Watch: Muscat, Delia look to 2019 with hope
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Watch: Muscat, Delia look to 2019 with hope

Party leaders share their New Year's messages

Dr Muscat's speech.

Malta’s two political leaders ended the year with messages of hope for 2019.

In a statement, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said 2019 would be a better year for families, businesses and the country than the one that had just ended.

Some might think that, with the economy as strong as it is, and high employment, things can’t get any better than this, Dr Muscat said.

“I’ve heard the same thing said every year during the period I’ve had the honour of serving you as Prime Minister. Every time, there are those who might become discouraged and others who might try to discourage us, telling us that things cannot go from strength to strength, and keep getting better.”

'A society that cares'

Meanwhile, in a statement of his own, Opposition leader Adrian Delia said yet another year had come and gone, and while some had had a good one, for others it was not so good.

Making use of his political slogan “a society that cares”, Dr Delia said he cared about those who had done well and wanted to help them do even better. He also cared about those who had come on hard times. The Nationalist Party, he said, wanted to see a better Malta for the coming year.

The Nationalist Party, he said, cared about education, and wanted to see youths achieve more. The PN did not want to see more youths drop out of education to try and meet with the demands of a rising cost of living.

The PN wanted to see a clean Malta – not just one that had cleaner energy and recycling, but one that cleaned up the bad image of a corrupt island.

Dr Delia said he cared about workers and those who worked hard to provide for themselves and their families. The PN, he said, wanted to see better working conditions, and the party wanted to see better opportunities for those looking for work today.

The PN cared about small and medium sized enterprises, insisting they were major contributors to the economy, which should not be overlooked.

The PN also cared about the elderly and pensioners, who had spent their lives working and contributing and deserved a peaceful retirement.

Above all, the PN cared about Malta – a “Malta of the 21st century”, and a “Malta of tomorrow”.

This was why the PN was working to deliver its vision for the island, Dr Delia said.

'Challenges'

In his speech, Dr Muscat said there remained challenges that must be overcome.

“We have generated many jobs, and reduced poverty, but there are those who still need help such as families trying to keep up with the cost of living, pay their rent, or find a better-paying job. We’ve accomplished much, but there is a lot more we can achieve together.”

The strong position Malta found itself was in today, he said, presented an opportunity that had not come around “for an entire generation”.

Instead of worrying about the next day, we are in a position to look ahead where we would like the country to go over the next decade and beyond, he said.

This, he added, was why the government was focusing on new technologies, from blockchain to artificial intelligence.

The best way to invest in the future, he said, was to invest in infrastructure.

This did not mean “a quick fix or cutting corners, but doing what needs to be done, even if the benefits of this investment will be reaped by your children, more than yourselves.”

Dr Muscat thanked President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, whose term ends in 2019, for having done an “exceptional job” in the role.

“She built on the excellent work of the Presidents who came before her and united the country, and was the critical voice of conscience that the country needed.”

“For all this, I would like to thank her, and I am certain that the country will keep benefiting from her experience.”

President Coleiro Preca, he said, was a “vibrant symbol of equality between the genders, and a role model for thousands of women and girls who wish to join public service.

Gender quotas

The Prime Minister also used the speech to indicate that the government would be focusing on introducing gender quotas in parliament in 2019.

He said that the 2017 general election had given the government a clear mandate to introduce positive action in favour of greater representation of women in the country’s highest institution.

At the start of the New Year, the government would initiate a consultation process for this to happen.

“I am well aware that this is a controversial subject, and that opinions vary. However, we have been waiting for too long without taking action. The time is now. We need to discuss this with everyone, including the Opposition. The questions we should ask ourselves is not whether the people’s mandate should be carried out, but how it should be carried out.”

The same was true of the upcoming Constitutional Convention, he said.

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