20 September 2006

The Web
Business Today

Mid-life crisis

After 42 years of independence Malta is passing through a mid-life crisis and it is not just an economic problem.
The country is at the crossroads of democracy. There needs to be an evolution of the democratic processes that govern this country. Too many people are feeling that the rule of law is failing them. While contractors and speculators seem to get away with murder, ordinary citizens have to face the brunt of law enforcement and bureaucracy.
This situation is eroding the moral fibre of the country. When people start feeling at a loss in front of institutions that should be protecting them it is only natural that more and more individuals would take recourse to corruption, the flaunting of laws and other petty crime to improve their standard of living. It is a very sad situation to hear ordinary citizens say that if crime pays for the bigwigs, it should also pay for them.
A similar situation can be experienced in the world of business where certain businesspersons feel they are disadvantaged by others who do not play by the accepted rules. This creates unfair competition that is detrimental to the economy and society.
It is this moral malaise that needs to be redressed by an overhaul of the democratic processes of this country.
To this day Malta remains the only European country to have only two political parties represented in parliament with an electoral system that makes it almost impossible for a wider representation of views. The strictly duopolistic system conditions debate and stifles diversity.
The ownership of TV stations by the two major parties is another blotch on the democratic credentials of this country. They not only infect public discourse with half-truths but also distort the market place.
And political party financing remains unregulated, opening the floodgates to corruption and nepotism.
Public appointments are more often than not conditioned by political allegiance and not merit, dividing the country’s limited human resources into two tribes.
There is little to suggest that the current crop of leaders is ready to carry out the changes required to strengthen the democratic processes in this country. And while the rot continues people lose hope in the present and fear the future.
While it is paramount for this country to perpetuate change in the economic and social spheres, the democratic dimension also needs to be addressed. Joining the European Union was an important step forward since it put to rest once and for all the spectre of the violent eighties.
But that reasoning on its own is not enough to propel this country into the future. Malta is crying out for change and politicians have a duty to respond.
Listening to what people have to say and understanding public concerns and aspirations is important but visionary politicians do much more than that.
Leaders inspire their followers, give hope and portray courage. They convince people to rally around their vision changing the course of history in the process.
Who will stand out from the crowd? Who will offer this country inspirational leadership? Unfortunately, these questions will most probably remain unanswered.
Strengthening the rules of democracy requires vision. If nothing is done to redress the situation, the very tenets of democracy - trust, respect, freedom and justice - risk being eroded.
And civil society has a role to play in stopping the decay. This leader only hopes that the sparks, witnessed during the first half of this year when ordinary citizens and non-governmental organisations took to the streets to voice their concerns and express their frustration with decisions taken by government, grow into a fire that lights up the road ahead.
If ordinary citizens can stand up to be counted, if people put their foot down and stop being complacent, this country can be saved from the chronic illness of despondency that is slowly setting in.
This country’s mid-life crisis should not drag on indefinitely. A new beginning is called for.

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