09 APRIL 2003

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Toon this week: Credit where credit is due

Promises and pacts vs. EU membership

The idea of a pact with a nation, especially from a party in government, can be a noble exercise. When it comes from an party in opposition on the eve of election, it is bound to smack of political opportunism. That Labour Leader Dr Alfred Sant claimed to sign the pact with a sense of humility makes it all the more laughable.
Pictures of notary Mark Sammut and Labour Party candidates and officials sitting stoically in the background did nothing to convince us that a momentous occasion was at hand.
A pact is in some ways equal to a contract and that is why Dr Mark Sammut’s services were required, but everybody knows that a contract with only one party is an invalid one. We are supposed to assume that voting Labour in the elections would be, in some obscure way, an acceptance of the contract signed by the three honourable gentlemen: Dr Alfred Sant, Dr George Vella and Dr Joe Brincat. However, as every notary and lawyer will tell you, a contract is usually negotiated by both parties and in Malta we are very fond of negotiating and in this case the nation played no part.
Labour’s pact is to be accepted as a contract that the Labour Party leadership has drawn up, decided all the conditions for itself and signed, effectively putting its own future on the line. Or is it?
There is no adjudicating process to decide whether the Labour Party has stepped out of line and, more importantly, there are no definite targets by which the population will be able to judge its leaders.
The promised tax exemptions have simply been transcribed into the pact, when nobody doubted the Malta Labour Party would not carry them out. The problem with those is that they would endanger our economy and come at the wrong time.
If government promises of the past on the environment, including those of Labour, are anything to go by, then there is little to read into, while the idea of tourism projects every year would seem to contradict any idea that Labour wants to improve the environment. Most of these projects have deleterious environmental consequences and could have long term negative impacts on Malta’s tourism offer.
At the end of the day, Labour’s pact must be put into perspective by comparing it with all that Malta will gain should it join the EU. Lm90 million in funds during the first three years, up to Lm58 million yearly as improvements to health and the environment, a stable political and economic state that will attract investment and improve standards.
The opposite side of the coin, pact or no pact, is that Malta would face years of uncertainty in its negotiations for partnership, followed possibly by yet more years in re-negotiations for EU membership to get an inferior deal than Malta has now, should Labour’s proposed referendum produce and pro-membership outcome. Malta simply cannot afford so many more years of uncertainty.

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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