Joseph Muscat is the Prime Minister of Malta. This article was originally published on Lovin Tomorrow, Lovin Malta’s one-off newspaper
In a country where journalism and freedom of expression are allegedly suppressed, here we are faced with yet another news publication. Our media landscape is thriving, such is this government a threat to democracy and journalism.
Writing for a printed newspaper feels a bit retro nowadays. In fact, it’s felt that way for a while. Twenty yearsago, I founded the first online news-paper, www.maltastar.com. I believed internet will push traditional newspapers out of business. Yet despite dwindling readership figures, print is still alive.
There are other things that we should never take for granted. Here are my top seven.
1. Malta is a country firmly grounded in the European Union, with European values
Hindsight is a perfect science.
The European Union was truly a positive achievement for Malta in most areas. This country had to struggle to align itself to most European laws, but in general we have adapted well. Malta is a committed European coun-try, with European values. From millions of EU funds for improving our country, to the participation of this tiny island on a table which takes decisions which affect 500 million citizens, the EU is a good thing.
2. In Malta, all love is equal
It was illegal for a gay or lesbian couple to get married until a few years ago, because love, we were told, is between a man and a woman.
In the space of few years, we went from granting all couples the possibility of civil unions, to full marriage rights, and topping the ILGA-Europe Rainbow LGBTIQ index for three consecutive years.
3. Malta is the most economically stable country in the world
Our economy has outperformed giants and we are currently the country with the highest economic growth in Europe.
The exceptional period of growth has helped the country fix its finances, raise the minimum wage for the first time in years, raise pensions year after year, ensure free quality healthcare and education for all, invest heavily in social housing and directly assist thousands who have been left behind for years. No wonder the World Economic Forum has deemed Malta to be the most economically stable country in the world.
4. Maltese are amongst the happiest citizens in the world
Beyond GDP metrics, the Maltese are the most optimistic citizens in the European Union.
According to the Euro-barometer, 95% of Maltese people are happy with their quality of life. Malta also ranked 22nd happiest nation from over 150 countries surveyed last year by the World Happiness Report. Still, more work needs to be done to improve the quality of life for all Maltese citizens, including taking better care of our environment and air quality with more open spaces.
5. Exorbitant bills are a thing of the past
Many remember the time when people were literally scared of opening their letterbox because of the exorbitant electricity bills.
Nowadays, it’s more common to find a cheque with a tax refund or even the money which the previous government had taken by charging extra registration tax on your new car.
6. Childcare is free
Malta is the only country in the world to give free childcare for all working parents, allowing more people to move forward in their careers.
This also inevitably led to a very positive surge in the number of women entering the labour market.
7. Free healthcare and medicine in stock, and a right to IVF
For years the sustainability of free healthcare was questioned.
But precisely because our finances are inc heck, Malta can afford to run its health service free of charge for every-one. We improved hospital services, decreased waiting lists and increased the stock of free medicine. Moreover, couples are being offered IVF services free of charge at our general hospital.
BONUS: Voting on 25th May
Do not take for granted your right to vote in next May’s European Parliament elections.
There is a choice to make, between a government that stands for progress, with a plan to continue modernising the country, and a regressive Opposition that wants to stall the progress achieved.
And to the 16-year olds who are being given the right to vote for the the first time ever I say: That vote is your right, do not take it for granted. Go in with an open mind and choose the candidates who will best represent your interests at a European level.