United by a common resolve

United by a common resolve

The PN is gearing up for next year’s elections, at a time when – from the outside – it looks irreparably divided. In fact there seem to be two PNs, not one: the faction led by Adrian Delia, and an uprising spearheaded by Simon Busuttil, David Casa, Jason Azzopardi and others. You are contesting this election as a PN candidate. So… whose side are you on?

First of all, I don’t believe there are ‘two PNs’, as you put it. There are issues, there are battles that we have fought in the past; battles that we will be fighting in the future; and there are candidates who represent these different battles. The skill of the candidate has to be to represent the Maltese electorate in its entirety. You cannot disregard these realities. So from the outside, when you see the picture you’re describing, you rely on little elements, little externalisations of how people express disagreements: in a Facebook post, in an interview, in a remark here and there. The reality is that the Nationalist Party is united behind a common resolve. I wouldn’t distinguish between one camp and another…

What is this ‘common resolve’?

To be a credible, pro-positive and committed Opposition party: ready to propose alternative solutions to society’s issues today. The reality is that we are an oversized population, living in an undersized infrastructure. We have designed this country according to 1990s figures, when our population was 70,000 less than it is now. My task within the Nationalist Party – and I am committed to it 24 hours a day – is to try and make the party once again a proponent of solutions for this country. First of all, we have been an EU member state for the past 14 years. The EU has brought untold benefits and opportunities for many sectors. It gave an upgrade to this country on many levels: from our heritage, to our schools, to healthcare, etc. But there are sectors that have been neglected. Farming is one such area…

I intend to ask you about agriculture later. But on the subject of the EU: hasn’t membership also had other effects? What if I put it to you that the EU’s involvement in local politics has actually exacerbated the local partisan divide, and encouraged more tribalism than before?

That is partly true. But the reality is that the EU cannot save us from ourselves. If we have problems which we need to solve, the EU will not solve them for us. If we see politics as an exercise in tribal warfare, the EU will not change that. In some regards, the EU may have actually exacerbated this issue. But it is up to us to do something about it. I will be proposing a different kind of politics, however: a politics whereby, if the Labour government does something praiseworthy, something which is in a direction we need to go… I will be one of the first to mention it. Why not? Just last week, I congratulated Health Minister Fearne on Facebook for the initiative of promoting robotics in Mater Dei. This is the way to go.

I’ll do the same for others. Wherever there are areas where we need to support or encourage government, my narrative will not be: ‘Oh look, government is a crook’. On EFSI [European Fund for Strategic Investment], for example, we saw that Malta is at the bottom of the graph – per capita, not in absolute numbers – in the use of the Juncker Plan. As I said, this is an undersize infrastructure, for an oversized population: we badly need long-term, large-scale investment… in transport, education, healthcare, and all our public services. This is what we need to discuss. We need a vision of politics which solves the problems of this country, and takes a long-term view: planning ahead for 10, 20 years down the line…

But that’s the one thing we don’t seem to be getting from the PN right now. And it also explains why, as you said, that party suffered so heavily in the last two elections. People did not see this vision back then. Are you suggesting that they are seeing it more now?

Yes. Like I said, trust is building. With this battle-cry, ‘Socjeta Li Jimpurtah’ [A Society that Cares], we are bringing out realities which the people hold dear to their heart. Like the job market, for instance. There is now a huge risk of precarious work: not only in the private sector, but even in the public sector. Last week’s strike at Gozo Channel, for instance. Why did it happen? Because government gave out a huge number of precarious, short-term contracts, offering the illusion of ‘joining the public service’… when in reality, those people were put on the payroll of a private contractor, working side by side with people who do have a public service contract. This is not ‘equal pay for equal work’… and there is no dignity at work, either; because your colleagues will enjoy better conditions of work, and more security of tenure. As for the private sector: last week I had a meeting with UHM. They told me that their collective bargaining power is fizzling out… Why?

Because you get people coming from abroad… OK, they are entitled to compete with us for the same jobs. If they are EU nationals there is no doubt about it. If they are third country nationals, they may be needed in the short term. But if we are talking about single people, with no family, coming here for two or three years, and ready to work for 5 euros an hour… that is going to have an immediate impact on the collective bargaining power of the Maltese worker. There’s no denying this. And this is what we mean by a ‘A Society that Cares’: we are interested in the life of people… not in economic figures that register a 3%, 4%, 5% growth, which is effectively the result of an expanding job market. The job market is, in fact, expanding, in terms of absolute numbers. But the salaries, the working conditions, are not expanding. They are actually diminishing…


Raphael Vassallo

Read the full article on Malta Today 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *