26 MARCH 2003

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Toon this week: Last laugh!?

A chance of losing out

The election is some 17 days away.
On Sunday 13 April we will all be anxious to know the outcome of the results. It will be a close call, unless one segment of the electorate chooses, or falls, for the partnership option.
It should not be the case.
The option of getting into Europe clearly outweighs the advantages of not becoming a full member. The short-terms gains of staying out may appear attractive, but the long term isolation of missing out will lead to more problems than solutions.
Let us for one moment imagine what will happen if we choose to stay out.
In the first instance we will suffer with those whom we have chosen to castigate and ridicule and it will take some time before we reaffirm some standing with the European Union Commission.
It does not stop here, all the legal and technical preparations that have been painstakingly negotiated by the government will be lost.
The worst part will be the loss of funds, missing out on Lm81 million over a three-year period will confirm how downright stupid we are, it will also lead to havoc in the business community. And it will do anything but trigger confidence in investors to look at Malta.

Electoral paraphernalia

Two and a half weeks into the election campaign and we now have the political manifestos officially out in public. For most of the electorate they are meaningless booklets containing promises to be broken once political victory is achieved.
Indeed, the publication of the manifestos half way through the electoral campaign, at least by the main parties, indicates that the manifestos are nothing more than electoral paraphernalia for the political parties.
The 51-page Labour manifesto is a collection of bullet-point proposals covering different sectors and issues. It is an elaborated re-hash of the 1998 manifesto, which never came to fruition.
It is a bold programme of government but in certain aspects the MLP manifesto lacks conviction. The biggest question mark is the uncertainty that the proposed partnership policy with the EU will bring about. No time-frame is set for negotiations and this country might very well be left in a state of inertia for many years to come in relation to its foreign policy direction.
The response to Labour’s manifesto is the Nationalist Party’s 30-page glossy booklet that is a good exercise in presentation. It lays the groundwork for the modernisation of the island firmly entrenched in the European Union. It strays from the traditional manifestos highlighting promises in different sectors and focuses more on achievements by the current government administration. The manifesto is entirely crafted on the negotiated package with the EU and might lack an emphasis on issues unrelated to EU membership.
The minnow of Maltese politics, Alternattiva Demokratika, published its electoral manifesto way back in November and it includes more than 400 proposals. AD’s political road map is not one solely based on membership of the EU but it still recognises the importance of Malta joining.
Despite the central importance political manifestos should have in any electoral campaign the run-up to the election, more than any other before it, is heavily focussed on the respective leaders. It is a pity for the more discerned voter who prefers to evaluate proposals, vision and cost-effectiveness to have the political campaign reduced to a one-man show on all three sides.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
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