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MaltaToday 14 September 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 14 SEPTEMBER 2022 2 NEWS NICOLE MEILAK ONE in five people are at risk of falling into poverty or social ex- clusion, according to new figures published by the National Statis- tics Office (NSO). The at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate (AROPE) stood at 20.3% last year, marking an in- crease of 0.4 percentage points above the 2020 rate. According to the NSO report, this increase was seen across the majority of age groups. The high- est increase was experienced by over-65s, who experience an al- most 30% poverty risk rate. This means that there are over 103,000 people in Malta and Gozo, including under-18s, who are at risk of poverty or social ex- clusion. The AROPE concerns people who are either at risk of pover- ty or are severely materially or socially deprived, or living in households with low work in- tensity. The at-risk-of-poverty rate (ARP), which is different to the AROPE, stood at 16.9% in 2021. The ARP threshold is defined as 60% of the median nation- al equivalised income, and is estimated to be €10,222. Over 85,000 people, including un- der-18s and over-65s, fall below this threshold. The NSO points out that the ARP rate for 2021 would in- crease by 19.3 percentage points to 36.2% if one excludes all social transfers, including pensions. "These results show the impor- tance of social welfare in assist- ing the most vulnerable persons in society," the report reads. The ARP rate is highest in the Northern Harbour district, which includes Birkirkara, Gżira, Ħamrun, Msida, Pembroke, Pieta, Qormi, St Julian's, San Ġwann, Santa Venera, Sliema, Swieqi and Ta' Xbiex. Here, the ARP rate stands at 19.8%. The Northern district holds the second-highest ARP rate at 19.1%, and includes Għargħur, Mellieħa, Mġarr, Mosta, Naxxar, and St Paul's Bay. The lowest ARP rates are seen in the South Eastern district, and in Gozo and Comino. Both dis- tricts have an ARP rate of 11.8% and 12.4% respectively. The ARP rates for the Western and Southern Harbour districts are 14.1% and 17.6%. The NSO report gives material and social deprivation indicators based on 13 items, including their ability to pay mortgage or rent payments, and the ability to face unexpected financial ex- penses. During 2021, more people said they were struggling to pay off their mortgage or rent payments and said they found it difficult to keep their home adequately warm in winter. Indeed, the figures suggest that over 168,000 of people cannot afford a week-long annual hol- iday away from home, while 33,000 people cannot afford a get-together with friends or family for a drink or meal at least once a month. The material and social depri- vation indicator for 2021 stood at 9.8%, while the severe materi- al and social deprivation indica- tor stood at 5.4%. Both indicators increased com- pared to the previous year, and have been following an upward trend since 2017. One in five people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, NSO figures reveal KURT SANSONE OMBUDSMAN Anthony Mifsud's replacement remains a bone of political contention but this has not stopped him from appointing commissioners with- in his office. Mifsud appointed Prof. Ray- mond Galea as the new health commissioner after Charles Messina's two five-year terms expired. Mifsud also re-appointed ar- chitect Alan Saliba as commis- sioner for environment and planning and retained former chief justice Vincent De Gaetano as commissioner for education. This will be the second five-year term for the two commissioners. Commissioners, like the Om- budsman, are autonomous of- ficers of parliament and enjoy the same independence and se- curity of tenure. Commissioners work independently but coordi- nate their work with the Office of the Ombudsman. They are appointed by the Ombudsman. Mifsud's term ended in March last year but has remained in of- fice because there has not been political consensus on his re- placement. The Ombudsman is appointed by parliament with a two-thirds majority vote, which means cross-party support is necessary. Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech have so far been unable to agree on a name and no substan- tive talks have been held since last March's election. Grech has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister for dis- cussions to be held on several constitutional appointments, including the Ombudsman and the Standards Commissioner. The term of Standards Com- missioner George Hyzler ends at the end of September since he will be taking up his post at the European Court of Auditors. Who is Raymond Galea? The new health commission- er, Raymond Galea, worked as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mater Dei Hos- pital since 2000 and, since 2012, was appointed head of the Malta Postgraduate Medical Training Programme. He was also a visiting profes- sor on the Academic Board of the International Ph.D. in Clin- ical Sciences at the University of Florence. The five-year appointments for the commissioners started from Monday. In a statement, Mifsud thanked outgoing health commissioner Charles Messina for his "dedi- cated and sterling work" over the past 10 years. Ombudsman appoints commissioners but his own replacement remains a bone of political contention Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud (centre) flanked by (from left to right) planning commissioner Alan Saliba, education commissioner Vincent De Gaetano, outgoing health commissioner Charles Messina and his replacement Raymond Galea (Photo: Office of the Ombdusman)

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