The cost of partisanship
The dust that was raised over the electoral arena has now settled and the new team led by Joseph Muscat had sufficient time to grip the administrative ropes. Having completed their stocktaking for the year 2013, Cabinet ministers are peering into the future. Our parliamentary system will be put to the test and the electorate will be taking the measure of the maturity of our political class.
As an independent State, Malta has assumed responsibility for its own survival in competition with other countries. It has to live on its own earnings, in the full knowledge that no one owes it a living.
All of this imposes its imperatives. Increasingly and systematically, all the social partners in these islands must come round to realise the necessity of a change in their psychological outlook, and of pulling the same rope, in order to upgrade their administrative and managerial system, their economic infrastructure and their productive resources.
Changing the psychological outlook is a slow process. Considering that, on attaining independence, Malta’s challenge was to switch from a fortress to a market economy, our initial overall performance deserves a fair pass mark. Malta registered progressive steps towards liberalisation and outward looking initiatives in search of footholds in overseas markets.
Confidence gave us an impulse and a motive for further growth. And the revised policies supporting private enterprise and promoting market forces were important positive factors in the context of this psychological change.
Pluralism opened new horizons for public opinion and the emergence of the floating vote, as a significant political force, helped to change the national outlook. Malta’s accession to Europe has also opened new vistas. It has been by no means plain sailing all the way. The government overplayed its hand by persistent deficit spending. Malta was burdened by a structural deficit and a mountain of debt. It got no help from its bureaucracy, notorious for dragging its feet and looking after its own.
All problems notwithstanding, Malta has survived but it still lacks resilience.
Members of Parliament on both sides of the House now have to decide whether Maltese politics are to be weaned of polarisation and of the partisan divisions of the past and whether they could be conducive to new efforts to work together in a bid to break into the wide open spaces where opportunities await our economy.
It is within their power to agree on formulas that would make it possible for a bipartisan approach on issues that promote the national interest and strengthen the economy of these islands.
It is time for them to consider providing more space for the social partners and for technical experts to be drawn in promoting initiatives designed to foster growth and to give momentum to Malta’s aspirations in the technological and managerial spheres.
Rather than trying to justify past policies faulted by maladministration and profligacy – part of which was hidden from the public eye –now is the time to define an agreed sense of direction; to draw up, at least, a tentative plan of action and to decide on priorities.
Malta has passed through a phase of disillusionment and despondency, some of which was self-inflicted. It would be counterproductive and, in the long run, harmful if those who inflicted the damage by omission and commission were to be shielded. At a minimum, they should be put out of harm’s way.
Equally, it would be an invitation to disaster if Malta’s immediate future were to be administered, by guess and by God, by an Administration operating without checks and balances.
It is time for the two parties represented in Parliament to live up to the spirit of the times and to devise effective and efficient formulas to deploy Malta’s scarce resources to maximum profit.
The two parties must work together, committing themselves to the prudent husbandry of our economic potential.
Unless the two parties find a way to paddle the same canoe, Malta will pay the price of mischief.
The Year 2013 is a year of high stakes for Malta. Politicians are in the frontline.