Times of Malta, 4th January 2010


As people get back into work mode after the holidays, the country gears itself up for the challenging year ahead. Claudia Calleja spoke to representatives of constituted bodies and voluntary organisations to gauge their expectations and concerns for the year ahead.

Vince Farrugia, Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises – GRTU

I hope the government will go ahead and implement the promised budgetary measures for SMEs and take additional measures to help the construction industry. These will help such sectors by putting them in a better position to face the next six months of recession. That way, they will be up on their feet when the economy starts to improve, as forecast, in the second half of the year. I fear that, despite our efforts to overcome the recession, unpredictable factors may hold things back on a global level. Locally, I’d like to see political bickering stop and all sides pull at the same rope to ensure the country gets over this economic crisis.

Lino Bugeja, Ramblers’ Association

Our main concern is that too many people are digging up loopholes to be able to go ahead with projects to the detriment of the environment. We would like to see more sensitivity and commitment towards the environment. This year, the association will be going to schools to teach children about the beauty of our natural environment with the help of the Malta Sports’ Council. We are also meeting with the Land Department to ensure the countryside is not obstructed. We would also like to see the creation of a map of Malta’s pathways where tourists can about go unhindered.

Petra Bianchi, Din l-Art Ħelwa

The government must live up to its promises on the protection of the countryside and the creation and management of nature parks. Our remaining natural heritage is already very limited and it continues to be destroyed relentlessly. Two of our greatest historic monuments are crumbling to pieces: Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo. These two sites must urgently be restored and managed. The Mepa reform must shift up a few gears from words to reality, with good governance at board level, less exploitation of planning loopholes and more focus on quality in architecture.

Myriam Kirmond, Animal Rights’ Group

My main concern is that the karrozzini horses will have adequate shelter and drinking water by the time summer arrives. I would also like to see more enforcement of animal protection laws and the widening of the definition of animal cruelty to include things like abandoning a dog on the roof in the sun. Sanctuaries need more support. The neutering programme is great but it is not enough to keep animals off the streets, so sanctuaries are always full. The government’s 24-hour animal ambulance service is a brilliant idea that was much-needed.

John Bencini, Malta Union of Teachers

This year, the education sector will be facing a lot of challenges as there are several reforms that include the end of the Junior Lyceum examination system. The union and teachers embrace these changes and challenges but need support and the necessary finances. Teachers are worried about the increasing work load and need assistance. The union would also want to see the number of students moving on to tertiary education increasing, according to Lisbon targets, and an investment in human resources within the sector.

Tony Zarb, General Workers’ Union

I would love to be optimistic in the beginning of the new year but that would not be realistic. I am very worried about the increase in the cost of living and the higher water and electricity tariffs that are a burden on families. They are also a burden on employers and, ultimately, jobs may be threatened. Due to the prevailing situation more people are being pushed below the poverty line. This year, the union will work hard to protect these families and uphold the rights of workers who are left struggling to make ends meet.

Gejtu Tanti, Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin

We expect to see the budgetary measures come into force so that the economy will grow and jobs will be safeguarded. This year, the union will be insisting on fiscal morality so that abuse of taxes and social benefits is curbed. We would like to see priority being given to consumer protection (through the setting up of the Fair Trade Authority announced in the Budget). We would like to see the cost of living increase addressed and our major concern remains job creation. This year, we will also work towards the new collective agreement of the civil service that is up for renewal.

Joe Farrugia, Malta Employers’ Association

Our main expectation is that the country will emerge from the recession by the end of this year. This can be achieved mainly through the recovery of the tourism industry, further investment and an improvement in the manufacturing industry. However, the concern remains due to the increased cost of living, as a result of which the country’s economy may experience inflationary pressure that will, ultimately, prolong the recession. This can translate into a higher cost of living next year and a drop in competitiveness.