29 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2000

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It is the statistics, stupid
Sant needs to figure it out

So, now we have it straight from Alfred Sant’s mouth: the whole budget is a jigsaw puzzle redimensioned by government to cheat the people. And the presentation of statistics is based on inventions and manipulations.

Let us take Dr Sant’s arguments and understand them, and let us be clear about this, clarity is not Dr Sant’s forte, manipulation is.

He is fortified by the fact that he is supported by some armchair socialists who live the life of princes and kings, but pretend to be gladiators of the working class.

1. Dr Sant bares all and reveals the minutes of an Enemalta board meeting courtesy of you-all-know-whom. He describes the ministerial meetings as having doctored Enemalta’s financial statement.
Our comment: misleading
Truth: the ministerial meetings decide on the financial measures that need to be taken to see that Enemalta’s 2001 budget will not fall deep into the red.

2. The former Brussels technocrat argues that the Retail Price Index does not reflect the true rise in fuel and utility bills and therefore the cost of living increase is deflated.
Comment: false
Truth: the retail price index is brokered under the watchful eyes of the social partners. All rises in utility bills and tariffs have been included.

3. The former Harvard graduate talks of a new unemployment figure based on the latest House budgetary survey and disputes the official unemployment registry.
Comment: false
Truth: Alfred Sant is stretching this one too far and he knows this.

4. The former playwright presents his own figure for structural deficit and tax revenue. His figures are concocted by his extrapolation and he refuses to believe the COS statistical data.
Comment: playing with figures
Truth: the same statistics have been scrutinised and regurgitated by financial onlookers such as Moody’s and the European Union commission.

This and many others form the thrust of Dr Sant’s speech, based on the premise that the people are morons and his artful delivery injected with shifts of his eyebrow and careful emphasis of his hands will shift public opinion.

But it does not stop here, Dr Sant cannot match the Minister of Finance, so he calls him Minister Daewoo. But he does not have the spine to continue with his dirty tricks campaign when a point of order is raised.

Dr Sant has a problem. He does not have the ideological depth to counter a budget which is closer to a social democrat’s perception of how things should be done.

He insists that this will have an impact on the lower and middle classes, when 28,000 government workers have just had an approximate Lm25 million pumped into their wage packets.

Dr Sant has a problem. He has to appear to shoot down anything that is presented by John Dalli, even though he knows that the budget has delivered.

To bolster this crusade, he has the adrenaline of that great chip on his shoulder, which he inflicted on himself after losing the election in 1998.

The truth is simple; it will be evident as more results start surfacing, coupled by increased public sector efficiency, more consumer spending, tax compliance at higher income levels, investment growth, stabilisation of the euro, privatisation and a further decline in unemployment to alter that he is in a quandry.

On a show-biz level, Dr Sant should be congratulated. We do not underestimate his ability to convince, but on a level of credibility, truthfulness and direction… he has a problem.

Dr Sant has a reached a new low and this is why he is starting up his dirty tricks campaign on a subject that has many more ramifications than we could ever imagine. But more on this… at the appropriate time.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt