions to watch their favourite movies and series that may be playing on different platforms.

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