Jobs, balanced books and Joe Public
Although I cannot recall the occasion, Dom Mintoff’s words still ring in my ears. As does his rueful lament that compared to his success in making the British Government and Nato cough up unprecedented millions his efforts to create work opportunities were mainly abject failures.
Little did he realise at the time that the tactics he employed to wheedle out money from the West were counterproductive and undermined the island’s political stability. In Mintoff’s 13-year stewardship of post-independence Malta his solution consisted in a plethora of labour corps under military discipline – the Dejma, Iżra u Rabbi, the Pioneers and Dirgħajn il-Maltin.
When Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Mintoff’s handpicked successor was faced with a more daunting unemployment problem he opted for an easier, though more economically disastrous solution. Months before the 1987 election he launched an open-ended recruitment drive and absorbed 8,000 mostly unqualified corps members and registered unemployed into the public administration.
The consequences and financial burden of this ploy to sweep the issue under the carpet and garner support at the polls led to Labour’s defeat, budget deficits and a burgeoning national debt.
Prime Minister Alfred Sant did not fare better, and on passing the baton back to Eddie Fenech Adami lumbered him with a more disastrous situation. Malta’s political history records that the Labour Party’s pragmatic, self-serving, economically unsound stabs at job creation have been systematic failures and that it is yet to realise that political stability and an educated, well-trained workforce are key to job creation.
Lawrence Gonzi’s administration saved 5,000 workers from getting the sack and holds the all-time record for taking the total of gainfully employed to 153,000. These include 20,000 new jobs created in the 2008 to 2013 legislature. This undeniable fact is confirmed eloquently by the UĦM and not least by the GWU’s silence.
Although spuriously and unconvincingly contested by Labour, this result stems mainly from well- thought-out policies and the beneficial effect of EU accession. In the past five years an average of 4,000 professionals have graduated annually from the University, Mcast, Junior College and ITS.
Although some are employed overseas, few if any are on the employment register. Meanwhile, we pensioners can continue to work and earn something extra without losing part of our pension.
Malta has one of the EU’s lowest jobseeker rates. Most of the 7,000 registered unemployed genuinely look for work. The majority are low skilled, hence the 2013 Budget measure to enhance their employability. Making sure their future is secure remains an absolute priority.
More encouraging is the surge in female participation, particularly women under 34. This huge increase underscores the success since Malta’s accession to the EU and the adoption of the euro. Lest one should forget, Labour and Joseph Muscat in particular contested accession and euro adoption tooth and nail.
The PN manifesto proposes additional initiatives that build on the party’s achievements in education and the social policy sector, encourage further female participation and bolster job opportunities.
Although the 1996-98 Labour Government pledged to retain the stipend system, it failed to honour the commitment, and on being elected converted educational subventions to loans. Those who recall Sant’s VAT debacle are painfully aware that Labour is not new to such mendacious ploys.
Readers will recall that when Labour was last in government, Muscat was Sant’s most enthusiastic cheerleader. By comparison and notwithstanding the ill-effects of the global financial crisis, the PN enjoys the proud record of honouring the near totality of its 2008 electoral pledges.
Labour knows that the PN’s pledge to create 25,000 new jobs in the next five years is not a gimmick but an absolute necessity. Labour’s disbelief and previous track record do not augur well and disclose its inability to deliver on this score. The PN’s tried-and-tested policies and track record show the target is achievable, and if re-elected, can meet these goals.
Gonzi’s administration has placed Malta’s finances on a secure footing and aims to achieve a balanced budget by 2016. Moreover, for the first time in Malta’s political history the Nationalist Party has published an estimate of the cost involved in implementing its manifesto pledges.
On the other hand Labour has only just published its manifesto, and despite promising to do so, has not given more details of its power station proposal.
Muscat’s reason for taking this piecemeal approach is an insult to the electorate. He frets and worries that bombarding voters with Labour’s manifesto measures all at one go would confuse the electorate.
In other words, Muscat continues to bank on the premise that Joe Public is not savvy enough to understand, and can be taken for a ride.