this week: Maltas five problematic points
Leadership and determination
There was no hint of the pre-electoral floss on national
interest and the buttering up of civil society in the Prime Ministers
speech on Saturday. Instead the constituted bodies, NGOs, entrepreneurs
and unions were asked to shoulder their part of the responsibility in
shoring up the country.
Dr Fenech Adami was adamant in his appeal: "These sectors should
look first at the common good when negotiating on behalf of their members
and not be blinded by sectoral interests."
He did rope in government when referring to the need for everybody to
pass from words to action. But little did the Prime Minister say about
his governments responsibility when referring to the five major
problems facing the country. After all, the Nationalist administration
has been in power for the last 15 years bar the 22-month hiatus between
1996 and 1998.
Now we have a clear admittance from the countrys top man that
job creation, the welfare system, the public service, government deficit
and the drydocks are the countrys most pressing problems.
The Famous Five, as Lino Spiteri described the problems
in an article penned last Monday, are issues that have long been on
With European Union membership now secured, the Prime Ministers
discourse has shifted to a more sober tone.
He pinpointed that in an increased globalised environment, manufacturing
is set to suffer and the country needs to prop up its services and tourism
The welfare system, a prime focus since the election, also came in the
Prime Ministers line of fire. Dr Fenech Adami insisted that reforms
were imperative to ensure the sustainability of our pensions, health
and social security systems for the next two decades.
There was no hint of governments failure to tackle these issues
over the past 15 years even though they have been staring the country
in the face.
After years of throwing money at the public service with not enough
determination to reduce the work force, on Saturday Dr Fenech Adami
said that a white paper on civil service reform was to be published.
This could possibly be one of the biggest tasks facing government, but
one, which would have a direct bearing on deficit control. The Prime
Minister also admitted that last years budget projections will
not be met because of reduced revenue, which he tried to pin on tax
While tax evasion remains a national pastime it is highly debatable
whether the loss in revenue can be blamed solely on evasion. Slower
economic growth and no exceptional inputs into government coffers such
as the MIA one-off payment last year, could very well explain the reduction
The last of the Famous Five is the ever-present drydocks issue. The
Dockyard has become governments habitual punching bag in times
Not that the Prime Minister isnt right. Despite attempts at reform
the yard is still losing millions of Liri. With a bleak future
ahead of it, the General Workers Union would be foolish to shun
its responsibility in discussions for a new collective agreement that
does not increase the dockyards burden on Malta.
But why the Prime Minister chose to particularly pinpoint the drydocks
when other companies are also siphoning off millions in subsidies remains
a question mark.
The country faces tough times ahead of it as government comes to terms
with problems that were sidelined because of the European Union membership
Budget 2004 promises to be one of the hardest budgets to prepare for
in recent years. In the Prime Ministers words, the country needs
new attitudes and new ideas from everybody. Words have now to turn to
action and even if reforms may not please everybody, the country has
to find the courage to move on. Its going to take leadership and
determination, two qualities that have been lacking in the countrys
administration since the election. Hopefully, the summer break will
have injected a new sense of impetus the country so heavily needs.