Employing 8,000 civil servants
before 1987 election was a mistake Attard Montalto
employment of 8,000 workers with the civil service on the eve of the
1987 election by the then Labour administration has long been blamed
as one of the major contributors to the exorbitant increase in government
expenditure by subsequent Nationalist administrations.
The Labour Party has never acknowledged its mistake, until last Monday,
when MP John Attard Montalto admitted that the employment of 8,000 people
was a mistake and a burden on public funds. It was the first public
admittance by a top Labour exponent that the decision taken back then
The mass employment was a brainchild of then prime minister Karmenu
Mifsud Bonnici, who, in a bid to come to terms with massive unemployment
and plummeting popularity, bloated the civil service with 8,000 additional
employees on the eve of the all-important 1987 election.
Dr Attard Montalto was speaking on TVM programme Reporter that dealt
with the precarious state of the economy and governments finances.
The Labour former minister was sitting along side parliamentary secretary
Edwin Vassallo and both were receiving flack from Chamber of Commerce
President Reginald Fava.
In no uncertain terms Mr Fava said that the onus was on politicians
to reach consensus on important issues such as curbing tax evasion and
halting abuse of social services. Mr Fava said that instead of making
people redundant and raising taxes, government should fight tax evasion
and encourage a mentality that nothing came for free. Citing as an example
the health sector, Mr Fava said that those who could afford should pay
at least a nominal fee for public health services. The Chamber of Commerce
president added that unless both sides of the political divide did not
find common ground the country would be heading straight into a brick
It was at this point that Dr Attard Montalto admitted the Labour governments
mass employment mistake and added that it was further compounded by
subsequent Nationalist administrations that employed more people with
the civil service for political convenience.
The former minister for industry then floated the idea of a national
government and said that if the current administration was serious about
reaching consensus on major issues it should respect the Opposition
and give due weight to its criticism.
Parliamentary Secretary Edwin Vassallo insisted that the country was
entering into a new phase of co-operation. He added that decisions were
now being taken to tackle major financial black holes.
However, the last word was for Dr Attard Montalto. In a passing comment
toward the end of the programme the Labour MP sought to share the onus
of the blame with business people and urged Mr Fava to also address
his fellow businessmen on issues such as tax evasion.