19 DECEMBER 2001
The unforgettable event of the year was 11 September. It was the eye-opener to the frailty of the world we live in. To the globalisation that encompasses our economic activities.
We imagined that the televised suicide bombings in the US could reverberate throughout the world. They did.
The terrorists caused mayhem to public life but they caused much more in economic and financial distress.
The implacable strength of the US as a financial and economic centre was vindicated by the tidal waves that followed after the suicide missions by Islamic extremists. The war in Afghanistan, perhaps a necessary evil, did nothing to ease the anxiety.
World markets continued to plunge and ailing companies broke down leaving thousands without a job.
Shareholders demanded more stringent measures as corporatism took over and the dot.com revolution disappeared in the mist.
A new monetary giant entered the fray, as Europe welcomed the scene to replace the nostalgic franc and deutsche mark.
As all these events unfolded Malta stood alone, believing that it was protected from the rest of the world.
That insularity is shared by most of the people around the Island, thankfully not by all.
Some politicians more than others are conscious of the impact of the world around, other less or not at all.
We continue to believe that our social services can be forked out without any questions asked.
The same applies to the bloated public sector, to tax evasion and to subventions.
These and many others, are some of the reason to catalyse a change in mentality.
Gladly there are some signs but there is some change in culture, but we are still miles away.
The reforms at the dockyard have been triggered by a serious of silly protests rekindled by the sad La Salle affair and the sad break-in at same offices at the same docks.
There is much expectation at the moment for the reforms at the docks.
The same change in culture has allowed for a better collection of tax revenue, but one can safely say that we are still very much off the mark when it comes to collecting all taxes.
Nevertheless, the government balance sheet looks far better than last year.The same cannot be said for the private sector which has been castigated by a burgeoning cash flow problem and a slowdown in consumer spending.
The latter aggravated by the uncertainty that reigns high in Maltese society because of Maltas accession into the EU which is opposed by the Labour opposition.
All in all, 2002 will be seen in the context of diminished world growth. It will be another tough year and creative, strenuous, capable and hard working folk will do better than ordinary ones.
Such is the reality of life.
A considerable amount of hot air
There is a considerable amount of hot air when it comes to telecomms. It is true that telecomms have changed our life but let us not imagine for one minute that the explosion in the telecommunications markets is representative of complete growth in the economy. It is a sector that is growing world-wide but there are limitations in the multiplier effects for this sector. And we all know we will be soon very close to saturation point.
The flop of WAP may very well be replicated in the GPRS innovation to be launched soon.
Next year will be a tough year, the world wide economic slowdown will not subside and if there is any growth to be had it will take place in 2003.