Last week the country marked the third anniversary of Labour’s second consecutive election victory. It fell on to myself, as minister responsible for the implementation of the government’s electoral programme, to take stock of what has been achieved so far.
I had the pleasure to remind the electorate of the hundreds of pledges that we as a Labour Party had promised to fulfil if voted into office after the 2017 general election. I explained how 76 per cent of the electoral manifesto has been now completed, only 36 months since the start of the new term.
You as a reader might be thinking to yourself: Fine ... but does this calculation matter at all? Isn’t it a given that any government details how people’s taxes are being spent? But what about the tumultuous months we all passed through last year?
Let me use this article to address these questions directly and delve into Labour’s full record on accountability, transparency, democracy and the rule of law.
Providing a breakdown of the process by which a sitting executive is implementing its work programme should indeed be no big deal. However, younger readers might not know that such a process was only brought to practice as a pledge of the new Labour government in 2013.
Before that the term ‘electoral manifesto’ echoed of empty promises that the Nationalist government used to recycle every five years and was synonymous with mirage projects like the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village, to mention an example.
In 2012/2013 Labour changed this bad habit and started off a serious consultation campaign, consisting of thousands of meetings and crowned via an open congress that consolidated the work for a time-framed, costed manifesto.
Enter a Labour government in 2013 and the first ever Ministry for the Implementation of the Electoral Manifesto was created and entrusted to Louis Grech. Grech, then deputy prime minister, started work on what was to become a centralised IT system that would weigh and track completion advancements on each pledge by the relevant ministries, all brought together with deliverables and key performance indicators.
It was through such a system that for the first time in Malta’s political history we were able to calculate completion rates of government commitments in real time. And indeed this was communicated periodically with implementation rising from 30 per cent (2014) to 88 per cent (2017) in Labour’s first term.
Last week I was also glad to report that during the last four months we achieved an uptick of at least eight per cent. I am convinced that our efforts in delivering on our promises are a driver for the continued support that this government achieves in periodical scientific surveys.
Many, myself included, impatiently await the judicial outcomes on the events we all lived through last December- Carmelo Abela
However, I will not try and convince anyone that all is well when it comes to judging how the government fared overall in the last three years. Many, myself included, impatiently await the judicial outcomes on the events we all lived through last December. I am also conscious of the fact that this will affect the way this five-year term shall be judged by the electorate.
I fully trust that our judicial system will deliver those responsible to justice.
What I can vouch for is that both I and the other members of Robert Abela’s cabinet are striving to make all the necessary tools available for justice to run its course, while still at arm’s length from the executive.
We are also fully committed to improve our regulatory and enforcement institutions in line with feedback delivered in good faith by international bodies such as GRECO and the Venice Commission.
While some believe that this is all reactionary, I can attest to the work that has been ongoing in relation to good governance as early as the first 100 days of Labour in 2013. Seven years ago, after decades of a derided output by the Commission against Corruption, Labour enacted the law against prescription in politics… meaning that no politician can now escape scot-free if they are found to be responsible for abuse or corruption during their time in office.
The same Labour government also legislated another historic first: the Political Party Financing Act, while also introducing the Whistleblower Act. In our second term we just moved to allow high-level appointments to be scrutinised by parliament, established a code of ethics for MPs – enforced through the appointment of a Commissioner for Standards, separated the powers in the Attorney General’s Office and reformed the process of appointment of the police commissioner.
While a minority try to obfuscate the government’s achievements I trust that a silent majority are affected by the changes that are being brought to the fore. Be it the infrastructural revolution in public roads; more income for segments of our society who need it the most including minimum wage earners and pensioners; less burden on parents with free school transport and no exam fees, new rights including those for equal marriage, cremation and young adults voting at 16; improved services, new primary care centres in a world-class healthcare system that remains free for all; schemes for new home buyers and a rent law that defines rights for tenant and landlords, just to name a few.
Two years away from the polls and 76 per cent of what we pledged for in the bag, we still remain committed towards implementing the entirety of the electoral manifesto. I am convinced that alongside my colleagues within cabinet we shall strive to complete more work as we fully understand that what some might think to be just some ink on a piece of paper does indeed make a difference in people’s lives.
Carmelo Abela is Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister.
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