1 October 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

Toon this week: Drydocks - hard hit lately

Tackling Malta’s unsustainable economy seriously

After the summer ‘holiday’ government is showing the first signs of getting back to business, and has indicated that it is not afraid to tackle the harder stumbling blocks.
The financial situation of the country does not leave the government with many alternatives, and with each passing week news about our economy does not get any rosier.
The truth must be said that the Nationalist party in government has never before tried to tackle the problems at our shipyards properly. A political decision was taken, based partially on fear that a PN government could never get the Drydocks management to actuate serious reform, to subsidise the docks rather than face redundancies and civil unrest. It was deemed more convenient to pump public funds into a dying enterprise.
It was only after Labour’s stint in government that the Nationalists realised the playing field had changed. Alfred Sant sent out clear indications that his intention was to reform the Drydocks, leaving the PN in the enviable position of being able to implement reform without attracting the wrath of the Opposition.
But the PN in government has rarely shown its mettle in actuating major reforms and has always been a party that sought compromise.
Now it is more than clear that subsidising the Drydocks cannot continue and the PN will have to face in the next few years all that it failed to do in the past 16 or so.
The stalemate between government and GWU is not expected to last long and the government must set out an agenda and timeframe for change with people appointed to ensure targets are reached.
The Drydocks has now become the PN government’s favourite punching bag ahead of major electoral appointments. It has become a winning card in the face of waning electoral support. But while the Drydocks, for historical political reasons, and the very large subsidy has remained a main focus of attention, it would be wrong to assume that it is the only area of government responsibility that needs radical reform. All the parastatal organisations need a long hard look at, and special attention should be given to ensure all enjoy lean and appropriately paid management.
Any suggestion of a wage freeze for Drydocks employees reminds us all of the Mintoff years and while keeping the total wage bill under control should be a stated aim, freezing everybody’s wages may not be the best option as it can lead to greater inefficiency and greater losses for the ‘yard. The government would do better to tie wages to efficiency and performance.
The GWU must also shoulder its responsibility and refrain from demanding wage increases across the board.
Unions cannot continue to be seen to obstruct what can only be beneficial for the country. The General Workers Union is called upon to make practical suggestions and accept that the country cannot continue supporting an industry that costs the Maltese public up to Lm20 million yearly.

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