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People with disability to be focus of two major reforms - Joseph Muscat

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

A better life for people with disability is the focus of two major reforms being planned by the government, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

The reforms are aimed at helping the disabled integrate better into society.

Addressing the party’s general conference, Dr Muscat said that homes for the disabled in the community were to be set up through an "unprecedented investment" enabling the disabled and their parents to put their mind at rest about the future.

Dr Muscat said that the government would also be ensuring that the disabled had all the opportunities to work. Employment was the biggest integration tool as it gave one dignity.

All this, Dr Muscat said, would be implemented strongly and with much more determination than ever before.

The government’s social commitment, he said, was to make this the first generation of people with a disability for whom employment was a reality which could be acquired.

Malta, he said, would be an example to the rest of Europe.

Dr Muscat said that in the past two years the government had worked to introduce a culture to incentivise hard work.

It focused on the highest earners, those who opted not to continue to receive benefits and families with small children.

But there were other people and families it had to think about.

The lower middle class and pensioners, Dr Muscat said, would be on the forefront to enjoy new measures the government had to take in future.

“This will help us create better social mobility and a new middle class. We also have to help those really in need through better and more effective social measures…

“We have to help those who really cannot work because of their condition…

“What we save from benefit fraud we will reinvest to help those who are really in need” he said adding this was  social justice within itself because it helped cut abuse.

Earlier, Dr Muscat spoke about Malta’s national and international success saying the country was being successful where others were failing. It had managed to turn the wheel towards economic growth, the like of which had rarely been seen before.

This was because of the government’s positive “can do, let’s do” approach, Dr Muscat said.

This positive attitude had started the Labour movement on the right way, tackling problems in a different way and finding solutions.

The movement, the Prime Minister, said, was not afraid of the new, of being the first as this appealed to the sense of ambition of this generation. Creativity, he said, was instinctive on an island which lacked natural resources and the Maltese had always shown resilience and worked hard to succeed.

The government, he said, had to keep investing in education, which stimulated creativity and placed the country in a better position to continue to be successful.

The private sector had to be allowed to operate wherever it could and the government had to create the right conditions to enable it to work where it could not.

The government’s role, Dr Muscat said, should be limited to strategic areas where market conditions made it difficult for the involvement of the private sector.

The next challenge, he said, was to open the doors of other strategic sectors.

“This is the way forward, not just to save these sectors but to create new opportunities for Malta.”

Malta, Dr Muscat said, was not just European, it was also part of the world. It had to rediscover its Mediterranean dimension and look at the world confidently and without an inferiority complex.

“I am an incurable optimist… I am an optimist because I am Maltese,” Dr Muscat said.

He said that while Malta was optimistic, many in Europe were afraid. There were countries that still lived in the delusion that the future could be sustainable without reforms.

“There is no alternative to reform,” he said as he called on the progressive family in Europe to promote the route of common sense, which has led to many positive results and which could be adapted to present day realities.

He said that while laxity had led a number of countries to the situation they were currently in, rigidity would not give long term positive results because the people would get tired.

“As progressives we should be disciplined… but for discipline to make sense it has to be flexible.”

Dr Muscat also spoke on the need to continue to work for peace in the Mediterranean and said that what was happening was a reminder of the wisdom behind Malta’s neutrality policy.

The neutrality policy did not mean that the country was neutral to terrorism - it was against all terrorism - but that it would continue to adhere to the principles which had led the country to where it was today.

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