The Independence of Malta from the British Government had triggered a socio-economic development in a small-island state with very limited natural resources. The hard-working ethic of its citizens, as well as the investment-pro strategy of the various public administrations led to a thriving economy, which although faced periods of recession, has culminated in Malta being one of the top economic performers in the EU.
The socio-economic programmes driven by the public and private sector in the last years that resulted in our country being one of the leading economies in Europe will surely need to be revisited in the wake of the Covid reality that dragged the country to an economic slowdown.
The economic recovery of our country will largely depend on the pace of recovery of other countries particularly those which our tourism sector is dependent upon.
However, our reconstruction will also be highly dependent on the concerted effort of public administration, NGOs and the private sector who through a collective effort can ensure a comprehensive social cohesion framework allowing all strata of society to benefit from the economic recovery of the country. Covid did not have the same impact on all families. Those dependent on daily paid income and those working in sectors that had to abruptly seize their operations and sack their employees, or reduce their pay, witnessed a drastic drop in their income.
Home-schooling and teleworking introduced new challenges as working parents struggle to keep their agility in completing their corporate tasks while looking after their children and completing the increased housework workload and in some cases looking after the elderly.
A common theme in the recent socio-economic discourse is that life after Covid-19 will not be the same.
Indeed, the economic recovery from the pandemic will be accelerated through the adoption of smarter policies and programmes that identify the transformative power of shared value through the merge of profit and non-profit deliverables.
While government’s role is to encourage and award efforts towards addressing societal and environmental ailments, the business community needs to work towards long-term goals of securing a profit that includes a social purpose. Adopting a shared value mentality in the corporate world demands a shift from a short-term objective to a longer-term vision through which various elements of the value chain are moulded to reduce and potentially eliminate any negative environmental or social impact.
The rebound of the European Economy after this pandemic depends on the agility of creating a social innovation culture where the business community, civic society and public administrations work together to shape public policy, implement programmes and develop products and services that address the social needs while providing a profit.
Prior to the pandemic, Malta’s journey to the future was already a challenging transition as the advent of artificial intelligence coupled with the ambitious targets to zero-carbon emissions have a direct impact on our socio-economic fabric.
Malta 2030 will continue to ensure the happiness of its citizens and residents who increasingly hail from different cultures. The nearly full-employment scenario that led to the attraction of foreign workers in the various economic activities from gaming to low-skilled jobs, has fuelled the economy through an increase in the demand for real-estate, entertainment and catering services. Yet, the next decade presents the challenge of ensuring the same quality of life and levels of employment, while addressing societal challenges of the ageing population and poverty. Although slightly less than the EU average, having one-fifth of the population at risk of poverty is a particularly worrying phenomenon especially when the country has had an economic boom which clearly has not translated in a better quality of life to the vulnerable strata of society. The reality of a post-Covid society will accentuate the need to address these challenges particularly if the economic slowdown persists to long weeks resulting in a substantial increase in unemployment.
Malta will continue to work towards a resilient and productive economy, provide top-notch education to our children and invest in the best health and social care systems. Yet, Malta’s workforce needs to embrace lifelong learning as increasingly machines will take over rote tasks and workers need to apply more cognitive, creative and problem-solving skills. The impact of AI on the workforce is expected to result in an unprecedented need for re-skilling in the labour market, yet if Malta can provide the new skills it will preserve its economic growth and increase in prosperity. Although the last decade has witnessed an increase of female participation in the labour market Malta stills needs to address the gender pay gap while continuing its efforts to boost female presence in C-level positions and politics at local and national level.
The aspiration is for Malta 2030 to be a safe and economically stable country where the young generation can grow, thrive and work on their dreams and aspirations. Malta will continue to implement and respect civil and equal rights, increase normality for people with disabilities, ensure equal maternal and paternal rights, equal wages based on role and not gender identity.
The months following the recovery from Covid will be crucial for Malta.
The decisions taken in the next few months will mould Malta’s journey towards the next decade.