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It’s about a better economy, and it’s not stupid

Six million jobs. Six million Europeans have lost their jobs and income due to the pandemic. Prolonged lockdowns and economic uncertainty drove unemployment rates across the continent to levels last seen in the global financial crises of 2008.

Our government’s policy of protecting lives whilst safeguarding livelihoods delivered diametrically opposite results.

Today more than 14,000 individuals are employed in new jobs created here in Malta since 2019. At 77% our employment participation rate is the highest ever registered. Compared to the months right before the pandemic hit our shores 450 fewer individuals are looking for a job, the lowest level of unemployment in our history. Within the entire Eurozone, Malta has established itself as the only country which registered an increase in employment activity during the worst months of the pandemic.

Pivotal in all this is the wage support scheme that has shielded our businesses from the spectre of losing on their most valuable asset: their human capital and the talent of their workforce. We managed to protect more than 105,000 jobs making up almost two-thirds of the workforce in our entire private sector.

As our economy navigated into uncharted territories, our business community found in the Labour government and our policies an unparalleled partner, ready to step in and infuse stability in times of uncertainty which translated into confidence about a better future despite the challenges all around us.

This is why, we have extended the wage supplement for February for all companies across different sectors that still need this support. This is being done because we are aware of the complex ramifications that this last Omicron wave had on different sectors which still need to adapt to the new circumstances. The financial commitment out of the government coffers is indeed significant but the economic cost of stopping this assistance abruptly would be much higher in the future.

There is no doubt that this government has proved itself as an indispensable partner in times of unprecedented uncertainty. My appeal to our business community is consistently clear: we are treating this support as an investment in the future of our economy. Businesses need to capitalise on this by adapting to the post-pandemic realities and a return to self-sustainability in the near future.

I strongly believe that the successful way by which we are navigating through the pandemic will serve us an invaluable experience and a winning formula that we can bank upon to tackle what is going to be an even more imperative evolution in the years to come: climate change and the transformation of our economy towards a sustainable model aiming at a better quality of life for our people.

The task ahead of us is huge but the risk of taking our chances and staying idle is exponentially larger.

Just like we tackled the pandemic, we need to have everyone on board, we need to work together to ensure that we move in the same direction, towards the same common objective: A better economic model aiming at a wider prosperity rather than stand-alone economic growth.

We want to ensure that all the interests of different segments of our society are safeguarded and aligned towards this ambition. We truly need to ensure that the green transition leaves no one behind. But we are also responsible for leading the way, for being bold and decisive.

Just like we did during these last two challenging years, we need to keep on taking the right and often the most courageous decisions to steer our economic operators in a direction that will bring positive long-term change.

We can, and we will improve the lives of our people by embracing an economic model which prioritises the environment whilst investing, literally, in the social fabric of our community. Our political commitment and stewardship will need to be aimed at simultaneously convincing whilst supporting our business leaders in embracing this transition.

Our enterprises should not be punished with forceful overnight shocks which would only be counterproductive. I am convinced that the best way to enable this transition is by promoting a sustainable industrial evolution which rewards – even in monetary terms – the commitment to a sustainable economic transition by our businesses.

Indeed, I am encouraged to see that a growing cohort of Maltese enterprises is already reaping the benefits of being early movers in this space. In this context, we have recently noticed that those Maltese companies which have returned the highest returns to their shareholders in recent years have a substantially lower carbon footprint compared to their peers.

We need to encourage this evolution in all other key sectors of our economy. Just like we have been doing in recent months, we will need to work hard, support all the different segments of our society but above everything else lead the way in changing mindsets. Yes, we will build a modern, greener and more sustainable Maltese economic model aimed at improving people’s lives. It’s the smartest thing to do.


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