Need for more public green spaces and better integration of migrant workers

Public green spaces and the role of migrant workers are the crucial take-aways from a post-COVID roadmap fleshed out by Malta’s National Post-Pandemic Strategy Steering Committee

Research and innovation minister Owen Bonnici
Research and innovation minister Owen Bonnici

Public green spaces and the role of migrant workers are the crucial take-aways from a post-COVID roadmap fleshed out by Malta’s National Post-Pandemic Strategy Steering Committee.

The team, led by Prof. Simone Borg, said the pandemic had brought the importance of health and wellbeing “into sharp relief” and recognised the vital role of pleasant urban and natural settings.

“Recognising the vital role a pleasant urban and natural environment plays in health, happiness and the quality of our tourism offering, we will adopt a more cohesive, sustainable and forward-looking approach to planning and development – enhancing our towns and cultural heritage, preserving and creating public green spaces, and enhancing infrastructure to make cycling and walking safe and enjoyable,” the committee said in its report, presented today by research and innovation minister, Owen Bonnici.

The team also said that maintaining the community spirit that came to the fore during the pandemic, required giving vulnerable people greater access to training and employment opportunities and strengthening integration programmes, “given the critical role of migrant workers within our healthcare system and wider economy.”

Prof. Borg said Malta will also have to be able to embrace the transition to digital and clean technologies, which will require guiding businesses and workers to get “future-ready”.

“We will refocus and integrate education, labour and economic policy, modernising educational curricula and driving reskilling and upskilling programmes to equip our current and future workforce with the 21st-century skills required to unlock higher-paid and value-adding jobs,” Prof. Borg said.

The post-pandemic team also said that a progressive economy needed an environmentally responsible foundation, that also comes with Malta’s 2050 target for carbon neutrality. “We will pursue this agenda by investing in renewables and clean-energy infrastructure, and by instituting a circular economy where resources are valued and waste reduced. We will also create a pipeline of green investment projects and leverage our small size to pilot carbon tech solutions.”

The team said Malta now needs enhanced disaster-recovery capabilities and long-term plans for more robust sea, land, air, energy and digital connectivity to face any future crisis.

This has to start with repairing public finances, and the creation of a disaster-recovery fund that can provide a safety net in the years ahead.

“Resilience to future shocks also relies on protecting our natural resources – an issue that is of great concern to citizens. We will focus on systematic education, conservation and a shift towards a more sustainable way of living in harmony with the environment for the benefit of current and future generations. And we will make eco-tourism and heritage a key component of Malta’s tourist offering,” the team said.

The post-pandemic plan also emphasised the need for a society that follows regulations developed in the common interest. This meant creating a greater sense of collective responsibility, good governance, transparency and accountability.

“This means instilling a culture of ethical behaviour, from school-age upwards, to ensure all members of society can contribute to the common good. We also want to make sure every individual and business has equal access to digital technology, to improve the way we live and work. To this end we will invest in robust infrastructure, while supporting adults, particularly the elderly, to develop the digital skills they need in a modern society,” the post-pandemic team said.

Prof. Borg said the COVID-19 pandemic had provided a unique opportunity to think about the kind of future people want.

“Our vision is of a safe, healthy and prosperous nation where citizens can live fulfilled lives, share in an equitable society, embrace the green and digital transitions, and secure well-paid jobs within a flourishing and stable economy. If our whole society works together, with the same courage, dynamism and determination seen during the crisis, we can make this vision a reality.”

The government, in the past months, acted decisively to alleviate the hardships of the pandemic in order to save not only lives, through the brilliant work of our health carers, but also livelihoods by means of perfectly timed and designed schemes of financial assistance.

Minister Owen Bonnici said the pandemic had provided a unique opportunity to refocus government direction to shape “a stronger, healthier, happier and more resilient nation”.

“We need to be open and honest and learn from the lessons of recent months to think about how our world will change after COVID-19 entered our lives. We need to take the opportunity to reflect on both our strengths and weaknesses as a nation and consider how the recovery we will drive will be an equitable one which enhances the wellbeing of current and future generations.”

The National Post-Pandemic Strategy Steering Committee was chaired by Prof. Simone Borg, and included members Joyce Dimech, Mario Galea, Godwin Mifsud, James Pearsall, Prof. Gordon Sammut, Clive Tonna, and Paul Zahra.

No changes to strategy in light of FATF greylisting   

Fielding comments from the media, Owen Bonnici said there were no changes to the strategy due to Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force.

“This is a government whose agenda is of change and reforms, and so will we continue to carry out that agenda,” he said. “We also have a section of the strategy which is focused on governance.”

Bonnici also said that his ministry will be tasked with coordinating the strategy among other government ministries.

“We have reached out to other ministries on which sectors they felt needed to be included, and so we will ensure that the strategy caters for these sectors,” Bonnici said.

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