18 February 2004

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Galea – speaking like a prime minister

By Karl Schembri

He might appear to be the most unlikely winner of the leadership contest, but he is talking like a prime minister.
Speaking at the launch of the national action plan for employment yesterday, Education Minister Louis Galea announced his chairmanship of an inter-ministerial committee that is meant to finalise the plan by October. It is a Cabinet of sorts, grouping the social policy and finance ministries under his wing – both headed by two ministers competing for the PN leadership battle – apart from MEPA, Malta Enterprise, MTA and others.
“I’m here because the Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi, John Dalli and all other Cabinet ministers want me to launch this plan,” he said in reply to questions after yesterday’s press conference. “ETC (the entity entrusted with coordinating the plan) falls under my portfolio; had it remained under social policy you would have Lawrence Gonzi.”
Asked whether he believed that any one of the three contenders would implement the employment plan as he envisaged it himself, Dr Galea turned at the backdrop behind him which read: “National Action Plan … our plan”.
“Isn’t this a national plan?” he said.
Employment is his battle cry – the government has to create as many jobs in the next 10 years as it had in the previous 25, he is saying everyday. But yesterday’s press conference also saw Dr Galea talking about Malta’s mission as a southern Euro-Mediterranean country, about the government’s role in a free-market economy and about the historic changes that the Maltese have faced successfully.
“I tell the Maltese people this is not the first time we’re facing a challenge,” he said, referring to the present unemployment levels and the upcoming EU membership. “We’ve gone through great changes when we shifted from an economy for the British services to independence … when we shifted from a centralised economy in 1987 to one based on the market. We made it back then and we’ll make it again this time round … Europe’s targets are our targets.”
The government has an important role to play in the economy, Dr Galea said, but not through the “antiquated” methods of massive public sector employment.
“Private enterprise should be the motor of our economy,” he said.
Apart from his share of daily appearances addressing the public at large, Dr Galea is busy meeting PN councillors to secure their vote – so busy that his public relations officer says he has no time to give personal interviews to the press at the moment but only to answer questions by e-mail. It is the councillors’ vote that counts, at the end of the day.
But he is also appealing beyond the parochial councillors’ vote.
“I will extend the hand of better relations to our traditional political rivals if they can share my vision of turning Malta into a more successful country and quickly,” he wrote in a Times article last Friday. “This is a small island and it should take us little to mature out of our petty disputes.”
Maybe this is not music to the PN councillors’ ears, accustomed as they are to fierce partisan rhetoric, including from their party leader. For sure, he is speaking like a prime minister in public.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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