To ensure a sustainable future and react to emerging environmental, demographic and social issues, we have to go beyond measuring basic material needs and production. Addressing a National Conference focusing on the need to Balance Sustainable Economic Growth with Quality of Life, Mr Joseph Farrugia, MEA Director General highlighted the need to look at other elements that contribute to a person’s quality of life.
“Employers are major stakeholders in ensuring a better well-being. Through the creation of jobs, people can enjoy a better quality of life. While some may be concerned that a focus on well-being will mean a contraction in economic activity, we believe that if handled properly, the imperatives of economic growth and well-being can be reconciled”, Mr Farrugia said.
Farrugia said that these efforts necessitated a fairer distribution of wealth, through targeted fiscal interventions. This entails restructuring at national, sectoral and enterprise level, with, occasionally, the public good taking precedence over the private good.
Joanne Bondin, President of the Malta Employers Association insisted that defending the status quo was not an option: “We need to make some serious choices which may entail elements of sacrifice by enterprises, citizens and government to further the common good. This may entail forfeiting short term gains in favour of a longer term, sustainable vision for our society.”
Ms Bondin argued that there was a need make some serious choices for our future, particularly by identifying economic niches with growth potential that also respect the
parameters of societal well-being. “This involves the upskilling of our labour force, utilising technology and digitisation to enhance productivity and competitiveness, the promotion of positive values and health, the strengthening of our governance mechanisms, the protection of our natural environment”
Various high-profile speakers emphasised that GDP has its important uses, but re-iterated and generally concluded that it is mainly an important financial, economic and comparative instrument. However, as policymakers and citizens focus more on social progress and social and economic convergence across the EU, they called for new tools which looked beyond GDP and cover both welfare and environmetal aspects.
The discussion also sought to identify the challenges ahead with a number of recommendations being made on how GDP growth can be managed to portray a more holistic snapshot of a nation’s wellbeing and the ways a change in culture can also offer opportunities for businesses and economic growth.
The National Conference was addressed by the Leader of the Opposition Dr Bernard Grech, Dr Philip von Brockdorff, Head of Department – Economics, University of Malta, economists Dr Jean Paul Fabri and Dr Marie Briguglio, and Ronald Attard, EY Malta and Cyprus Country Managing Partner. The MEA will follow-up this event with a comprehensive report that will, in turn, be presented and discussed with the authorities.
The event was supported by Atlas Insurance, EY and APS Bank.