A set of 114 proposals making up Malta’s post-COVID strategy will be implemented within a three-year timeframe, Research and Innovation Minister Owen Bonnici announced today.
The minister was speaking during the launch of the strategy, which is intended to plot the way forward for Malta’s recovery from the pandemic and to ensure its resilience in the face of other similar challenges that could arise in the future.
The strategy outlines 12 main themes, each linked to UN sustainable development goals, as well as three “critical and interconnected areas” of focus: society, the economy and the environment.
Bonnici emphasised how the pandemic had brought with it unprecedented challenges, adding however that it had also resulted in a sense of unity and cooperation within society.
He said he was proud of the fact that the Maltese government had acted “decisively” to minimize the impact of the pandemic especially when it came to protecting people’s livelihoods.
“Because we had a government that acted, today we are speaking about strategies for the future while others are still talking about how they’re going to vaccinate their population or save their economy,” Bonnici said.
The minister noted that the strategy had been formulated in collaboration with the government’s various ministries, adding that the implementation of the strategy would be the responsibility of each individual ministry.
Bonnici said that the Cabinet had approved the setting up of a coordination committee that will oversee the strategy’s implementation.
Speaking ahead of the minister, Professor Simone Borg, the chair of the strategy’s steering committee, gave an overview of the strategy’s aims.
Starting with the first pillar, which related to people’s wellbeing, Borg said that people’s health was a primary priority for the committee. She said that over the course of the pandemic, everyone in the country had benefited from the country’s robust healthcare system.
Malta, she said, needed to ensure that the system was strengthened further, with a particular focus on mental health, which has been a major concern over the past 15 months. The strategy also dealt with people’s quality of life, including their surroundings, the food they ate and other similar factors.
Among the proposals related to people’s wellbeing is the stepping up of initiatives intended to combat obesity as well as mental health problems resulting from the pandemic.
The setting up of a multidisciplinary “follow-up clinic” and wellbeing service for people who have had COVID-19, as well as a post-pandemic “population committee” that will assess how different groups in society are recovering from the pandemic has also been proposed.
This includes initiatives to gauge the impact on civil society, school children as well as culture, art and sports organisations.
From the social perspective, Borg said the strategy wanted to address both challenges that had arisen because of the pandemic, as well as to work towards greater social cohesion.
In this regard, she said the government would also be looking to implement training programmes for workers in order to ensure they had the necessary skills to be able to progress in life as well as integration programmes for foreign nationals living in Malta.
Another important factor underpinning the strategy is the built environment and the availability of green spaces – the need for which was highlighted by the pandemic, Borg said.
Here, the government is pledging to revise the present local plans in a manner that provides a “nationwide, multi-stakeholder blueprint to guide development”. It is also promising to “enhance” enforcement to curb illegal development and to safeguard outside development zones (ODZ).
Planning and building laws, guidelines and policies will also be revised in order for them to “promote aesthetic and green principles and sustainable practices”. The newly-established Building and Construction Agency will be granted the power to monitor compliance with “relevant laws”.
The country’s economic recovery is another of the strategy’s main pillars. Borg said it was important for the government to identify ways of helping businesses to survive and adapt to new realities.
She said the pandemic had accelerated certain changes and the strategy would be looking at ways in which businesses, especially small to medium enterprises, can be helped become more resilient going forward.
This includes the regeneration of industrial zones, incentives to encourage businesses to reinvest profits, as well as providing assistance to help organisations “restart, reengineer and transform their operations.
As part of the strategy, Malta would also be placing a greater focus on research and innovation given the importance of these sectors in giving the country a competitive edge when it comes to adopting new technologies.
Malta will also be looking to oversee a process of decarbonisation of its economy by 2050 and a shift to greener and digital technologies. Initiatives to help business cope with the additional burdens brought about by these changes will be launched accordingly.
Above all, Borg said the strategy would look to ensure that Malta shifts to evidence and knowledge-based policy-making while allowing it to plan ahead for the future.
You can read Malta’s post-COVID strategy in full here.
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