Economic growth and social rights an
Parliamentary Secretary in the Economic Services Ministry, recently
addressed the HCIMA annual conference titled: The Social Charter
a framework for economic growth. Mr Vassallo emphasised on how economic
growth and fundamental social rights go hand in hand and that economic
development cannot be reached on purely economic criteria by themselves
- economic development also relies on the social circumstances in which
the market is operating and evolving.
social and economic changes going on around us, not just in Malta but
also around the world, make this a very interesting time. The lessons
and experiences we have gained as a nation till now will guide us forward
to continue to understand and develop new means, new attitudes and new
priorities in order to assist us in our decision-making.
The reality of todays socio-economic circumstances is the cause
for the need to bring together two forces that, I believe, are key ingredients
in the recipe for economic development of our country. The social aspect
and effect of this economic progress that we all strive to achieve cannot
be ignored or treated separately. Economic growth and fundamental social
rights go hand in hand with each other. We cannot talk about the one
whilst ignoring the other.
Following the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights in December 1998, the Cologne European Council of 3 and 4 June
1999 decided to begin work on drafting a charter of fundamental rights
to be completed by the end of 2000. The preamble affirms that 'the same
importance must be attached to the social aspects as to the economic
aspects' of the single market. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, in terms of social justice, it is felt proper that the internal
market should entail improvements in the social rights of citizens
as well as benefits for business. Secondly, if certain rights were guaranteed,
economic disparities in working conditions across Member States would
be reduced. Companies in the common market should work on the basis
of the same minimum benefits and rights; otherwise the proper functioning
of the market would be hindered by distortions in competition.
Every politician and every entrepreneur is aware of the relevance and
cohesion of these two aspects. This conference should serve as a good
medium in order to get the message through. These two priorities co-exist
together for the development of both. We have to understand and believe
that economic development cannot be reached on purely economic criteria
by themselves. Economic development also relies on the social circumstances
in which the market is operating and evolving.
The tourism sector in Malta is a viable and important contributor to
our economy. A lot depends on the success of this sector. And it is
quite appropriate that this sector of the economy is realising the importance
of its social aspect. I am convinced that the conclusions of this conference
would be a guiding tool to the other economic activities of our country.
This conference is being held in at an appropriate time when we need
to reflect on the reality around us and on the new priorities that we
have to recognise.
Success in our social policies depends on success in our economic policies.
Economic success is not to be gained at the expense of social rights
Economic success should sustain the development in the countrys
I have to make reference here to the Entrepreneurship Policy Paper that
is currently being drafted and that should be published as a White Paper
in the weeks to come. The publication of this Policy paper was one of
the objectives that I had set out in my Business Plan for this year
that was titled "Competitivity through innovation". This Policy
Paper is not the result of some requirement from an organisation or
authority. It is the product of my Governments realisation and
belief that this country has to remain competitive. Global market conditions
necessitate an attitude and an atmosphere of innovative attitudes in
order to maintain a competitive edge. The business sector has to be
offered, has to be presented with a vision where every person can participate
in the countrys development and in his own development.
The underlying principles that form the basis of this entrepreneurship
policy are those considered as best practices. These best practices
are based on a number of administrative and procedural practices that
have been and are being identified by a task force set up by the European
Commission and itself called B.E.S.T., which stands for Business
Environment Simplification Task-force. My office has in fact been
appointed as national co-coordinator for this task force, as the exercise
has now been extended to include the candidate countries. These policies
and practices that I have referred to are the result of every European
member countrys determination that, through the Council of Europe
and the European Commission, economic success will not be achieved at
the expense of working conditions. The Charter lays down the guiding
principles of our economic enterprises social behaviour. It builds
on the nations histories of industrial progress in order to make
sure that the same mistakes do not happen again.
Our entrepreneurship policy recognises the need of being innovative
in order to attain success. But it also goes further in recognising
that being successful in business means operating with social conscience
and operating without exploiting the employees or the consumers. And
the principles of best practices as indicated in the entrepreneurship
policy and sustained by the Social Charter are about eliminating the
exploitation of those that we depend upon!
We have succeeded in moving away from the history of class struggles
and antagonism and have reached the principles of solidarity and social
justice. The gist of the Charter is to instil determined social ethics
against all sort of abuse that might lead to class conflicts. Every
businessperson wants to make profits and financial gain. I believe that
the price of these profits should not be the exploitation of the family
and the workers, be they locals, foreigners or minors.
This Charter is a pledge, a commitment, not only for the social aspect
of politics but also for the social aspect of business. This is why
I see it as the basis of a framework for economic growth. When I say
growth, I do not refer to growth for the tourism sector but to growth
on a broader and wider national level. This social charter and an appropriate
entrepreneurship policy would ensure an economic development based on
a culture of principles.
These are principles that ultimately respect the dignity of every human
being. The exploitation of workers conditions, of children, the
lack of health and safety measures (both physical and moral), the lack
of consultations, long working hours, the absence of a shared day of
rest, these would all be symptoms of a degrading social environment.
It would seem that the social aspect of our decisions would in their
turn invoke their own costs. There are certainly some costs are involved,
as nothing comes for free. But we should look at these as a form of
investment because the returns that are expected far outweigh the costs
of not installing these principles in our work practices. This is why
we are referring to the Social Charter as the Framework for Economic
We are fortunate in Malta that we have managed to incorporate most of
these principles within our legislative structure. It is now up to all
of us here, according to everyones respective responsibility,
to learn from each other and look at our work practices and recognise
improvements and implement a just social strata in this bigger enterprise
that is called Malta.
When one considers the number of principles that the Charter establishes
together with the best practices procedures every country
within the European Union is being encouraged to adopt, along with a
policy to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, one will be able to see
and find a complimentary relationship between the documents. The BEST
action program by which our Entrepreneurship Policy is to be achieved
in fact seeks to improve conditions in the fields of:
1. Education and training in entrepreneurship;
2. an improved access to finance for SMEs;
3. encouragement for research and innovation;
4. better employment and working conditions;
5. upgrading of support services for the business community;
6. producing a more efficient Public administration.
The above are all objectives that are themselves referred to in the
Social Charter itself.
To these important documents I shall also add and mention yet another:
the European Charter for Small Enterprises. This Charter also pledges
the need to recognise and promote small and medium sized enterprises.
In the preamble to the charter it is stated that:
"Small enterprises must be considered as a main driver for innovation,
employment as well as social and local integration in Europe. The best
possible environment for small business and entrepreneurship needs therefore
to be created."
The European Social Charter therefore cannot and should not be considered
in isolation. It forms part of a wider base that is aimed at improving
the quality of life through what I may call a new economic order. We
are not being forced by anyone in adopting these principles. This is
a step that we have to take because we are convinced that it will lead
a. a better environment and social structure in our working places;
b. less conflicts between employers and employees, which conflicts are
c. a better quality of product and a more efficient service to the consumer;
d. improved relationships between employers and employees through greater
participation of the employees in the decision making process.
So, where are we all going from here? We might not be answering that
question today, but I sincerely hope that at the end of this conference
we would have realised where we should be going and how we should get