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Now let’s just go for it!

We will soon be asked to decide who should lead the country for the next five years. We decide on the basis of proposals, track record and experience. This is the clear difference between Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat.

We decide on the basis of proposals, track record and experience
- George Pullicino

Gonzi and his government led this country during unprecedented world crises, yet the positive results achieved speak for themselves. Our neighbouring countries are sinking while we are setting sail. Students are protesting in many European countries while ours are celebrating. Elsewhere, salaries and pensions are being slashed, while we are announcing new collective agreements for the civil service and increased benefits in our Budget, including income tax reductions.

The unemployment levels in neighbouring countries are shocking. In Malta, 20,000 jobs were created during a time of crisis. Today, we boast the highest number of persons in full-time employment since Independence.

New investment flows in and existing investments continued to expand. From €320 million invested in new factories, €280 million consists of foreign investment. This is thanks to cautious policies that guarantee prosperity and employment.

On the other hand, we have Muscat. He was only responsible for one project: the reform of the Labour Party and turning it into a viable alternative. He failed miserably.

He had the opportunity to build a new party from scratch. Instead, he recycled old faces that had shamed the Labour Party, keeping them on rather than recruiting new faces and new blood. He only changed two things: the party emblem and the colour of his tie.

So much for the earthquake he promised.

I recently met someone who has always been a Labour Party supporter. During the last elections, he voted PN for the first time. He stated that he would do so again in the upcoming elections because he has seen no progress under Muscat’s leadership.

On March 9, we have a choice. We have a choice between a leader whose words are reflected by results and another who only seeks power and applause – December 14.

Positive track record

The election date is set. We set off with a positive track record and have much to show for it while others only have a negative track record filled with empty promises.

Our track record in the waste management sector is clear, a fact which seems to irritate the Opposition. They are trying to stain and downplay all that we have accomplished despite their attempts to put spokes in our wheels.

Joseph Muscat and Leo Brincat are trying to confuse people by building an argument on false premises. They are now wrongly claiming that a contract awarded by Wasteserv for €1 million went up to €29 million.

The contract they are referring to was awarded to a private company that provides manpower to work within Wasteserv plants. Contrary to what Muscat and Brincat attempted to lead us to believe, the adjudication value was on the basis of a management fee and commission and did not include other expenses, such as salaries, bonuses and allowances. It is, therefore, not true that the value of the tender increased from €1 million to €29 million because the latter sum also includes four years of salaries, which did not feature in the value of the original contract.

This was done because we wanted to ensure that the employees who would be working with Wasteserv would not be subject to a lower salary that might be offered by the contractor but that they should receive a salary equivalent to govern-ment employees on the same grade and salary scale. We did this to ensure that employees were not exploited.

Was this wrong?

It should also be noted that all contract extensions were always approved by the Contracts Department.

This was all explained in detail to the Auditor General by Wasteserv. It was also explained to Wasteserv’s independent auditors, the same auditors that Brincat wrongly claimed had been removed.

In the management letter for the year 2011, the auditors stated that Wasteserv “shows a marked improvement in the company’s control and management and of its financial reporting systems”. They continued to state that “over a brief period of time they have progressively addressed all the points raised in previous management letters and together with securing the company’s assets also achieved greater transparency”.

The fact that we kept our word and will also be granting reductions in electricity bills to about 7,000 persons who live next to the Sant’Antnin plant irritated Joseph Muscat & co. - December 13.

Enthusiasm and passion

A few days ago, I was invited to assist in two training sessions that were held for secondary school students as part of the EU Robotics Week. I witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm of the children participating. They had the opportunity to build and operate robots and modify their functions through simple programming they themselves designed. This is certainly an initiative that should be commended and encouraged as it urges students to further their studies in this sector, which society has become so dependent on.

This is the second consecutive year that Malta has participated in this initiative together with another 20 countries. This week, over 450 secondary students visited one of five sites, namely Mcast, the Holistic Institute of Technologies, the STC Training Centre and the Engineering Faculty and Education Faculty within the University of Malta, where activities were being organised.

I would like to thank Paul Cassar, the national coordinator for EU Robotics Week, for being so passionate about his work. I was pleased to note that the majority of those assisting the students in these sessions were female, a positive factor when you consider that this is a sector traditionally dominated by men.

This week of activities is organised for two main reasons. Firstly, to raise public awareness about the increasing importance of robotics in our daily lives. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is to encourage more students to further their studies in technology and other fields related to robotics.

A hands-on approach is that which most excites and generates interest among our children. It is for this reason that I have long insisted that we should have a Hands-On Science & Technology Centre that would entice our children, particularly in the fields of science and technology.

Experiences such as the Malta Council for Sciences and Technology’s Science Week, which has been organised since 1995 when I was CEO, clearly proves that children are mesmerized when they are given the opportunity to discover through experimentation. I am pleased to note that now that the MCST has been provided with government funds, it is transforming the abandoned buildings next to Bighi into a hands-on science centre – December 10.

People with disability

Today is the International Day of People with a Disability. It is estimated that about 15 per cent of the world’s population has some form of disability. This day reminds us about their needs and ways in which we can facilitate their integration in society.

Our country has made great progress when it comes to accessibility. The National Commission for Persons with a Disability (KNPD) has also delivered priceless work and I would like to commend them for the work they do. Today, the KNPD must be consulted regarding any development applications to ensure that any needs are catered for.

A lot has been done but there is still a lot that remains to be done to remove all social barriers that are faced by the disabled. Such barriers are detrimental not only to these individuals but also to society, which does not benefit from these individuals contributions once we do not allow them to fulfil their potential. This day should make us reflect on the contributions we may make to this noble cause.

I have personal experience with such issues as my mother lost her eyesight at 54 and lived for 21 years with this condition. My mother suffered but she also maintained a positive attitude and kept herself active and useful. Yet, I also saw her suffer due to lack of accessibility in public spaces, making me realise that the luxuries that we take so much for granted make all the difference for persons with a disability and mean that they would be able to retain their mobility and independence. Physical barriers are but one form of barrier for such individuals to fulfil their potential. There are yet social barriers that must be overcome – December 3.

http://georgepullicino.blogspot.com

George Pullicino is Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs.

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