[WATCH] Newly appointed Gozo minister wants to restore Gozitans’ faith in their own capabilities

Justyne Caruana said that over the course of the current legislature she wanted to fight the stereotype that painted Gozitans as lazy while creating new quality jobs on the island

Gozo minister Justyne Caruana
Gozo minister Justyne Caruana

Newly appointed minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana has said that one of her main priorities over the course of the legislature will be to dispel the mentality that Gozo is always expected “to take whatever is left”.

“I want to bring back Gozitans’ faith in themselves, and also Malta, the cabinet and the various ministries’ faith in us so we can continue to improve,” said Caruana.

The minister was a guest on current affairs programme XTRA Sajf, hosted by Saviour Balzan, where she rejected the stereotype that painted Gozitans as lazy people who “don’t pay taxes”.  

Caruana stressed that during the last legislature, she had worked on a national level, and her experience had showed her that the same problems that exist in Gozo are also present in Malta.

Asked by Balzan whether it was realistic to expect all Gozitans to be able to work in Gozo she said that rather than focus on creating jobs for Gozitans, the matter should be framed in terms of creating quality jobs in Gozo that were available to both Maltese and Gozitan citizens.

“It’s a nightmare if you’re are Gozitan and are obliged to work in Malta to put it in another way,” retorted Caruana, who said the government had already started working on an analysis of the skills present in Gozo, as well as those required to plot a way forward for the island.  

On the often-cited problem of nepotism in Gozo, Balzan asked how Caruana intended not to become a “favours machine”, Caruana insisted she was more than capable of saying no.

The minister was also asked about law enforcement in Gozo, something she said was of concern to her, particularly when it came to the “escalating problem with drugs”. In fact, Caruana said she had already held a meeting with Home Affairs minister Michael Farrugia to discuss what could be done in this regard.

In the aftermath of last month’s general election, many pointed out that the government had done well in Gozo by virtue of the amount of government jobs handed out. This has been echoed by a number of businesses in Gozo who have claimed that they were struggling to find workers since they had all quit to take up jobs in the public sector.

“This is rhetoric we hear after every election about the party that wins,” she said, pushing back against the claims.  

“The truth is that the Labour Party worked hard and obtained good results in Gozo, and the people want to continue seeing results under a Labour government.”

Balzan also brought up the fact that Caruana was married to Silvio Valletta, a high-ranking official in the Police Corps and asked how they handled their relationship given that they were both privy to sensitive information they could not disclose to each other.

“Our rule has always been to keep our work to ourselves,” said Caruana. “When we get home, we don’t speak about work and if we receive phone calls we take them in private to avoid any conflict or hearing something we shouldn’t.”

Strategy to win as many votes as possible through coalition failed – Francis Zammit Dimech

The second guest on Wednesday night’s episode was former MP and newly-elected MEP Francis Zammit Dimech, who missed out on a parliamentary seat for the first time since 1987.

Balzan asked Zammit Dimech whether he believed it was a mistake of the Nationalist Party to enter into a coalition with Marlene Farrugia’s Partit Demokratiku, to which to veteran MP responded by saying that before the election, the PN had adopted a strategy “to try and win as many votes as possible”, a strategy, which by his own admission had failed.  

Saviour Balzan (left) with Francis Zammit Dimech (right)
Saviour Balzan (left) with Francis Zammit Dimech (right)

He insisted that the PN was mistaken in “renouncing” its past achievements in focusing solely on matters of governance, especially the when it came to the party’s efforts to build the country’s infrastructure, as well as in “creating the engines that drive today’s economy”.

“I understand that we needed to have a new message but when you renounce that which was good, not only do you no longer take credit for it, but you also allow others to do so,” he said.

On his bid to become leader of the Nationalist Party back in 2013, Zammit Dimech said that while he had believed he would get more votes than he did, he did not seriously believe he could win.

“I felt that I needed to throw my hat in the ring out of a sense of duty because I felt that I represented experience and understood the party’s structures. I also felt that I knew what we could have done from a strategic point of view to bring our message across more effectively,” he said.

During the last legislature, the Labour Party often criticised PN MEPs for “working against Malta’s interests” however Zammit Dimech insisted that as an MEP he was elected to represent Malta, and not the Nationalist Party.

“If I am from St Julian’s and I have some problem which I bring up in parliament in Valletta, nobody asks why I have asked a question about St Julian’s in Valletta,” he pointed out.

He insisted that the European Parliament belongs to all member states and that MEPs were obliged to speak about what a nation was interested in and what was worrying it.

Finally, he said that while he felt that a balance between politics and personal life was important, he would continue working in politics until the electorate decided it was no longer prepared to put its faith in him. 

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