Unemployment in Malta Among the Lowest in EU

MEDIA ROOM

As published by The Malta Independent, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday that recent statistics show Malta is one of the countries with the lowest levels of unemployment among member states of the European Union.

The prime minister reserved praise for Finance Minister Tonio Fenech for his tireless efforts in meeting, consulting and liaising with directors and owners of factories and businesses, who have had to battle hard to make ends meet in such turbulent circumstances.

The prime minister was replying to questions during a live interview with The Malta Independent journalist Francesca Vella at the PN club in Birkirkara.

“In spite of the economic crisis, the government has taken drastic measures to safeguard employment. Furthermore, we have handed out subsidies, amounting to millions of euro, to those who have left Malta Shipyards, so that despite their loss, they have a short term financial security to fall back on.

“A total of 1,300 have benefited from such subsidies. While others have belittled these subsidies, using the same rationale in a country like Germany and comparing it to Malta would mean that over 30,000 Germans would have benefited from these subsidies.”

He said this shows that the Nationalist government has always placed workers at the forefront of its priorities.

With around 3,000 students graduating annually, the government promises that it will continue to invest to create new opportunities.

Furthermore, about 60 per cent of new graduates within the last few months were women, he said.

“This is not something which has happened by coincidence overnight, but goes to show that incentives and efforts the PN government has taken over the past few years have started to bear fruit,” said Dr Gonzi.

When asked about the increase in government deficit and foreseeable solutions to curb the problem, the prime minister said that in the light of everything that happened over the past year, the government had to choose between one of two options.

The government chose to invest to safeguard employment by means of subsidies and other incentives.

“Having just attended an EU summit in Brussels, I can honestly say that in such meetings leaders and prime ministers of other countries constantly ask me how come Malta’s deficit is so low and how come it has managed to retain its competitiveness throughout.”

Dr Gonzi said the reason is because the Nationalist Party has never been afraid to introduce new measures aimed at modernising and boosting the country’s economy.

There have been measures that did not go down too well with citizens, the water and electricity tariffs a case in point.

In reality, these things happen because of external factors outside our control, said Dr Gonzi.

If the price of oil decreases, as it did last March, then utility tariffs are automatically reduced. However, when the price of oil goes up, then it is expected that tariffs might also increase.

Nevertheless, people have now become more sensitive and conscious on such issues. Now everyone is more aware of just how much energy is lost and consumed by even the smallest of things, with most doing their all to save out on energy consumption, said Dr Gonzi.

“When we introduced the energy saving light bulb scheme some were sceptical, while others mocked us. Now people have started to commend the idea.”

As part of Vision 2015, he said, Malta’s power station emissions have to go down to a certain level. By 2020, the government hopes to invest in more ambitious projects by trying to make the most of wind and solar energy, while further reducing power station emissions.

Referring to the investment in energy infrastructure, in the region of e1.2 billion, the prime minister said: “We are not frightened of investment, and must do so to make sure that the country goes through a process of modernisation. Years ago, Labour leader Alfred Sant went on the national television station saying it was too early to introduce the euro.

“(Labour leader) Dr Joseph Muscat’s party is scared of change, and has remained stagnant. (Labour MP) Evarist Bartolo recently said that the more the Labour Party promises a shattering earthquake, the more things remain the same within their party,” added Dr Gonzi.

When asked how the government intends to fund such ambitious investments, Dr Gonzi said the government has precise plans which would generate the necessary amounts, and which would soon be made public.

He said some funds will come from the EU, and both the private and public sectors would contribute.

Over the past 18 months, this government has taken action on situations which have been neglected by governments of the past 50 years, said the prime minister.

He mentioned the rent reform, the privatisation of Malta Shipyards, and the public transport reform.

“We had to take action so that Malta Shipyards stops contributing to the government’s debt. This shows that the Nationalist Party has always been at the heart and soul of Malta’s development,” said Dr Gonzi.