So now we’ve had three full evenings of:
- Finance Minister’s two hour long (+ or -) reading of his 2022 Budget speech;
- Opposition Leader Dr Bernard Grech’s two-hour long (again + or -) replying speech to that Budget Speech; and
- PM Dr Robert Abela’s also replying speech (again + or -) to Bernie Grech’s speech.
And so the inevitable question should be, where do we stand? Nobody will blame the many “Don’t know yet!” voters if they will all reply “Great shakes man, we’re no wiser now than we were on the Sunday before Clyde stood up to start reading the day after. What is the reasoning of this group of people trying to get at?
Many of these people cannot but be happy with the several ‘here-and-now’ measures in the Budget. For example, €5 per week for pensioners, belated free public transport for everyone, some (but rather few!) efforts to start quelling the excessive powers of the MDA lobby, and so on an so forth. At the same time however, those in this group of citizens who are attentive to that world out there are also laboring under the feeling that the Budget did not really outline the nitty-gritty realities of what is in fact two, three, four and more, years down the road for the country.
One question which is being constantly repeated is this: where and what are the really and totally brand new ideas in the Budget about several of the issues which Malta faces today? They, necessarily, have to be totally and bravely brand new, because some of the situations of the present will simply not go away with more of the same. It is all right for both the PM and Justice Minister Dr Zammit Lewis to keep insisting on totally good governance, and law and order. But the fact remains that the Budget said nothing about how this big cloud of Malta’s having been grey-listed by the FATF, and the current freedoms still being enjoyed by so many corrupt practitioners (businessmen, politicians, professionals, and what not) still at large and indulging in business-as-usual, go away.
But hold on. Is that stuff for inclusion in a budget speech and the related speeches according to current parliamentary practices? The answer is yes, only if one accepts the reality that such national illnesses effectively have an impact on the lives, and indeed also the finances, now and into the future, of so many citizens. When some economists describe corruption as “a tax” they are not far out wrong, and so perhaps the people at large are still simply waiting for action, action, action… indeed the news need to be full, on a daily basis, of measures being implemented in these directions.
Tourism, i-Gaming, financial services, building and construction, and so on are still the basic current backbones of the Maltese economy. It is there that jobs exist and, it seems, will continue to exist for the Maltese, and any foreigners who may still consider coming to work here. But that still remains nowhere near the desired vision of a totally different future. At the moment, tourism is still just a numbers-numbers-numbers, not quality, game. (A really brave and totally innovative budget measure would have been an announcement that no more permits for the buildings of any new hotels will be granted by the Planning Authority over the next five years). I-Gaming: again, no more permits for new firms which will continue to have the majority of their employees as non-Maltese-speaking.
And so on and so forth: with that type of political kamikaze decision-taking which, fact remains, is still totally absent from our country. You see… votes always reign supreme in Malta! Other measures can be taken at such points and levels and in such measures as will perhaps bring again some sanity in the way our parliamentary business is carried out.
Why should important discussion of ministerial votes be simply limited to such restricted one morning, or one afternoon, or one evening, sessions? How can a proper debate on foreign affairs, on education, on the environment, and what not be circumscribed to such paucity of time? Question time too, this has become a charade: ministers often never there in the House to answer questions in person, supplementary questioning for effective scrutiny of any minister’s operations rarely if ever developed.
There is currently much that is rotten in (to quote the bard) “the state of Denmark”… and we simply haven’t started to clean the stables in any clearly evident manner yet.