The economy had no pause button and sustainability did not mean a slowing down of progress, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Monday morning.

Social partners, academics, university rector, members of Cabinet, employers, and lobby groups attended the event at The Palace Hotel organised by the Labour Party.

Dr Muscat said the government had implemented more changes in the opening weeks of this term than it had done in the opening of the 2013 administration.

Many, he said, had spoken about the need for sustainability in Malta’s economic growth.

“The idea of pressing the pause button is not realistic. There is no pause in economics. Play, rewind, and fast forward are the only options we have,” he said.

The Labour leader said the government had pressed the fast forward button where needed.

If the administration had taken its time on the energy reform, for instance, then the country would still be recovering today.

Play, rewind, and fast forward are the only options we have

“We were unorthodox, we made guarantees for instance that were criticised, but had we not done this, we would not have made this progress,” he said.

Sustainability, Dr Muscat said, was not about doing less.

If the country registered a lower economic growth, he was sure no one would be saying it was sustainable, but there would be worries of a slowdown.

Social mobility, social equality, and national unity were the guiding principles of “this movement” and they were what the administration follows.

Reacting to Kamra tal-Periti president Alex Torpiano's calls for sustainability in development on the other hand - he claimed that the Planning Authority did not seem to discuss the future, but was rather limited to issuing building permits - Dr Muscat said the government was streamlining several bodies involved in construction.

He did not believe in change for change’s sake, but the administration knew that the instruments of progress were reaching their sell-by date.

“Again, I'm not talking about pressing pause. We are running and need to plan at the same time,” he said.

Dr Muscat said that if anyone felt disenfranchised in national dialogue, then it needed to be addressed. He called on the social partners to find ways for the disenfranchised to be involved in national discussions.

University lecturer Godfrey Baldacchino gave his vision of a probable Malta of tomorrow.

It was the time of “more”: more traffic, more work, more foreign residents. And the indications are that this is how things would keep growing.

Prof. Baldacchino said the country needed to meet the challenges facing it, with a population that was relatively large when compared to the country’s territory.

Jobs Plus chairman Clyde Caruana said foreign workers were both a challenge and an opportunity, adding that planning was the solution.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo weighed in on the current political scene, saying: “If you torpedo the ship just to become captain, you're going to have a hard time trying to keep it afloat”.

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