22 JANUARY 2003
Lm1.5 million for education, from where?
There were two noteworthy comments by Dr Alfred Sant during last Sundays mass meeting.
The first was his ominous warning to the employees of a number of firms whose livelihood he said would be at stake if Malta chose to become a European Union member.
The second significant comment was his proposal that a new Labour government would budget Lm1.5 million for students wishing to carry on with their studies abroad.
Dr Sants comments on the firms future is a reflection of the sly advice that the man is being given to attain the highest possible impact from the increasingly weary voter.
Targeting vulnerable companies prone to some competition in a far larger market is a good move for someone aiming to attain the largest possible concern from within the eurosceptic camp.
But one cannot consider this tactic as either diligent or proper.
Dr Sants other comment refers to the financial package for students looking to take their studies abroad, which Dr Sant says he will be paying for. Or rather, for which this country will be paying for when it could otherwise be partaking of them at no charge.
Labours Lm1.5 million fund is aimed at funding programmes that would bridge Maltas education system to other countries. Some money will be used in research aimed at improving our education system vis-à-vis our counterparts and prepare our students and children for the future. The rest of the money will be injected at the post-secondary and tertiary level.
Labour has also chosen to continue participating in the EU education programmes and initiatives, of which the government today already partly subsidises because it is not an EU member.
But Labour says that totally EU-funded programmes for member states are a myth that these programmes are funded by taxes paid by member states to Brussels anyway. For Labour, it seems that it would be better for Malta to fork out the money directly, rather than having 25 countries pooling their contributions together and generate equal opportunities for all our children and students.
If this is what partnership boils down to, then theres a skewed logic of desperation at work here.
The question here is where will Labour get its Lm1.5 million for its education fund from ? And the answer is our taxes.
Labour has nowhere else to go, apart from turning back and scooping up taxes to fund what are nothing but sound-bites intended to sweeten the partnership spiel. There will be more to come in the future of half-baked plans that are supposed to entice the voter into thinking that paying their way out should be better than receiving a beneficiary.
Partnership is no panacea this way. The country has come this far in recognising it has to cure its educational, environmental, social and economic ills.
But not by sticking to what has been Maltas inward-looking economic formula for the last 50 years. But thats Labours take on the way forward. And its called partnership.