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News • February 15 2004

Dalli presents his political vision

Matthew Vella

As the first week of campaigning for top job at Pietà got underway, Finance Minister and Economic Affairs John Dalli yesterday shrugged off the numbers game played by his main rival, deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who earlier that day presented his nomination with the endorsement of 275 signatures, a significant 35 per cent made up of female endorsers:
"Everyone does as they wish," Dalli said yesterday at the PN club in Naxxar. "Fifteen signatures was the requested number for the nomination, and my efforts were spent visiting councillors. I didn’t need to commit people to endorsements. One has to respect their liberty. Many were those who phoned me to tell me they would be signing for all three candidates."
The battle between the three candidates, the other being Education Minister Louis Galea, yesterday entered its first stages of campaigning with Dalli presenting his political vision in the form of 48-page booklet entitled ‘Biex hadd ma jibqa’ lura,’ – ‘For nobody to be left behind’ - the leitmotif of one of his budgets. Outlining his plans for economic regeneration and the development of the country in social welfare, health, and the environment, Dalli said he aimed at turning Malta into the ‘capital of the Mediterranean,’ and one which would act as the ‘apostle’ in the ‘Europe of values’ which Malta would be working within.
But Dalli also defended the ideas presented in his booklet when told that a journalist had remarked earlier on in the day at a press conference held by Lawrence Gonzi, that the Minister had spurned the PN electoral programme: "That journalist must have his own agenda. This is not a new programme. It is there to explain to the people what my vision is," Dalli said, "of plans to create a viable and efficient welfare society and to reform the top-heavy bureaucracy of the country."
As tension intensifies in the contest between Gonzi, dubbed as Fenech Adami’s natural successor, and Dalli, speculations on the future of the contenders once this taut election is over were yesterday addressed by Dalli who said he would still serve as minister if he is not elected.
The question was put to him by PBS journalist Ivan Camilleri, who was gibed by another journalist as ‘ICC,’ a taunt replicating the appellation of Richard Cachia Caruana, the Prime Minister’s aide, and the sway RCC has on the media: "I am comfortable working with anyone, depending on the circumstances. Ministers do not take exams. They are chosen by the Prime Minister. But I will be ready to serve as a minister," Dalli said, who also declared he would be ready to restrict his tenure of leadership to a ten-year period if elected.
John Dalli also expressed confidence at being able to bring electoral victory to Pietà in 2008, even after twenty years of Nationalist administration. While currently the country is experiencing a low with the disheartening performance of the economy, a change around of fortunes will form an integral part of Dalli’s future priorities. He intends achieving a deficit rate of less than three per cent of the GDP by 2006, and to bring about a balanced budget by 2010. Dalli said he would be working to ensure a higher level of full employment by 2010, ensuring Malta would have a national plan for employment every year. He said he would be striving to reduce bureaucracy, strengthening controls on abuse in social security, and would be giving special attention to single mothers.
Dalli also said he wanted to create a social pact between Government, the Opposition, trade unions and civil society, as well as a national scheme for the creation of work: "Without jobs, this country cannot move forwards. This country needs high-quality jobs. This takes the whole effort that can be offered by the government. I am ready to preside over a ministerial committee for the creation of jobs, with the clear aim of achieving full-employment by 2010, as demanded by the EU… the creation of jobs is tied to the understanding of the economy and the ability to be creative and innovative."
Dalli said investment would only come to Malta if the country proved itself competitive: "Competitiveness will only grow the more there is certainty amongst the social partners in our country," Dalli stressed, who said wealth had to be created by building on the new economy and the importance of education as the key to the future for Malta and Gozo.
He also spoke about changes needed within the Nationalist Party, a pronouncement that set him apart from the traditional aura enjoyed by Gonzi as the ‘anointed one.’ Gonzi has been depicted as the candidate who can best ensure the continuity of Eddie Fenech Adami’s legacy in the PN, and to a great extent retain the status quo.
Dalli said the party needed to reform itself, implementing the principle of subsidiarity that would a see a bottom-up approach to decision-making. He said he would be encouraging the creation of a research unit that would help the party in its policy formulation, and welcome more party backbenchers into the workings of the government.
He also pointed out the need for reorganisation in the party structures that would break the centralisation of power. Most importantly, Dalli said he would be reaching out to the South, the traditional Labour landscape, since he believed the PN had invested most in the South and believed it was only prejudice that was fermenting animosity towards the PN.


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