22 October 2003

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Toon this week: Classroom politics - Fava style

Avoiding a nose dive

Government seems to have woken up from its mid-summer night’s dream and has started to tackle with resolve financial black holes that are impinging on government finances.
The first two bold attempts are the Drydocks and PBS, where government has put its foot down and is demanding leaner, more efficient and profitable organisations.
The discourse has been tough and hopefully it will be followed with equally tough action. Half-baked solutions such as the creation of new companies to absorb the ‘extra’ employees should be scrapped. These are only stop-gap solutions to buy industrial peace. The end result would be financial white elephants that would depend on government funding for survival.
Reducing employees whose wages are dependent on the public purse and reforming outdated work practices is a must. But there is one pertinent argument to be made.
This government, like any other before it, has much to blame for most of the overstaffing in public entities and corporations. It also has much to blame for extravagant pre-electoral promises that were not costed according to the financial situation of the country.
With such a heavy conscious it is almost impossible for government to get us out of this financial and economic straight jacket without having to contend with a lot of finger-pointing.
Speaking on TVM programme Reporter last Monday, Chamber of Commerce President Reginald Fava put his finger on the wound. He blamed politicians of all shades and colour for employing people with the civil service as if the State was their private company. Reginald Fava also accused politicians of fostering the dangerous mentality that government services come for free.
But it was Reginald Fava’s comments on tax evasion and abuse of social services that hit the nail on the head. If making employees redundant is politically and socially sensitive, on curbing tax evasion and stamping out abuse of social services politicians should have no problem to agree on common action.
Abuse is abuse, whoever perpetrates it. It should not be difficult to condemn unless politicians decide to put on blinkers and cater for the petty demands of parochial voters.
Despite concerted efforts over recent years tax evasion is still a national pass time.
While salaried employees have had the noose tightened, little has been done to ensure the self-employed, retailers and professionals do not evade their taxes.
The same can be said for social services where abuse is rampant in almost all areas. And no, we will not be taken in by tears shed by some poor soul, who believes that collecting free medicine entitles him to collect it even when the need for it would have elapsed.
It has been repeated incessantly that the time has come for bold decisions to be taken. It is good that financial white elephants such as PBS and the Drydocks are being dealt with. But the effort must not stop at that. If politicians have the national interest at heart then they must admit past mistakes and agree on the way forward.
No more reports, interminable meetings and lip service. Decisions need to be taken and more importantly implemented. The country is treading a fine line and postponing problems will only serve to stall the engine sending us all into a disastrous nose-dive.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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