17 December 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

Toon this week: A break from the norm

A monster called bureaucracy

The Lorry Sant days when ministerial blessing was required to implement every administrative decision are no longer with us. Since 1987 the country has slowly come out of the feudal system where a colour television could not be bought unless authorised by a minister or an import license was only granted if the minister deemed fit.
Under subsequent Nationalist administrations ministerial supremacy has been positively diluted to make way for different levels of decision making.
What the pre-1987 Labour administration lacked in bureaucracy was amply made up for in the post-1987 Nationalist era.
But now the pendulum has swung too far away from the centre of power. Ministers have become powerless in the face of powerful bureaucrats.
Consumers, businessmen and the tax-paying general public are often faced with rows upon rows of bureaucracy that shackle efficiency and growth. Faceless civil servants and unaccountable authority employees seem to have one mission in life: turning the lives of their clients into one big hell.
And what do politicians say when faced with complaints from their constituents? You probably know the answer.
Nationalist ministers have shed responsibility for the actions perpetrated by the authorities, foundations and departments they themselves have created.
Parliamentary secretary Edwin Vassallo has every right to criticise the bureaucratic straitjacket that does little to help improve the economic situation in the country.
He is defending the people he represents when he takes the various government departments and authorities to task over their ‘unfriendly’ attitude towards business.
But Vassallo cannot shoot from the hip without acknowledging that he has formed part of the government that created these countless authorities and agencies with little effort to introduce a system of checks and balances.
A balance needs to be found between the strategy to devolve power to different entities and the shouldering of political responsibility to ensure that these entities are actually delivering.
Nobody wants to return to the Lorry Sant days. But neither do we want to put up with a situation where individual entities have become mini empires with no accountability.
When setting up these structures it must be within their brief to streamline as many operations as possible and to make life easy for their clients. Furthermore, government must make sure that people chosen to run the agencies are competent and business-minded. A jobs-for-the-boys mentality will only serve to perpetuate the incompetence and inefficiency that has hounded this country for too long.
And while waging war on senseless bureaucracy, the Nationalist administration would do well to dismantle a couple of other illogical policies such as the limit imposed on the number of pharmacies and the white taxis and port workers monopolies. Business, consumers and taxpayers need to experience the new spring.

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