The 'Speech from the throne' - Government wants new chapter in Maltese political history
The 12th legislature since Independence opened today, with the government promising in the President's 'Speech from the Throne' that it will usher in a new chapter in Malta's political history.
The ceremony started with Mass of the Holy Spirit at St John's Co-Cathedral. The MPs then walked to the Palace, applauded by people who stood behind police barriers in Republic Street.
In Parliament, proceedings started with the nomination and swearing in of the new Speaker (see separate story) and the swearing in of the MPs.
The government's programme was outlined in a 24-page speech read by President George Abela.
In the speech, the government said the time of pique, partisan politics and arrogance in the government and all levels of the administration must become a thing of the past.
It also promised to keep in constant touch with the ordinary people and to work in serenity for the country's progress.
As it the norm, the address was mostly a reproduction of the governing party's electoral programme.
The government said its immediate priority was to move the Budget for this year.
It had also started working intensively on its energy plan with a view to converting power generation at the power station to gas and reducing the tariffs as promised. The government aid that with regard to the interconnector, the situation was not as described by the previous government and costs would rise by €26m due to lack of planning. It said it would be positive and work for the project to be completed on time, however a review of costs and timelines was currently under way.
Malta had also fallen back on its alternative energy targets because they were based on a wind farms project which had also fallen back considerably and might not even be viable, the government added. It would therefore invite the private sector to partner it in a aggressive investment in solar energy, while studies into wind energy would continue.
The government was also committed to improving the level of service at ARMS Ltd.
CLEANING UP POLITICS
The President said the government wanted to see the highest standards of public administration and it wanted to see new public confidence in politics and politicians. Ministerial pay would be reviewed by independent persons and any change would come into force in the next legislature
The enactment of a Whistleblower Act and a law to oversee party funding would be priorities.
In education, the focus would be on encouraging more young people to continue studying. Teachers would be able to focus more on teaching. There would be increased focus on the fight against illiteracy. The Junior College would be modernised and the building of the Mcast campus would continue. The system of national vocational qualifications would be strengthened. Stipends would be raised according to the cost of living index.
In job creation, the government would encourage women to return to employment. It would provide training for workers who were seeking more skills and it would give incentives and training for those who depended on social services. An Active Market Policy Counselling and Action Committee would be set up. Income tax on part-time work would be reduced and the government would strengthen flexitime, job sharing, compressed week, reduced hours and teleworking schemes.
There would be measures against precarious work and companies which did not respect the conditions of work of their employees would not be allowed to tender for government contracts.
The President reiterated Labour's healthcare promises including reducing waiting lists, improving the provision of medicines through pharmacies, improving hospital administration and raising standards in community services.
With regard to government finance, the government would aim for fiscal stability and consolidation, with better control over the deficit.
The government reiterated its promise to provide new care services for persons with disability once their parents passed away.
It also reiterated its promise to review the administration of the law courts to ensure there was a better service and more checks and balances throughout the system.
With regard to civil liberties, the government said a bill to allow marriage for people who changed their gender would be moved shortly. The government would also move legislation on cohabitation and civil unions between people of the same gender.
DIVISION OF MEPA FUNCTIONS AT END OF NEXT YEAR
Dr Abela said the government would reform Mepa, for a better service and in order to separate its planning and environment functions by the end of next year.
Foreign Policy, he said would not be focused only on the EU, and the government would also seek closer relations with countries such as China, the US, Libya, Australia, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf and Middle East countries, India and Brazil.
Concluding, he said the government would also modernise the national institutions including the way Parliament functioned. At the heart of this process would be a new, more democratic Constitution.
This, Dr Abela concluded, was a government that was committed to writing a new page in Malta's political history. It would extend a hand of friendship to everyone and it would remain committed to the promises it made before the election.
See the full text in English and Maltese by clicking on the pdf links below.