14 NOVEMBER 2001

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Cartoon this week: Prophets of doom

When standing firm is not the answer

The request made by the General Workers’ Union to adjust the social pay packages from Lm60 a week to Lm140 a week is an interesting proposal which basically ignores the state of the country’s economy and furthermore confirms the union’s completely rigid approach to solving things.

The union’s report is written by someone with unabashedly Labour leanings, who has obviously put pen to paper in a way entirely detached from reality.

An increase of Lm140 will bring the country down. Or something close to that.

Can the union really call for a wage packet of something like Lm7,280? It must be joking.

Employees at the union itself are on a basic wage freeze and yet they want the rest of the country to fork out monies without asking the basic question of who is going to finance all this.

And this is a pertinent question, considering that we are one week away from the budget. Taxation cannot continue forever on the salaried workers, and we are now expecting many typical tax evaders to be dealt with.

There is also little or no incentive for people to ask for fiscal receipts from the people that count: lawyers, consultants, home maintenance people, among others.

There is another argument in the GWU report which is not in line with government policy, which refers to their insistence that the government must not relinquish its responsibility from certain essential services in the country.

Taking this position will make it more difficult for any reforms to be pushed forward in this sector. And the one that is of the greatest concern relates to the introduction of private pensions. Here again one identifies a certain ideology, which is obstructive.

We need private pensions to ensure that the welfare gap is addressed and to guarantee that future generations have a reasonable income.

The union is a difficult one to please.

It has betrayed trust, by publicly reacting to a confidential document – not for the first time. But more worrying, it has confirmed that it is entrenched in its old ways, and is unwilling to open up to new ideas.

Right approach, wrong ingredients

The rhetoric in Alfred Sant’s Zebbug speech did indeed address the middle class. It was non-aggressive and aimed at attracting their attention. This old, but revamped tactic is useful if Dr Sant wants to win the next election.

But the next election cannot be won by Dr Sant, not because he doesn’t have the right ingredients for managing, but simply because he has the wrong recipe.

That recipe is to stay out of Europe by being a Swiss in the Med, sort of thing.

It is true and we agree that Malta is, at times, more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to the EU, but one can definitely understand that the rigid position of staying out will do more harm than good to the nation.

Dr Sant could win hands down if he changed course and took the road of Malta’s accession to Europe. There is little doubt that many Maltese would applaud and support him.

Unfortunately he cannot perceive this and continues to depict doomsday scenarios of the EU. Nevertheless, one should never play down his ability to win support from the most unlikely quarters.


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