We have long since left behind the sad spectacle of the anxious run-up to an endless Budget speech culminating in the rise or fall of the price of a can of tuna fish or the imposition of some restriction or other.
Since 1987, with successive governments, we have come to expect a Budget which, beyond specifically-targeted measures, lays down a specifically-targeted vision setting new or renewed areas of economic activity to venture into or strengthen and ensuring, in the medium and long term, safe and secure sustainability for present and future generations.
This is vision. It is not only an important but an absolutely essential element in the policy planning and implementation of every government.
As is often stated, our national resources are limited in many aspects and our main resource remains our people. The resilience, capability, determination, adaptability and resourcefulness of Maltese and Gozitans never ceases to amaze. When well-directed and properly encouraged, the targets that we can reach as a nation never cease to impress.
When a serious and ambitious national vision meets an industrious and ambitious national workforce, the goals that can be reached are endless.
This is how new areas of economic activity, born out of such vision, were thought up, planned and introduced. Hence our sound financial sector. Hence the gaming, pharmaceutical and aircraft maintenance industries, among others, launched with such success.
One challenge for any Maltese government is that of identifying new, ideally niche sectors of economic activity in cycles ensuring a growth pattern which is constant and, by nature, long term, with a value-added dimension and affordable sustainability.
This is what has been regrettably lacking since 2013. The Labour administration, from day one, opted for an immediate boost based on low-salaried imported labour and the sale of passports scheme, with particular emphasis on ever-reliable construction.
Let us not overlook one particular reality. This option was good, very good indeed, for a sector of professionals and business entities.
From a national perspective, however, in assessing the medium- and long-term viability of such economic option, one has to responsibly see whether it can stand the test of time that extends beyond the initial feel-good factor, whether it brings about a value-added dimension that spills over to other sectors and whether it can sustain us in times of unplanned crises.
This is where the need of true vision in the governance of our country emerges glaringly. This need, particularly at a time when the unavoidable effects of our country’s greylisting have started to loom over the activities even of those same professionals and businesses, emerges with great emphasis and greater urgency.
It is this glaring need of a sound national vision which Bernard Grech addressed boldly in his reply to the Budget speech last Monday.
The leader of the opposition, with courage and with characteristic ease stemming from his deep conviction, stepped out of that traditional comfort zone of targeted criticism, which is, in any event, one of the main functions of the opposition, and proceeded to lay down the Nationalist Party’s vision for our country at this juncture.
It is in this vein that a number of proposals were put forward by Grech, outlining the spirit of a party in opposition that does not limit itself to oppose but ventures out to actively propose.
This vision is broadly based on three main pillars. The first, fresh in outlook and purpose, is the prioritisation of the quality of life. Second is the effective enjoyment of the environment as a national right for all and third is the commitment of a government intent on facilitating and encouraging the achievement of one’s full capabilities and potential.
When well-directed and properly encouraged, the targets that we can reach as a nation never cease to impress– Alex Perici Calascione
In possibly uncommon honesty, Grech acknowledged those Budget measures which were positive and then went further.
The commitment to increase the stipends of students following the most required professions, such as nurses, teachers, social workers and care workers, reflects clear foresight of the needs that are anticipated as from now.
The investment in a national framework for electric cars, as a studied and definite measure rather than a cosmetic pronouncement, highlights the medium and long-term awareness of environmental safeguard.
The setting up of a specialised unit for due diligence addresses not only the needs but also the genuine concerns of many professionals in respect of a compliance culture rendered more onerous by the effects of the Labour government-induced greylisting.
The targeted investment in the training of the workforce affected by the drive towards artificial intelligence is an aspect requiring maximum attention. Artificial intelligence is a reality, there for all to see, acknowledge and tackle. The Nationalist Party, even in opposition, is highlighting this and committing to preparing for the effects as a priority. This is foresight and seriousness in governance and administration.
This is a vision which is ambitious as it is achievable. It is a vision based on the renewed confidence in the abilities of all Maltese and Gozitans to achieve whatever they set out to do and on the obligation of the political class to pave the way towards such achievement, whilst ensuring that none are left behind.
There are other measures that the Nationalist Party is from now committing itself to implement, fully aware that it would be criticised for having publicised its proposals too early in the day. There is certainly much talk of a new fresh way of doing politics. Few, however, then actually walk the talk. This is what Grech and the Nationalist Party are doing right now.
One could call it a road map. This time, it’s the kind that can actually work for the good of all and not for the crass excesses of the few.
This is what the broad invitation Kun il-Bidla (Be the Change) is all about.
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