24 – 30 January 2001

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The crisis and the assertiveness


The MAD COW and the Beef crisis, the Bay street debate, the neutrality issue and the Kirkop multigas permit contribute very much to our understanding of how politicians argue, react or simply do not react.

In the beef crisis we now know that the health minister eats beefs and the opposition health minister does not.
Which is entirely predictable, considering the way government health ministers and their shadow ministerial counterparts have acted the world over.
But then the health minister is right when he states that in a population of 350 million citizens in the European Union, 100 (only) have contracted the deadly disease.
That there has been media hype is correct, but it is not entirely unjustified. More so, when we are unclear or unsure whether the meats we take in are BSE free or not.
On the other hand, we cannot look the other way when we come to view the impact this crisis has had on the importation of beef and the sale of beef in retail outlets and eating places.
There is a moral in this story; if a crisis is fuelled on a global scale, sooner or later it will hit our shores.
So instead of waiting for the media to stir up hysteria, the authorities should take the lead and address the questions at the earliest possible time. This they have not done.


The Sunday shopping controversy at Bay Street has been taken away from the authorities and dragged into the courts. Why could we not have had a more assertive government to decide on this matter?
Yes, here we are facing a fundamental issue and instead of holding on to some political patronage we are now allowing the issue to be decided upon by the courts. This shows how far detached we are from the feelings of business and consumerism.


The third issue is the dockyard and here, the old baggage of Alternattiva Demokratika has been exhumed as a reminder of the constitutional implications of repairing military vessels such as USS La Salle.
This feeling is reverberated by the likes of Tony Coleiro, the Scargillean character who is embroiled in an ideological world of his own.
Facts are sacred: yes, it could be very possible that the neutrality clause is being ignored – but is it still valid?
And then are we in position to lose contracts for a dockyard crying out for work?


And the fourth issue is the Kirkop multigas application.
Yes, Kirkop is a quaint village and yes, perhaps a gas plant is not ideal. But then, ST Microelectronics also based at Kirkop, is far from aesthetically beautiful but an economic necessity.
The reasoning behind the Kirkopian folk is the NIMBY factor (not in my back yard) but here again the authorities need to take a stand and not allow the issue to be overtaken by emotive and superfluous feelings.
They could, if they wished, produce a wonderful trump card: the area was okayed by Dr Mario Vella, the President of the Labour party and oncea Chairman of MDC.
But then again, what we see is a government in need of some ‘action' or, better said, in some sectors facing a severe bout of ‘inertia'.




The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt