24 September 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

Toon this week: Malta’s 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 Minister’s speech on Saturday. Instead the constituted bodies, NGO’s, 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 government’s 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 country’s top man that job creation, the welfare system, the public service, government deficit and the drydocks are the country’s 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 the agenda.
With European Union membership now secured, the Prime Minister’s 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 sectors.
The welfare system, a prime focus since the election, also came in the Prime Minister’s 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 government’s 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 year’s budget projections will not be met because of reduced revenue, which he tried to pin on tax evasion.
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 in revenue.
The last of the Famous Five is the ever-present drydocks issue. The Dockyard has become government’s habitual punching bag in times of ‘need.’
Not that the Prime Minister isn’t 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 debate.
Budget 2004 promises to be one of the hardest budgets to prepare for in recent years. In the Prime Minister’s 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. It’s going to take leadership and determination, two qualities that have been lacking in the country’s administration since the election. Hopefully, the summer break will have injected a new sense of impetus the country so heavily needs.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail