13 Major Plans Prime Minister Unveiled Today
Joseph Muscat has revealed some interesting plans for Malta's future
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat marked the first 100 days since the general election by unveiling a series of plans to address some of Malta’s major challenges in the months and years ahead.
“The secret of this government’s success is we don’t let our successes get to our heads,” he told his supporters at a political event in Bormla. “Our past successes are all in the past and over and done with. Are we going to keep harping on about how we reduced electricity bills when it’s now become a normal fact of life? No, our secret is constantly keeping our hands on the public pulse and addressing their concerns.”
Here is a breakdown of the most crucial points which emerged in the Prime Minister’s speech.
1. Air Malta: ‘The Airline Of The Mediterranean’
Air Malta will finally embrace Ryanair and enter into a flight codesharing agreement which will see the low-cost airline bring tourists to Malta and Air Malta fly them off to African countries and Mediterranean islands which aren’t accessible by Ryanair.
“Air Malta will buy more aeroplanes, grow and fluorish, and become the airline of the Mediterranean,” Muscat said in an obvious reference to Air Malta’s slogan. “Crucial talks will begin soon, and the time has come for everyone to get around the table because we are truly at a make or break moment for Air Malta.”
2. Some Rent Regulation In The Pipeline
Muscat has for long been toying with the possibility of introducing some form of rent regulation for the sake of the growing number of tenants who cannot keep up with the ever-inflating property market.
Yet he struck a more decisive tone today, warning some elderly people who have enjoying rents as low as €300 a year due to the flat rental rate imposed by the past Mintoff administration have now seen their expenses balloon thanks to a judgement from the European Court of Human rights.
“I recently met an elderly woman who used to rent their home for €300 a year but had it increased to €500 monthly overnight,” he said. “Talks will soon start to regulate how much landlords can increase the rent in specific timeframes.”
3. Clampdown On Tables And Chairs On Sidewalks
Warning of “laxity” that has taken hold in Malta on certain issues, Muscat zoomed in on those restaurants and shops who frustrate pedestrians by hogging the streets with more tables and chairs than they are entitled to.
“It cannot be that a restaurant with a permit for four tables ends up filling the entire street up with tables,” he said. “I am warning these people from now that enforcement on encroachment will begin - we want businesses to do well, but we cannot poison the water hole we drink out of.”
4. Harsher Enforcement On Over-speeding
Muscat only touched on the problem of over-speeding in his speech, but said the current situation is “unacceptable” and revealed he has personally instructed the police to be far stricter in this regard.
5. African Migrants Must Be Integrated
The government is in the process of relocating some 160 African migrants from the Marsa Open Centre to its counterpart in Hal Far. Yet Muscat said the move is not intended to shove a problem as far away from sight as possible, and insisted action must be taken now to prevent the ghettoisation of towns.
“Many people dislike the word ‘integration’ but the more we isolate people, the more likely it is we’ll create ghettoes,” he said. “It’s a long-term challenge but I don’t want Malta to have ghettoes in 25 years, as other European countries do, because I didn't speak about and pre-empt the problem today.”
6. More Police On The Beat In Birzebbugia
As a counter to the open centre’s relocation, Muscat pledged to increase the number of police stations and offices in Birzebbugia so as to clamp down on any “anti-social” behaviour by the town’s new residents.
“I don’t care if these people are Maltese are foreigners, black or white, but what Marsa residents have told me about their town is unacceptable,” he said. “It cannot be people are scared to leave their homes or night or pavements end up as public toilets.”
7. ‘Malta’s Drug Laws Have Failed’
In what was his most damning indictment of Malta’s drug legislation so far, Muscat admitted point-blank the country’s drug laws have “failed”.
“The drugs problem has aggravated over the years and if we keep using the same recipe to tackle it, then we’ll keep getting the same results,” he said.
He also dismissed concerns his plan to legalise marijuana will lead to a breakdown in law and order, arguing looser regulation will not mean everyone will be allowed to smoke weed wherever and whenever they please.
8. Malta As An Electric Car Nation
Following in the footsteps of the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, Muscat pledged to introduce a cut-off date for the purchase of all petrol and diesel vehicles.
“Within the next generation we must shift completely to cars which run on electricity and alternative fuels,” he said. “Heavy fuel oil used to be the major cause of pollution in Malta but now we’ve closed the power stations, vehicles have become the country's major polluters,” he said. “Just as we removed the first cause of pollution, we’ll pave the way to remove the second one.”
9. Money-back Scheme For Plastic Bottles
Muscat warned littering has reached unprecedented and unacceptable levels and pledged to introduce a “money-back” scheme whereby an extra deposit is added to the price of plastic and glass bottles, which people will get back once they return the bottle to a shop.
“The only way to tackle this problem is remind people that plastic means money,” he said. “No one will willingly throw money away.”
10. New Waste Management Scheme
Muscat warned the engineered landfills at Maghtab and Ghallis are running out of space and will be packed to the brim within the next two years.
“The time has come to make some crucial decisions because, at this rate, we’ll soon need to earmark a plot of 50 acres of land to be used as a landfill for the next ten years, and so on until we become a country of rubbish dumps,” he said. “We are considering a number of solutions but none of them will be easy.”
11. Votes For 16 Year Olds
The Prime Minister shot down criticism at his plan to lower the national voting age from 18 to 16 for general and European Parliament elections, reminding supporters of the doom and gloom aired by naysayers in the past.
“We are hearing the same arguments we used to hear when this movement [Labour] gave votes to women and when it reduced the voting age from 21 to 18, he said. “We will need to discuss whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to run as candidates, but it should be obvious that if you have the right to marry then you should also have the right to vote.”
12. ‘Blockchain Island’ Pledge Re-Affirmed
Muscat only brushed on this topic, but reiterated his pledge for Malta to embrace cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins and the Blockchain technology underpinning it.
“Our plan is to be one of the first countries in the world to fully embrace this technology,” he said.
13. Olive Branch To Simon Busuttil
More of political strategy than a national plan, Muscat said he has instructed Labour’s MEPs to vote in favour of outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil’s proposed appointment to a European Parliament committee overseeing the appointment of judges to the EU Court Of Justice.
“If there was anyone who was hurt at what Busuttil was saying in recent months, it was myself and my family,” he said. “Yet this will be a clear sign, if ever there needed to be one, about how this movement doesn't lead through bitterness and vindictiveness. Busuttil is Maltese like the rest of us, and we will be standing with him next week. This will be Dom Mintoff’s ‘Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox’ call being put into practice.”