Allow me to shock you. The pandemic has created enormous, acute challenges to our health, economy and society. But it is bequeathing to us, particularly politicians, a wealth of insights.

My colleagues and I have done our utmost to triumph over the virus. We did our best to take the right and timely decisions with the best means at our disposal. Above all, people backed us to the hilt. To everyone’s credit, we took the lead in Europe from the word go, and still have it.

Politically, the pandemic has been unique. We couldn’t anticipate it. Certainty remained elusive, particularly before the vaccine was rolled out. There was no past we could rummage through for badly-needed answers.

A stable policy has proved impossible because the virus kept changing the goal posts. We were forced to choose between equally valid yet conflicting, sometimes even contradictory, goals.

Yet the country’s clarion call was loud and clear, and we had the responsibility to face a political world we did not fully know. It was precisely this experience which, in my view, led us to explore new political avenues. The process of preventing the pandemic from wreaking havoc on us was the best crash course in what lies ahead.

Lesson one. The pandemic made us instinctive practitioners of the art of political compromise. We could neither endanger people’s health nor that of the economy. We had to keep people distant from infection without removing essential liberties. Education had to march on but not as we knew it. In each case, we had to do both.

At the height of the pandemic, political clichés and facile grandstanding stood out in all their fake and useless glory. Results supplanted empty rhetoric. Difficult and risky compromises, coloured in the right shade of grey between black and white, had to be found through prudence and foresight. This daily exercise put us at the forefront of Europe’s successes against the pandemic. But it did something equally vital to us politicians. It brought this government closer to the people.

We would do well to remember this insight. In tomorrow’s world characterised by globalised and shifting scenarios, the art of compromise is what will keep delivering success.

It brought government closer to the people- Chris Fearne

Lesson two. Traditionally, policymaking aims at fixed targets. You discuss, agree and implement. The pandemic has forced us out of this comfortable cocoon. One day we are fighting one virus, the next we’re up against two or more. A new fact pops up that renders today’s brilliant policy an instant failure, and yet another blows our remedy out of the water. And on it goes.

With this becoming the new normal, my cabinet colleagues and I increasingly gravitated towards placing facts and science above yesterday’s opinions and political gut feelings. It was becoming second nature for us to place the irrefutable at the heart of our vision and principles. As a government we became more agile, creative and disposed to thinking outside the box – exactly what tomorrow’s world will be asking from us.

Lesson three. By touching everyone and every sector, the pandemic obliged us to think not only laterally but multilaterally, as it were. Since the problem was everywhere the solution had to be found everywhere, by everyone. Rather than a ‘topic’ dealt with by one minister, the entire cabinet had to function like one well-oiled and coordinated ministry. If all of us in the country retain this holistic approach to the technologically-driven future, we shall continue to flourish and prosper.

Final lesson. This one deeply inspires me. It was the government that took decisions on the pandemic. But we could not have succeeded without the strength and internal resources of our people.

Malta’s men, women and children rose to the occasion brilliantly – the courage of our frontliners, dedication of our civil and security forces, patience of those whose medical interventions had to be postponed, the solidarity shown between families, friends and strangers, inventiveness of our entrepreneurs, resilience of our workers, teachers, parents and children who changed their lives overnight to keep work and education going.

This is the nation emerging from the pandemic. Our Malta. People’s wits, creativity and determination overpowered the invisible mutating virus at every turn.

We need to keep remembering these lessons. They will help us face future pandemics even better. And shall need them most in tomorrow’s world.

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