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Partisanship must not rear its head

The latest developments in the political sector could impact differently on various aspects of business activity in Malta. The first reaction after Monday night’s announcement by the Prime Minister, once the Government had fallen, that he would advise the President to dissolve Parliament on January 7 and hold the general election on March 9 must have been a sigh of relief.

There is a new kind of uncertainty. But in some regards, the position is clearer
- Lino Spiteri

For months on end, there has been constant uncertainty about the future of the Government making it extremely difficult to take business decisions. There is nothing that economic activity hates more than uncertainty. Will the Government fall or will it hang on, was the question on everyone’s lips. That was accompanied by tightly clenched fists which refused to open to spend in the usual fashion or to sign important decisions. Now that a decision has been taken, there is a new kind of uncertainty. But in some regards the position is clearer.

The clearer aspect lies in the perceived spending intentions of voters. There is nothing in the political air which should hold back consumers from doing their Christmas shopping. They know where they stand. There will be no nasty surprises from the political parties who have agreed to halt the shooting and crossing of swords until January 6.

True enough it might be the case that what the politicians propose will not necessarily be what some consumers dispose. It was unfortunate that the fighting pause statement was accompanied by another contradictory statement, being the advice by the new Nationalist deputy leader to party supporters to pick an argument while shopping should anyone bring politics up.

But he probably was overtaken by events. One should look forward to a couple of weeks of concentration on the primary objectives of Christmas and the New Year, which is to celebrate peacefully and to bring cheer to others, especially children and loved partners, with a suitable gift. That is what business people will hope for and that is what they should get.

Contributing to that will be the media, so far filled to overflowing with politics. From now on, the media should carry features symbolising this period of the year, Yuletide and all it stands for.

A reflection though – do not take anything for granted. The social media, in particularly Facebook, are already carrying belligerent declarations by individuals bent on spouting the political mantras, whatever the parties may say. At least they are being countered by others who take offence at such declarations of war and use their comments to offset the negative waves sent by the insatiable combatants.

For the business community, consumption is not enough. Their production and stocking up are done. What they and others will be looking forward to assess will be investment decisions by the future.

These will be affected by the electoral campaigns. One hopes that such campaigns are carried out responsibly in so far as the economy goes.

There are already signs that much of the campaign will be taken over by scaremongering. Such tactics should have their limits.

If scaremongering is extended to the economic sectors they will deter investment decisions and the whole of society will suffer harm, irrespective of whichever party is elected.

In the stances of the political parties there is nothing to suggest that they will be very different from each other in the policies they will pursue. Ideology is practically nowhere to be seen.

Talk is of economic growth and how to get more of it. The correct balance of economic growth is what the country needs and may the political parties compete in that area until they fall to the ground from fatigue.

Whatever the political parties will do there will be a degree of uncertainty about future policies which will linger on weeks after the general election result has been announced, and the new government starts working. May that uncertainty be cleared up as soon as possible.

Even in the best of times, timely investment decisions are required. Unhappily for all, these are not the best of external times.

In the process of the election campaign and the early life of the new government, whatever its hue, much will depend on the performance of the civil service, of public sector employees at every level and in each sector.

Their energy and focus must not flag. Infighting between partisans should be stopped by their own colleagues.

For a given period it will be they who would really be making the public sector tick. As tick it must if the private sector is to be able to get on with its job, which is primarily to lay the foundations for economic growth which everyone aspires too.

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