Prime Minister Robert Abela considers himself a socialist and embraces "all the basic principles of the Labour Party that include social justice and social mobility”.
Those are principles at the heart of the PL, Abela told Times of Malta. But the party "also has a duty to run a strong economy, to ensure it has the resources to distribute to everyone," he argued.
His comments follow criticism by former Labour stalwarts over the party’s loss of its socialist roots.
In an article marking 10 years of Labour, Alfred Sant admitted that Malta’s accelerated economic growth over the past decade intensified corruption and led to problems of good governance.
Meanwhile, former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca acknowledged “blatant corruption, fraud and money-laundering surrounding multi-million-euro public projects”.
In January Coleiro Preca had said the party was not doing enough to fight social injustices, and if it continued down that road, she would not be able to recognise it anymore.
But the PL leader told Times of Malta that, according to the party statute, a strong economy would allow the distribution of wealth, and it would therefore be unwise to stop encouraging investment.
“It would be a big mistake to create conflict between social classes,” Abela said, adding that the government was achieving social mobility through increased pensions, children's allowances and in-work-benefits, initiatives that are all funded by taxes.
Earlier, Abela told a meeting at the MCAST Paola Campus following an open cabinet meeting with youths, that free and accessible education was vital for social mobility.
The provision of education for all, and the opportunities granted at institutions such as MCAST give provided a level playing field, he said.
“Wherever you come from and whatever the financial means of your family, every individual has the opportunity to climb the social ladder,” he said.
Sant and Coleiro Preca are not the only ones who criticised the PL in recent weeks.
In an opinion piece earlier this month, former local councillor Desmond Zammit Marmara said the promises of “Malta Taghna Lkoll” were a "massive deception".
Marmara resigned from the party in October, claiming the PL was no longer the political party providing a shield for workers but had become "the political party representing first and foremost the interests of big business".
Evarist Bartolo, who remains a member of the Labour Party, has also criticised government policies.
“We should not allow greed to destroy our wealth and turn the PL into an accomplice with those who only care about money and do not care about people’s well-being,” he said in a recent Facebook post.