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‘PN has done the impossible’

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

Nationalist Party candidate KRISTY DEBONO is the only economist on her party’s ticket. She tells Christian Peregin the people want to see change within her party with fresh faces like her own.

Name: Kristy Debono
Age: 31
Profession: Economist
District: 9
Residence: San Ġwann
Marital status: Married

What is your background and why did you get into politics?

I’m an economist. I’ve been involved in politics for the past five years. I prepare the daily financial bulletin on Net TV. That involves being in the newsroom every day, where obviously you get bitten by the bugof politics.

I used to be more of a laissez-faire Nationalist. But in 2003, there was the EU referendum debate and it was there that I realised the PN is the party whose policies I mostly support, especially when compared to the frivolous debates raised by the Opposition.

What is it about the PN that made you want to get so strongly involved?

The turning point was 2003. Before that, I was a Nationalist but I was less active... My parents had different political beliefs and both were hardcore. In fact, a lot of my family is still hardcore on the other side.

Do you think things have changed for the PN since then?

The issues are completely different. Back then it had vision for the country’s future. Now we’re faced with challenges like the international crisis. I believe only the PN could govern the way they did to save us from the recession. Theoretically it was impossible for a small island exposed to all those external shocks to sail through, but we managed.

So now it is all about maintaining.

And converting threats to opportunities.

How did your candidature come about? Was it your idea?

Not at all. The Prime Minister approached me in October, which was very late to start a campaign. It took me about a week to decide.

Your husband, Jean-Pierre Debono, is also involved in politics. Is he supportive?

Yes, mentally and emotionally. However, physically he cannot be that supportive because he is the director of Elcom (the party’s electoral office) and assistant PN general secretary, so he is busier than me.

What legacy will Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi leave behind?

I believe it will be these past five years and the way he had the vision to steer us away from the recession.

PN is looking to shake up its parliamentary group and you’re one of the many fresh faces. Do you think they picked you simply to attract more votes or because they want you to get elected and be an important part of the party?

It could be a mixture of both. I am the only economist among the PN candidates and that is one of the reasons the Prime Minister asked me to contest. Apart from that, yes, I’m young so I’m trying to approach as many youths as possible. I also believe I have the necessary experience: I live, breathe and eat politics, even thanks to my husband’s involvement and I think it is a mixture of everything.

What is your specific expertise?

I have a Master’s degree in economics and I work in consultancy. I specialise in the new economy. After I graduated I worked in financial services for a while and then I shifted to iGaming. Back then it was a very innovative sector. Eight years down the line it proved to be a success in all respects, especially the way it is regulated to also combat the social impact. It is a revenue generator. And together with financial services and the pharmaceutical industry, it was there at the right time.

What worries you about Labour’s view of the economy?

Their lack of vision. In the past five years I’ve eagerly waited for them to come up with a decent proposal. But whatever they proposed, such as the living wage, they made U-turns and things fizzled out because they did not make sense. Moreover, I don’t believe they are as capable as the PN to administer EU funds to maximise their potential.

The PN has managed to keep Malta in a good financial position compared to other countries. But it has consistently failed on debt, deficit and growth targets that it set for itself. Does that worry you?

Not that much because first of all we have to always keep in context that we are surrounded by failing countries and we are a small open economy. No man is an island... Not even our island!

Shouldn’t we factor this into our projections?

We should, yes, but we must also emphasise that our debt is 100 per cent local debt.

Not 100 per cent but an absolute majority.

Yes. It is the major part of the debt. So it is the people investing in the Government with relatively higher return than if they invest the money in a bank and in return the country invests in projects.

So the public debt is not a worry?

No, I don’t believe it is a worry.

In your district there are about 12 candidates. What are your chances of getting elected?

As high as the other new candidates. People want a change.

Do you mean they want a change within the PN?

Yes. I do 13 hours of house visits every day and that is the feedback I get.

Why do you think this is?

Because the more you work, the more you are bound to make mistakes and irritate people. New candidates also reflect fresh ideas and that might be attractive to the constituents. Having said that, I believe it should be a mixture of both. God forbid only new candidates were elected because we need the experience.

What are your aspirations? Do you hope to be an MP, a minister, or are you contesting to lend your name to the party?

Given all the time and dedication I am giving I am working to be part of the new parliamentary group. I don’t aspire to be a minister because as I said you need experience which I don’t have.

So you won’t be a rowdy backbencher.

Not at all.

What are the issues that matter most to women?

They want a woman to represent them in Parliament. But on the other hand they don’t believe women should be there just for the sake of being women. That makes us feel insulted.

Do you think women also feel insulted by quotas?

In my opinion, the starting point is we shouldn’t even discuss quotas because it is so passé. But the reality is that women, even given their biological make-up, have a certain disadvantage in the labour force.

Because they can get pregnant?

And even once they bear a child they must breastfeed and so on. They have some limitations which make employers discriminate against them.

PN used to be vociferously against quotas, even at EU level. Now they feature in the electoral manifesto. Do you share this conflicting opinion of quotas?

Yes. At first glance I think they are insulting. Why should a woman be there just to make up a number? But the other hand, women might need a kick-start to represent themselves and show their substance. If they are not given a chance they need that temporary push.

What do you think about the changing family values in Maltese society? We saw a discussion on divorce in this legislature. Now there is also a discussion on same-sex couples and their rights. Where do you stand on this liberal and conservative spectrum?

Regarding divorce, looking back now, I believe we created no earthquakes post-divorce, so I believe that when one considers the reality of life...

Maybe PN was wrong?

It’s not that the PN was wrong. I just don’t believe it should have been a political issue. I was very much against that.

How did you vote? Were you afraid it would be a disaster?

I was afraid it would be, but now I realise it wasn’t... But again it shouldn’t have been a political issue. We should have just been presented with the arguments from both sides.

What do you think was Labour’s weak point during the campaign?

I think the constant U-turns and the fact they were given five years’ chance to make some really good proposals but did not. There is a lack of vision.

Can you think of one Labour proposal which you like?

No, except their promise to consolidate on what has already been built.

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