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Figures, values and challenges

I trust that most of us have enjoyed some endearing moments with family during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, most good things in life come to an end quickly. Leading economists, international financial institutions, politicians and newsrooms are once again reminding us of the bleak economic forecast for the next 12 months.

I will attempt to look at the prevailing predicament from a different angle.

The landmark Papal encyclical Rerum Novarum, penned in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, is as applicable today is it was over 100 years ago. The seven guiding principles of the encyclical are a light that can guide leaders in the troubled times we are in.

The dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, participation, solidarity, the right of private property and the universal destination of goods are the seven guiding principles that perhaps we need today to restore and gain back what has been lost over the past decade.

Policies and meaningful reforms must be based on sound values and principles. Short-term policies and make-belief solutions will only cause more hardship and pain to the people.

Some say that people vote with their feet. I beg to differ. Most vote with what’s in their wallets, the young vote by judging their future prospects while retirees vote according to their state of pension and other services in health care.

The next 12 months are expected to challenge leaders of different organisations, not least political parties. What was experienced over the now late 2011 and the preceding years has surprised most but has also inspired many more to take new challenges. Malta has taken the challenge and, to my mind, succeeded.

Much has been said about the Greek economic tragedy, the laid back attitude of the Spaniards, the fall of the colourful political class in Italy and the nationwide industrial strikes by the Portuguese. Even the Irish had to let go of their tiger from the economy while the passive British had to take to the streets to show their anger. Others opted for other measures.

People are feeling the brunt of the austerity measures that their respective governments had to take to control the deficit, which was too big to service due to higher interest rates. It stands to reason that if the risks are high then interest rates are higher and if these are higher then servicing the deficit will become more strenuous on the taxpayer. People are caught between a rock and a hard place and they had to let off steam and frustration in the streets. Not that this has changed much; if anything this has made things worse.

Higher unemployment rates continued to appear in most of the EU countries.

England now has the highest number of unemployed in the last 17 years with over 2.6 million seeking work, of which one million are youths.

The latest statistics show that, in December 2011, France also registered the highest number of job seekers with 2.85 million. This figure is the highest recorded in France in the last 12 years.

Austria has the lowest unemployment rate with 4.1 per cent while Spain has a massive unemployment rate of 22.8 per cent.

In Malta, 6,500 are unemployed. We should not at any moment rest because our figures are low. On the contrary, every effort should be made to find employment to all those who express the wish to work.

Unemployment figures clearly indicate the rate of economic success or failure. Understandably, people complain about a variety of issues which they may feel are socially unjust but productive work remains the highest value.

Unlike many other contests, in the case of unemployment, countries which score the least fare best on this scoreboard. Malta has a very favourable placing notwithstanding the prevailing economic turbulence.

The employment rate is important not just from the workers’ point of view.

This rate underscores the fact that Malta knows how to steer an economy.

Malta is intertwined with the world’s economy and a financial crunch in one country or other impacts directly on our businesses and employment levels.

As is said in many adverts, the past is not necessarily a guarantee for the future. However, the recent past and the present give Malta hope for the future.

The fundamental tenets of Rerum Novarum may well be a guiding instrument in the economic woes that are hitting most countries of the world.

Malta proves to be a good example to follow.

[email protected]

The author is former general secretary of the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin.

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