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The man in the arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The political method is indeed, as someone else put it, a rough and tough business.

It is certainly not for the faint hearted and it requires a huge dose of resilience, determination and inner strength if one decides to go in it for the right reasons and steadfastly keeps those right reasons at the centre of all the decisions he or she takes throughout.

The electorate does not expect perfection from us who ply our trade in the political arena. People know that every human being is prone to make mistakes and I do not know of any politician who, looking back, can pride himself as being perfect all the time.

But the people do expect us to give our 200%, to be humble and accessible, to offer vision and to govern in a correct and effective manner. Our citizens demand and expect to have a Government which works hard to create wealth and to distribute it fairly.

When the electorate felt that GonziPN was taking Malta off course, they threw the whole team out with the biggest of margins at the time. Similarly when the electorate felt that, rightly or wrongly, Labour was not delivering between 1996 and 1998, it relegated the Labour Party back to the Opposition benches.

I strongly believe that the Robert Abela administration is firmly and decisively on the right track. And I am not saying this because I am part of the team but because objectively the results are self-evident. Our economy is growing from strength to strength, surpassing pre-covid levels which had been very successful in their own right. Economic growth is twice the EU average. Employment levels cannot be more positive. People are finding more money in their pockets, the business people are investing in huge numbers and all credit rating agencies and the main institutions are giving us excellent bills of health.

We are also distributing wealth in a fair and just manner. A new season of prosperity has been created with the benefits percolating in all strata of society. Pensioners have enjoyed increments year after year. New social services have been expanded and improved. Whole sectors have been given new lease of life, not least the cultural sectors which has seen unprecedented investment in various aspects.

Truly, the Robert Abela administration has built upon the good things it has inherited and improved them. At the same time it adressed the things which could have been done better and took Malta forward on those issues as well. Truly it is showing how the political method is the best method to bring about change and make Malta a better place.

This week I am personally marking two milestones relative to my political career which I am very proud of: my 15th year in the House of Representatives and my 10th consecutive year in Cabinet. I understand that for most people they are just numbers but for me they mean a great deal. Not for the sake of marking milestones, but because they serve as a means and source of reflection to regnite further the energy for the challenges ahead.

I had spent my first five years of my Parliamentary career on the Opposition benches. It was a period during which I had learnt a lot. In all honesty, although I have absolutely no doubt that Dr Lawrence Gonzi (who I believe is a good man) was giving his all, the Nationalist Government at the time was a perfect prototype of what not to do. And I had studied attentively and learnt from its grave mistakes.

The next ten years in Government were pure hard work. We delivered reform after reform, we led our country through the biggest challenges which came in our way and in the process we changed Malta for the better. New civil rights were implimented, the economy grew in a fast rate, we distributed wealth fairly and according to the principles of social justice and a whole list of sectors were bolstered and improved, including those which are very important to the proverbial man in the street.

I would like to thank all the people with whom I have worked in the past fifteen years. Along the way I have met public officers and colleagues of very high integrity and efficiency and the memories which we constructed through the challenges we overcame everyday will certainly remain the most important highlights of the work we have done together.

Of course, this voyage had its ups and downs. The ups have been the feelings of genuine appreciation by the people who felt that in a way or another we left a positive impact on their lives. I also have had and still have my share of critics. Most of the time and true to my character, rather than engaging in a tit for tat, I have preferred to bite the bullet and let my work and results speak for themselves.

And I believe that they speak very loudly and very clearly.

In this context, I am forever grateful for the support which the electorate – the ultimate judges and jurors – has given me throughout all these years, particularly during the last general election wherein I was returned from two constituencies.

In all honesty what I totally detest is not harsh criticism or the tremendous scrutiny which we all have to face, but untruths, lies which are branded about ferociously by people who should know better.

It happens all the time. Let me bring some small examples which have all occured in the last days. First there was one of the new PN boys Graham Bencini who said on the Sunday version of this newspaper that I had refused to publish the names of the members of two PBS boards when in reality everything was published in the Government Gazette last August.

Then there was the other new PN girl Julie Zahra, who spun her own share of lies on a truly brilliant cultural event for children about gender as part of Ziguzajg.

Then there was another PN wannabe, Peter Agius, who is bending himself backwards to try and attract some attention and airtime by pushing the lie that the powers that be are shutting off the free to air TV transmission when the truth is the direct opposite. I will have the opportunity to delve further into the subject very shortly, but the free to air is still around because the Government has taken a positive action to make sure that it is still available for everyone.

These are just minor examples which happened in quick succession which I am using to prove a point.

But back to the argument I was making in the first place. Reflecting on the past years is just an exercise in dilly-dallying if it does not bring about new energy and impetus for more work to be done in the road ahead. And that is exactly how I am feeling, as part of this exciting team – energised. Energised to keep delivering, energised to do more and energised to do my bit to make Malta a better place than it already is.

Because, as a man in the arena, I believe, in great enthusiasms, in great devotions, with all the dust and sweat and blood I have got in the worthy cause of the political method.


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