Day 23 Bus 1: Malta, La Valetta
17 May 2018
Malta, a beautiful island in the heart of the Mediterrean sea which is dividing Africa and Europe. Malta is also a country of contradictions: that is what we discovered after a day of intense discussions with our colleagues from the Anti-Poverty Network of Malta. During the the morning session we had a workshop with our partners who introduced us in the social reality of Malta. The country has its minimum income scheme and also provides social services to people in need, such as free health services accessible to all, free education for all young people, pension schemes for the elderly people, unemployment benefits, child benefits, disabllity allowances etc. Still the dominant feeling is that a lot has to be done to make these benefits and services adequate to be able to respond to people’s needs. Our partners told us stories about elderly, migrants, people with disabilities or serious health problems, who at times struggle with the problems they have to face. Organisations such as Caritas Malta are constantly working to have constructive relations with public authorities. They do not only provide services to people at risk, such as people with drug problems, families in need, homelessness and elderly in isolation, but also participate in a social platform that advizes the government on social spending in the budget. At the same time, we felt that much more could be done if only the country made the right decisions about its future. The European Commission argued that in the coming years Malta will have the highest rate of economic growth in all the EU. In 2017 GDP reached a surprising growth of 7.2 %. All this due to finance, gaming, tourism and the relative new booming of the blockchain industries. The real question is whether every citizen in Malta profits from this boost? At the same time that foreign investors are counting their blessings and their profits from extra favours granted by the Maltese state, social organisations see the need for social care and services increase in a most dramatic way: the number of shelters for the homeless that Caritas provides for has trippled and the demand for food support by foodbanks is taking extreme proportions. This definitely means that the wealth the country is building up, is not at the profit of all citizens, but at the contrary only for the very few. For us in EMIN, the lesson is that you can’t advocate for a decent minimum income scheme accessible for all who need it, without defending an income distribution system that is just and fair, and that puts an end to explosive situations of extreme inequalities that we are living today.