When you think about it, there’s a lot to be positive about as 2020 comes to an end.
Against the odds, the world is entering 2021 with a vaccine that should finally help us move on from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And although it’s important to remember that Malta tragically lost 219 lives in this ordeal so far, we have been able to pull through this difficult time with less torment than many other countries.
This was a year where some crucial investments made by the country years ago paid off.
EU membership gave us a seat at the vaccine negotiation table.
Our balanced books enabled the government to step in and help businesses and workers.
Our digitally-equipped population was able to adapt quickly to remote working and online shopping, while businesses fast-tracked innovation.
Thanks to all those who helped remove Joseph Muscat, Malta’s pandemic strategy was not handled by a Prime Minister who was mired in corruption allegations. And thanks to those who fought for the removal of PN leader Adrian Delia, the looming threat of a one-party state is now more distant.
But as we enter 2021, it’s important to also be aware of some threats that do remain.
Chief among them is the scrutiny our country is facing due to the Moneyval test, and the effect it will have on our economy.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has made significant progress by changing the Police Commissioner, the Attorney General, and considerable amounts of our legislation. Whether these moves were cosmetic or the start of a new page for Labour will be seen as Abela navigates the 12 months ahead.
His actions so far have not stopped Malta’s conservative banks from becoming even more risk averse. Honest notaries, architects, lawyers, business owners and others are being dropped like flies when they most need support.
After years of complacency and inaction by the authorities, hefty fines are being slapped left, right and centre.
And the threat of Malta being greylisted remains.
The country is being punished for the errors of our politicians. Yet, ironically, our political parties are allowed to keep breaching the law by not publishing the accounts of their media companies – despite the fact that these companies are so vulnerable to being used as vehicles for money laundering, corruption, illegal party financing, trading in influence and anti-democratic behaviour.
Then again, this should not come as a surprise given that the parties have spent 30 years breaching the Constitution by spouting 24/7 propaganda from their TV stations.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that unity is not just a false buzzword which leaders overuse, often to achieve the opposite.
For a country the size of Malta, uniting together behind a cause can be hugely important and game-changing.
We needed unity during the COVID pandemic. Think of how problematic things would have been if our leaders issued dramatically different messages. Think of how difficult it would have been to achieve major behavioural changes across society.
Of course, there were a few missteps, but by and large we were able – when faced with the pressure of a pandemic – to unite and protect our vulnerable.
If only we were able to do the same when it comes to the fight for justice and rule of law, the battle to reform our judiciary and prison system and the urgent need to fix our environment and our economy.
A lot has been said about the things that COVID has taught us.
But one lesson I’d like to highlight is the fact that we still have lots to fix about the country and we’re too small to waste so much time dividing ourselves instead of working together.
Let’s remember that it is in everybody’s interest for the public inquiry into the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination to be concluded. We should not tolerate unnecessary delays, but we should also give the judges the chance they need to really provide closure.
Next year is crucial for the public inquiry. It is going to be painful for the country as judges dig into the phone of business mogul and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech – but it is a process we must undertake. Malta needs to examine its conscience if it is ever going to get closure for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. It is far better for us to have everything in the open, than for this to become another Karin Grech, where people still point fingers at each other blinding after 43 years.
Similarly, we need to take a long, hard look at our judiciary which has been largely untouched by our reforms so far and is in desperate need of change. We need to reduce court delays and hit other basic benchmarks but most importantly we need the judiciary to spend more time standing up for what is right even if it is politically dangerous for them to do so.
The Constitutional case that Lovin Malta will file next year will be an interesting case study. Our courts are going to be given the chance to trigger real reform of our broadcasting sector that is more respectful to the Constitution they have a duty to protect.
Meanwhile, the Opposition should be leading by example and making radical changes that could fix some of Malta’s plights, including by divesting of their bankrupt and illegal TV station that only makes them more vulnerable to corruption.
Sadly, Malta’s political system has for too long degenerated into a duopoly hijacked by big business and organised crime.
And we can see the results every day in our natural and urban environments which keep being degraded by the hour to protect the interests of a few.
With Malta’s tourism and financial services sectors entering 2021 so vulnerably, we really need to start uniting to fix things before they get worse.
Malta has the potential to be an enormous success and a leading voice in the world. We can be a global economic disruptor if people of good faith worked together towards long-terms goals rather than quick fixes.
Instead of threats, we must see opportunities. Instead of being tribalistic, we need to unite behind a common goal. And 2021 is a perfect year to start that process.
Next year also happens to be Lovin Malta’s fifth anniversary. We have some big plans ahead, but for now I’d just like to say thank you to everybody who supported us since the beginning, and especially this year.
Five years ago, the prospect of a startup entering the struggling news industry seemed crazy. Today, we are a strong, independent and profitable organisation and we’re so proud of what we have achieved.
For this we are grateful to our readers – the fans and the critics – who push us to keep getting better every day.
There is much more left to disrupt and improve in this country.
And moving into next year, you can be sure that we will continue to be there on the frontline of common sense, impartiality and demanding better.
Our fighting spirit is stronger than ever, and we know that yours is too.
Happy New Year!