Our Leaders’ Voices: Joseph Muscat

A Bird’s Eye View has recently launched a new series of articles with the aim of reaching out towards our politicians. In the effort made to give citizens a voice to make their opinions heard, it is only fair that we also act as a bridge between the leaders and the people, thereby further facilitating communication between the two. The set of questions shown below were chosen and formulated by a group of students and put forward to several Maltese politicians. Although an analysis could be made of each of these answers, it would probably be best not to do so within this article to allow you the reader to form your own opinion about what was said.

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In this article, one can see replies given to us by the current Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat:

*The questions and answers were not modified in any way except for reasons of grammatical correction
  1. Considering the Maltese economy needs to import workers in order to keep its current level of growth, what policies are being created in order to ensure that these workers have good and legal working conditions?

The Maltese economy has reached record growth levels resulting in almost full employability amongst Maltese nationals. More foreign workers are employed in Malta. From a situation where six years ago, Malta had one of the lowest employability rates, the labour market nowadays is continuously asking for more human resources to grow further. The challenge now has shifted from the creation of jobs to the need to obtain more human resources.

The need for more foreign workers increases pressure on the Government to have stringent monitoring abilities to detect and act quickly on suspicions of precarious work and human trafficking. This Government has introduced a system whereby contractors who employ under precarious conditions are blacklisted and cannot compete in any public procurement process. Identity Malta staff has also been trained rigorously by specialised international agencies to identify human trafficking cases

2. How do you think we should address the problem of the high residence lease in a sustainable way while protecting those who are currently being victims of great pressure from these rising prices?

Rent levels is a double-edged sword. On one hand, those who have invested in or inherited property are reaping the fruits of their investment. On the other hand, couples and persons who are looking for their first residence, and those who for some reason or other are not owners of their house, are finding this situation difficult. The last budget included a number of measures aimed at mitigating the social impact of rising rent prices, such as a subsidy on a part of the rent, the extension of the first time buyers’ measure to encourage more persons to be homeowners, and also the provision of social loans whereby the Government foots the initial 10% of a loan needed to buy a property. Obviously, this is not enough. A white paper on Rent Reform is also expected to be published soon and is expected to table concrete amendments which will tangibly address the challenges posed by the sector.

3. What is your opinion on the overflow in the construction of high-rise buildings in Malta, especially in rural areas in which trees are being cut down for the sake of building a block of flats?

The concept of high-rise buildings is that of developing vertically rather than horizontally, therefore using a far less stretch of land, that would be used if all residential units were to be built not in a high-rise building context. I believe that the where high-rise buildings are permitted, they are sustainable both from a parking perspective, an energy efficiency and from a shoreline perspective.

4. Do you think that the separation of the Planning Authority and it’s Environmental counterpart has created a conflict of interest within very entities that are supposed to complement rather than oppose each other, keeping in mind that this act has amplified public unrest resulting in several protest groups and unnecessary pressure on the development watchdogs?

The Planning Authority and the Environmental and Resources Authority act in a checks-and-balances context, making the system more transparent and accountable. Lobby groups have a democratic right to protest irrespective of the system.

5. Are there any long-term plans in the making to minimise the effects of the increasing number of cars entering our roads every day?

Incentives such as free public transport for 16 to 20-year olds, incentives on motorcycles and electric bikes are all initiatives aimed at reducing the number of cars from Maltese and Gozitan roads. In the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto, an underground transport system was also pledged. Reducing cars from the road would be easy if fuel prices increased drastically, but this is a limited approach to solving a problem that would be better served by offering a multi-lateral problem-solving approach.

6. How do you think that politicians should address the phenomenon of hostility between their followers?

Leading by example.

7. What is your opinion on Malta’s realistically bi-partisan system? Do you think that the political system would be better if this was changed?

There are always ways to improve.

8. What measures, if any, can be put in place from the government’s side to ensure that other smaller parties are given a more realistic and fair chance at parliamentary elections?

This can be discussed in a Constitutional Convention.

9. What do you think should be done regards to the ever-controversial Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial in front of the Maltese courts?

Now it is up to the court to decide.

Written by: Gianluca Vella

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