In pursuit of good governance
There can hardly be any doubts that the private accounts of all politicians are in the black. In a TV interview recently, I heard a top politician saying his family financial affairs are very ably managed by his wife. Not the same can be said of our national finances, which are in an extremely dire state.
This issue does not seem to be something to worry about in the political arena, were heaven and earth is being promised. I admire those who give an approximate cost of the projects being proposed. This allows the people to see for themselves which way our finances will go.
The credibility of our future leaders must be evaluated not only on the basis of examples given but also in terms of solid and innovative projects being promised.
Accountability and responsibility are not only a must, they should be enshrined, if need be in the Constitution too.
All reports drawn up by boards of government entities and by investigative authorities have to be made public. It is definitely in the public interest to be informed.
How can a citizen take the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s building policies seriously when, even during the hearing on a permit application, it is claimed that construction works are already in progress yet nothing happens? How is it that existing illegal buildings are sanctioned, in breach of Mepa’s own policies, but, then, a simple replacement of an old archway inside a private home is not either not allowed or the permit takes years to be processed and issued?
Members of the House of Representatives have a moral duty to participate in debates and not abstain. They should lead by example and prove to citizens that the country’s affairs are being handled seriously and effectively.
The suggestion by the Speaker that his office must not be considered as a government department is extremely valid and has to be implemented. That is if we want Parliament to be run efficiently and impartially.
I personally strongly believe that all MPs should be full-timers. It is absolutely ridiculous and impossible to expect a parliamentary backbencher to contribute effectively towards the country’s interest if s/he is on a part-time basis. Those who hold a profession must choose what their primary interest is. Is it their profession or the honour and privilege of serving unreservedly their country?
Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono raised several valid points. His attitude may have been lacking in certain aspects but his views were valid. The way he spoke on backbenchers hit the nail on the head. No backbencher can be happy simply expected to toe the party line then just vote when there’s a division in the House.
Professional people thinking of contesting a parliamentary seat must weigh everything before they decide to make the move. Obviously, they deserve to be adequately compensated.
Former Speakers have agreed that MPs should be full-timers. Miriam Spiteri Debono suggested that, initially, elected MPs should be given a choice but, eventually, all should be in Parliament on a full-time basis.
Our electoral system has several flaws. A candidate’s surname is one of them. Take the European Parliament elections, for example, to see how the more popular candidates suffered because names appear on the ballot paper in alphabetical order.
Also votes can be indirectly ‘bought’ by candidates who hold a profession. This is done by reducing a client’s fee or even giving one’s services free of charge.
So, can we really say that ours are ‘free’ and ‘fair’ elections and put all candidates on the same level?
Another point I wish to raise is the fact that Parliament is dominated by a few professions.
Thus, which MP will dare or have the guts to introduce a law or a bye-law that will affect his/her profession?
Also, why is it that supervisory boards are composed of people coming from the same professions that are to be investigated or where changes are necessary?
All these matters need to be looked into.
How can our representatives make a valid contribution to the country when they are in Parliament on a part-time basis, especially now that the country forms part of the European Union, where new laws are enacted daily?
If this is the time for change, let’s go for it. I, for one, wish that if this country opts for a second republic this should be thorough, with all the necessary changes being made.
This electoral campaign is innovative in many aspects. Young people are taking an active part, and this can only be good in terms of prospects of future politicians. Some already are contesting and it’s heartening to hear some of them giving a good account of themselves as they air their views.
Well done and best of luck to all.
Lino DeBono is a former Labour member of Parliament.