Is ploughing on with Budget right?

An oriental proverb seems to fit in with Lawrence Gonzi’s political thinking: the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on. The Prime Minister has decided to press on with his Government’s plans to present a Budget next month, even though he knows he is likely to come up against brick walls in the shape of one, or maybe even two, rebel MPs.

The Labour Party has extended its lead over the Nationalist Party in the opinion polls but Dr Gonzi believes it is still right to present the financial estimates for the next financial year.

The Government risks falling immediately after the Budget is brought up for a vote in Parliament and if this is the case there will be a considerable gap between the dissolution of Parliament and the taking over of a new Administration after the general election. Such a delay would be most unhealthy for Malta. The Government really ought to have called the election months ago when the first trouble broke out between the Administration and three of its backbenchers.

Dr Gonzi wrongly preferred following a policy of appeasement than facing the situation head on.

It could be that, considering the Government had still not recovered from the backlash of a number of mistakes it had made during this legislature, he may have felt it had no alternative other than holding on to power.

However, its appeasement policy appears to have worked against it and even the prospect of a November election seemed to make more sense for the country than delaying matters still further.

Now that it held on this far, the natural course seems to be to present the financial estimates. There is, of course, no guarantee that Labour will be elected. Only the election will decide that.

As experience has shown both in Malta and, even more so abroad, circumstances may vary to an extent that they could change a party’s fortunes even at the last minute.

Knowing this, and also the fact that there are still a substantial number of voters who may not yet have made up their minds, there is little alternative – especially considering the stage the Government has now reached against advice from various quarters – but to present the Budget.

Through the Budget, the Government would want to show its record in the face of economic adversity.

It admits mistakes but it also has tangible evidence of the good work it has done over the years.

This has translated itself into the creation of the right environment for the generation of jobs and for stability in the island’s economic climate, something the Government can be proud of in the face of the difficult situation that countries much larger than Malta are experiencing today.

It can very well say, with its head held high, that it has been able to steer the ship in the right direction. It may still have a way to go before it can reach port but the circumstances have never been this difficult.

Its record on this front is clearly going to be the Government’s strongest card.

Labour, on the other hand, has yet to tell the public what it plans to do.

Voters are unlikely to feel confident about the PL unless it takes them into its confidence. This should happen sooner rather than later.


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