I completely concur with the Prime Minister’s opening sentence in his New Year’s message: 2019 will be a better year than the one that has just ended. Better for families. Better for businesses. Better for our country.
Better for all sectors that will ultimately affect the society and better their socio-economic status. This year we will continue working to strengthen what we achieved during the past years, and quoting Dr Joseph Muscat, “Some might think that, with the economy as strong as it is, and high employment, things can’t get any better than this.” They can. Moreover, we will be striving to make things happen, as we did during the past years during which our country was steered in the right direction by the Labour Government.
I will initially delve into the sectors falling within the Ministerial portfolio. Starting with Culture, this year we will be improving on what we have already achieved, whilst implementing new measures, projects and schemes.
After the brilliant year of Valletta being the European Capital for Culture – during which we excelled – this year we will be enhancing this with an Agency to continue with the sterling work achieved. The agency will draw up and oversee the implementation of a cultural plan for Valletta, and develop a programme with other public cultural organisations.
The Valletta Cultural Agency has already been entrusted to handle Malta’s application to host the European Cultural Capital for the second time in 2031. Speaking about this the Prime Minister said that he believes Gozo should be nominated to become European Cultural Capital, adding that this would be a huge opportunity to place Gozo on top of the agenda through a major infrastructural and cultural investment.
I agree that “In the same way we transformed our capital from a moribund city to a vibrant centre, we can also turn Gozo into one of the best projects ever implemented in our country.”
This is all a result of Valletta 2018’s legacy. Another important factor in the cultural sector. I emphasized this in my articles last year, and will continue to do so, as I strongly believe that our children and grandchildren have a right to experience what this generation is experiencing in culture, traditions, historical heritage and so forth.
In his New Year message, the Prime Minister accentuated the upgrade we are witnessing in our infrastructure. Mentioning infrastructure one immediately relates this to the power station, which has brought us cheaper utility bills and cleaner air, to new roads, sewage treatment plants, new systems of waste separation and recycling. Infrastructure in the education and health sectors.
There is also cultural infrastructure. Culture – which is steadily increasing its contribution to the country’s economy in several ways. In fact, the culture sector is recognised as a major contributor to the country’s economy.
The fact that the Prime Minister decided to record his New Year message in the newly opened MUŻA is a strong statement in itself. Here again, a link with Valletta 2018’s major event and a legacy. The Art Museum will go down as part of the legacy of Valletta as Culture Capital of Europe – an initiative which attracted thousands of Maltese and Gozitans towards unprecedented cultural events and brought hundreds of thousands of foreigners to our shores.
The new national museum of art in Malta is a gift to all. A hybrid of public spaces, galleries and retail facilities, equally relevant within one interconnecting weave that defines MUŻA as a national community art museum and also serves as an art gateway to our capital city and country. Most important of all, this building is a real-life testament of our vision and legacy, which we wish to pass on to future generations.
During this year we will be giving back to the citizens more projects which will enhance the “legacy list”, if I may call it that. A quick look at the major ones: the Valletta Design Cluster, a community space for cultural and creative practice in the heart of Valletta situated in the Old Abattoir site in our capital; the Malta Carnival Experience, providing a decent space where carnival creations can be produced, exhibited and stored; the Rock Hub, a project which oversees that musicians, artists and rock music enthusiasts have a rehearsal and performance space to immerse themselves in their passion.
Work will also continue on MICAS, the showcase for local contemporary artists but which will also engage with international institutions to present ground-breaking works by acclaimed artists from all over the world. MICAS is scheduled to open in 2021.
In his New Year message, the Prime Minister said that in 2017, the Maltese and Gozitan people gave us a clear mandate to introduce positive action in favour of greater representation of women in the country’s highest institution: Parliament, adding that at the start of the New Year, we will initiate a consultation for this to happen. Dr Muscat said that he is well aware that this is a controversial subject, and that opinions vary. However, and I agree, we have been waiting for too long without taking action. We need to discuss this with everyone, including the Opposition. The questions we should ask ourselves is not whether the people’s mandate should be carried out, but how it should be carried out.
In the same manner, we need to discuss with everyone—above all with the Opposition—the way forward on the Constitutional Convention so that we continue with the changes that were suggested both in Malta and abroad in order to have a new Constitution for Malta.
This leads me to the Justice sector, a sector that is better off than five years back. This is also a sector in which changes were made benefitting all – professionals and clients. The year ahead will see more changes not only to enhance those already achieved, but we will continue implementing and changing, again to the benefit of all.
Echoing the Prime Minister’s words, the positive results we have achieved were thanks to all. Thanks to every person who is positive, who works hard, and who loves our country. This is the spirit that is making our country the best in Europe, and I underline that I also believe that we can become the envy of the world.
Naturally, there are challenges that must be overcome, not only in justice, culture or local government but also in all of the sectors that affect all of us.
The past years saw the generation of jobs, the reduction of poverty. However there still are families that need our help. Although we have bettered the social standing of the majority, the Government acknowledges that there is a more that can be achieved. Despite having the lowest number of unemployed persons, the Government is increasing expenditure to assist those who are less well-off.
The good economic situation of our country is a result of careful planning, hard work and implementation, which has brought about a country with a strong position. It is easy to stop at that, but not for this Government. We have an opportunity to build on today by focusing on the future. We are no longer in a worrying-about-the-next-day position, but in a position to look ahead where we would like the country to go over the next decade and beyond.
In a couple of months, we will be voting in two important elections – the European Parliament Elections and the Local Government Elections. 2019 will see our country as one of the first countries in Europe and the world where youths aged 16 years have the right to vote in national elections. Here I join the Prime Minister in saying and urging all young men and young women to take part in this strong showcasing of democracy.
2019 will also see the term of Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the President of the Republic, that will come to an end. I also thank her, for her contribution to the country.
This year will be a another splendid year for all. We all have our beliefs, we are all different, and we might all have diverging opinions, but first and foremost, we are all Maltese and Gozitans, and we should all strive to work hand-in-hand to make this country, yes – the envy of the world.