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'Lack of consultation' on poverty reduction

Posted Date: 19/10/2010

Times of Malta - 19 October 2010 

Social voluntary organisations are not being consulted about Malta’s national reform programme to be drawn up soon and launched next year, an international conference in Brussels heard yesterday.

The programme, which will outline how the island plans to meet the EU 2020 Strategy targets, will also look into ways of reducing poverty.

However, social NGOs working with the poor were not consulted, according to Claudia Taylor-East from the European Anti-Poverty Network.

Ms Taylor-East, who is also the president of SOS Malta, stressed the importance of opening the communication channels between the poor and the government.

This feeling was echoed by several social NGO representatives from various EU countries who attended the Ninth Round Table on Poverty and Social Exclusion in Brussels yesterday.

Stakeholders from all over the EU met to discuss poverty and social exclusion and attended workshops in which they came up with recommendations to address the issues. These will be handed over to EU ministers today.

During one of the workshops various NGO representatives expressed their concern that the EU countries’ national reform strategies – outlining individual countries’ targets to reduce poverty – could make the national action plans (on poverty and social exclusion) redundant.

Drawing up the action plan every two years included consultation with stakeholders and people experiencing poverty. However, these groups were not being consulted by governments as they drew up their reform programmes that would outline how poverty-reduction targets would be reached.

Ms Taylor-East nodded on hearing this, adding that the same situation was a reality in Malta – which was among the one-third of EU countries that had not yet set a target to reach the 2020 goals to reduce poverty.

Launched by the European Commission earlier this year, the EU 2020 strategy provides a road-map for the next 10 years for greener growth and jobs in Europe. It identifies headline targets at the EU level which include pulling 20 million people out of poverty.

Speaking during the round table yesterday, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli said figures showed that 84 million people were at risk of poverty in the EU.

“New figures, to be published soon, would show that the number of people at risk of poverty is to increase by about 10 million,” he said, adding this was unacceptable in the EU.

Setting national targets was crucial in the success of the implementation of the 2020 strategy, he said.

Mario Vassallo, a social inclusion independent expert, stressed the importance of having an auditing system at national level to ensure each country reached its targets.

Speaking during one of the workshops, Prof. Vassallo said member states also had to ensure information “percolated” from the European Commission to the poor people at the grass roots. Nora Macelli, the chief executive of social NGO Jean Antide Foundation, pointed out that voluntary organisations were a mine of information that was remaining untapped.

A recent EU poverty-perception survey found that 61 per cent of Maltese struggled to make ends meet, especially when it came to paying the utility bills.


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