The responsible choice
A responsible government increases wealth, provides incentives for those who may create employment, provides training for the jobs of the future and supports those who are most in need. In my opinion, yesterday’s Budget has done all this.
A Budget for today that prepares us for tomorrow, as the Nationalist Party has consistently done while in government, a Government that, having worked responsibly, is now in a position to continue to strengthen what has been achieved so far and continue to improve the quality of life for all the Maltese and Gozitans.
A Budget that offers a concrete vision and programme for the future.
It is a Budget that is almost unbelievable at this moment in time when the world is still reeling from the consequences of an unprecedented financial crisis.
While neighbouring countries are facing an uphill struggle and austerity, we are offering a package that will continue to improve our quality of life and that of our children.
Other governments are reducing wages and social services and facing record unemployment figures. We are announcing increases in children’s allowance, reductions in income tax, measures and incentives for women who work and for businesses.
These are a wide range of proposals from a Government that is full of ideas as to how it will continue to guide this country forward in the midst of the surrounding storm.
With regard to my ministerial responsibilities, this is once again a Budget that is investing millions of euros in restoration projects and public spaces.
Measures were announced that promote clean energy, provide assistance and investment in the farming and fisheries sectors and invest in waste management, the conservation of water and animal welfare.
The Budget is a gauge for the health of the Government and the country. This Budget continues to confirm that this is a strong country led by a government that offers and implements the best policies. It is a government that takes responsible decisions.
In a few months, the people will be asked to make their choice. I am confident that this, too, will be a responsible decision for our children and us – November 29.
We kept our promise
Last Sunday, hundreds of families visited the Sant’Antnin Recycling Plant in Marsascala that again opened its doors to the public.
Families had the opportunity to visit the operations of the plant while entertainment for all the family was provided. It was a wonderful atmosphere. I went at around midday and presumed it would not be very busy being lunchtime. Yet, I was wrong. I met many families, most of them with children, and also met foreigners who took the guided tour.
This plant was made possible due to the investment of €27 million, co-financed by the EU, despite the opposition of those who should have known better, including the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Muscat, who did all he could to try and block EU funds for this project. The last extension to this project was the Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant (MBT Plant). Since this MBT Plant began operating, 88,000 tonnes of waste have been treated in the generation of clean energy.
This led us to introduce the Good Neighbourhood Scheme, through which those who reside within a radius of 1.5km from the Sant’Antnin plant will begin to receive 150 units of free electricity per person through a cheque that can be exchanged when settling electricity bills. For example, the rebate on a bill for a family of four will be about €96 a year. This measure was extremely well received.
We had promised that this plant would be administered responsibly and that those living nearby would also benefit from it. Once again, we kept our promise.
Over the past eight years, a drastic shift in mentality regarding waste management has come about. We began with the collection of separated waste from homes through “recycle Tuesdays”. Between 2008 and September 2012, 60,000 tonnes of separated wasted were collected, all of which was treated by the Sant’Antnin plant to be exported.
Furthermore, through the civic amenity sites in Magħtab, Ħal Far, Luqa and Xewkija, Wasteserv has collected over 85,000 tonnes of domestic bulky waste.
Between 2009 and September 2012, Wasteserv exported over 1,700, 40-foot containers of recycled waste, at a value of over €3 million – November 28.
The Embryo Protection Bill, or commonly known as the IVF Bill, has now been approved by Parliament after intensive discussions with various pro-life organisations, with professionals, doctors and ethics experts.
I am satisfied to note that the Government insisted on key principles that have all been included in this Bill.
First and foremost is the protection of human life from conception. This Government is pro-life and through this Bill will protect the life of human embryos conceived through IVF.
Couples who, for one reason or another, may not have children naturally may become parents without there being negative repercussions on the life of the embryo conceived through IVF.
It will be regulated, protecting the couple involved, either of the parties, and the embryo.
Secondly, parents who are unable to conceive naturally shall be given the opportunity and hope to become parents through assisted procreation methods.
IVF will be provided free of charge at Mater Dei Hospital as from next year. This will be provided for married couples and heterosexual couples who are in a stable relationship. The couple will have to provide their consensus in writing.
Whoever breaks the law may be fined up to €70,000 and may face up to seven years in prison. The freezing of eggs will be possible, yet, embryos may not be frozen unless in the case that transfer of the embryo to the mother’s womb is not possible for health reasons of the mother or upon direction of the Authority for Embryo Protection to safeguard the life of the particular embryo.
I would like to thank Ministers Joe Cassar and Chris Said, who spearheaded this legislation and found a balance between the ethical and moral questions that would be reaffirmed by this pro-life government – November 27.
Victory for tolerance and diversity
I was overcome by disappointment last Tuesday when I heard that the Socialist Group had largely voted against supporting the nomination of Tonio Borg as European commissioner.
Not only because I could sympathise with what Tonio must have been going through and what this would mean for our country, but because this would have primarily been a failure for Europe.
I felt extremely disillusioned. What does one have to do or be in order to be accepted in the Europe that we have built? Does being a believer, a Christian or, even more, a Catholic, place you at a disadvantage or mean that you should not be accepted?
What does being liberal mean in Europe? Tonio had already clearly stated that he upholds his beliefs but is ready to work according to the decisions of the European institutions and would not interfere with the decisions that every State has a right to take, particularly when there is no obligation for a common EU position.
What tolerance do these people, who claim they are liberal, believe in? Are they only tolerant as long as you agree with them?
Where is the diversity among those who claim to believe in liberal ideas and hail from liberal, green or socialist parties? Or are they trying to create a new homo sapiens europeus, where each individual resembles the next and is devoid of values?
We were always taught that politics without values does not exist, yet, it seems to have become acceptable to have an “anything goes” attitude. It seems certain politicians are no longer willing to agree to disagree and accept a diversity of opinions and ideas.
I would therefore describe yesterday’s vote as not only a victory for Tonio and our country but, above all, a victory for reason. The true victor was freedom of expression, common sense, tolerance and diversity.
If nothing else, this experience should teach us one thing: that Christians involved in politics should be prepared for an uphill struggle.
I have long maintained that the Church in Malta should set up a political school that is founded on the social teachings of the Church and should become more engaged in preparing those individuals who, at great sacrifice, dedicate their lives to politics in a world that is ever more complicated.
I am once again reiterating this heartfelt appeal – November 22.
George Pullicino is Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs.