Monday, 31 July 2000

Letter to the Editor - Reply to Roamer

The Sunday Times of Malta

The Editor, The Sunday Times, Valletta

Dear Sir,

Roamer (Sunday Times 30th July 2000) found difficulty in understanding why I believe termination of this Government`s mandate by December 2001 and elections early in 2002 are in the national interest and an indispensable pre-condition for the round-table national interest conference he suggested. Permit me to explain.

In October 1996 this country democratically elected a Labour Government with a majority exceed two voting quotas which in perfect proportional representation would have given labour government of 1996 a parliamentary majority of two.

This mandate should have run its course till December 2001. Democracy allows five year intervals for government to submit themselves to electoral tests. This democratic process was upset by the combined result of district boundary gerrymandering and the lack of democratic credentials of Mr Mintoff who claimed` the right to impose his view on everybody else`s.

Labour lost its parliamentary majority and could not govern. Whilst it took the country to the polls in the greatest show of democratic credentials, nothing can change the fact that the mandate of 1998 is rooted in lack of real democracy. This is not a legal or constitutional issue. This is a logical and moral issue.

The last electoral mandate that was not rooted in dubious democratic double-speak is that of 1996. This would have expired in December 2001 and till then the Nationalists have the moral right to govern by default of Labour`s ability to do so. In an election the people do not elect only the government but also the opposition that has to step in to govern where the government fails.

After December 2001 the applicable mandate would be that of September 1998 which though perfectly legal and constitutional (so please do not counter-argue with legalities and constitutionalities) is of dubious democratic value as it overrides the valid mandate given in 1996 by the undemocratic behaviour of one single person.

So if a `mountain of goodwill` is needed for the roundtable to succeed this goodwill has to be reciprocated by a `hill of goodwill` to give due respect to the democratic process and electoral mandate in its most basic underlying values.

And there is a further practical reason.` Now that it is clear that EU membership before 2005 is neigh impossible why risk burning two years of this country`s life in the indecision that a lot of the work being done could be just nullified by a Labour electoral victory in an election due by latest February 2004` Now that people are finally starting to understand the realities of EU membership why not give this country a stable government with a five year mandate during which the elected government can execute its clear mandate of EU membership or a Swiss model type of relationship This is clearly what national interest demands. My wonder is why has it to be spoon-fed to people who should know better.

Yours truly,

Alfred Mifsud

Sunday, 30 July 2000

Public Convenience and the National Interest

The Sunday Times of Malta

For nationalist stalwarts like Roamer the national interest is like a public convenience. Promote it when in government; neglect it when in opposition.

My contributions to the press are meant to raise the level of debate from mere partisan feuding to logical problem identification and resolution theory and practice. People like Roamer (Sunday Times 23rd July) treat their readers with disdain when promoting national interest only when the nationalist administration is with its back against the wall.

Firstly let`s rejoice! Finally we have at least some sort of cross-party agreement. There is consensus that there is a problem. Less then two years ago the nationalist party then in opposition, fully supported by Roamer et al, was denying the existence of such problem. It depicted Labour`s effort to raise public awareness of the structural fault in public finances as a mere figment of Labour`s imagination.

Much the same happened when Labour administration started delivering changes at Malta Drydocks meant to instal management accountability and drive substantial improvement in efficiency. The Nationalists from the opposition benches were objecting like a prostitute taking offence to the virgin wearing a skirt above the knee.

When Labour assigned six other much wiser men and myself to co-author a report on new initiatives for creation economic growth, the Nationalist took objection because this report, apart from highlighting new projects like the Cruise Liner Terminal and the Film Industry, indicated a practical socially sensitive way how to ease the financial burden of the excess manpower in the public sector. They castigated Labour in the 1998 election run-up for having the audacity of merely receiving such report!` No trace of the national interest then!

When Labour finance ministers were having to borrow to fill the big black budget hole left behind by the outgoing nationalist administration of 1996, the Nationalist were with their saintly innocence from the opposition benches castigating the government for borrowing to finance the deficit and the unsettled bills they had left behind.` Where was the national interest then`

So before I would attempt to persuade my Leader first on a small and then a big round table conference to agree on principles of how to solve problems which are in the national interest and which no government alone can solve, let Roamer get agreement from his Leader on the following pre-conditions:


This government will terminate its term by Dec 2001 which was the natural expiry of Labour 1996 mandate so that the country can go to fresh elections early in 2002. Such shortening of the mandate is necessary firstly to close this democratically unhealthy mandate which has its origins in the undemocratic ego of Mr Mintoff. Secondly it would be conducive to the bringing of a mountain of goodwill to the roundtable. The prospect of being in government in the near term to take benefit of the national consensus motivates a goodwill approach by the parties involved.


Until then economic re-structuring will take place on areas agreed by Government and Opposition as needing treatment for our own sake to be and remain competitive in a globalised world, not merely to adhere to the EU acquis communitaire.


The 2002 election will be considered as the referendum on Malta`s EU accession.` If the PN wins the Labour Party will have to accept the inevitability of Malta joining irreversibly by 2007. If the MLP wins PN would have to accept that Labour would go for a Swiss style relationship and that the EU membership issue would have to wait till at least 2010.


Both parties have to agree on full audit under the aegis the Ombudsman to have their finances checked and for clear and equitable legislation to be passed putting democratic discipline into the matter of party financing.


Full autonomous audits are to be made by persons trusted by both sides on the Daewoo issue, the Mid-Med Bank fire-sale, and Labour 1992 leadership elections with the results of such audits being published by latest June 2001.

If Roamer can get his Leader`s agreement to these sensible pre-conditions than it would provide a sound basis for my encouraging agreement from Labour on his roundtable proposal.` Non-acceptance of these pre-conditions would on the other hand prove that for the nationalists, national interest is as useful as a public convenience.

The same way the nationalist governments have over the last 13 years used the shipyards as a public convenience to pour hundred of millions of subsidy funds without even attempting a real national interest solution. What makes Roamer think that the nationalists can wake up to their responsibilities after neglecting them for 13 years. And no, Roamer, `the Drydocks problem does not stretch back to 1970 or 1973. `After the 1973 Lm12 million loan write-off ( we now dish them out and more every year) Drydocks made a profit until 1981!

Alfred Mifsud

Min m'ghandux jibqa' sieket

Il-Kullhadd Min m`ghandux jibqa` sieket

Il-Prim Ministru Fenech Adami bhal donnu jrid jahrab mill-problemi li qed jifnu lil pajjiz u jippreferi jiddevja l-attenzjoni billi johloq ipotezi ta` tbaghbis fl-elezzjoni tal-leadership tal-MLP 1992. L-MLP m`ghandux jibqa` sieket kien it-titlu kbir ta` In-Nazzjon .

Naqbel li fil-pajjiz hawn hafna skiet artificjali li jehtieg jinkiser biex tidhol ftit arja friska fit-trasparenza tat-tmexxija. Naqbel li min tefa` d-dubji dwar l-irrapurtat tbaghbis ghandu jew jghid kull ma jaf, jekk jaf,` jew ma jkomplix jaghmel allegazzjonijiet mhux ppruvati mimlija supposizzjoni fuq provi tal-detto sul detto. Zgur mhux il-kaz li l-MLP irid jipprova li dak li gie allegat ma sarx. Sta ghal min jaqla' allegezzjonijiet bhal dawn li jippruvahom.

Hemm hafna aktar affairjiet li jehtieg li min hu resposnsabbli ma jibqax sieket. Dawn mhux hwejjeg mibnija fuq is-supposizzjonijiet.` Dawn huma akkuzi cari u precizi u min hu responsabbli ghandu l-oneru li jiccara jew jammetti.

Ejja nibdew mill-bejgh tal-Mid-Med Bank.` Fl-ebda pajjiz serju fid-dinja ma kien jigri li gara fil-bejgh tal-Mid-Med Bank u min kien responsabbli jibqa` f`postu qisu ma gara xejn. Dan huwa kaz fejn il-Gvern biegh bi prezz li dahhal lill-poplu Malti f`telf ta mill-anqas Lm50 miljun lira mill-prezz li suppost dahhalna. Lm50 miljun lira huma flus kbar li kieku dahhalnihom konna nsoddu hafna feriti li sal-lum ghandhom inixxu u jifnuna.

Dan mhux diskors li ntqal wara li l-froga saret. F`artikli li jien kont ktibt fit-Times kont stidint lill-gvern jaghtini sitt xhur zmien u kont ingib prezz li jirkupra hafna mill-Lm50 miljun mormija mill-ftehim li sar ma` l-HSBC.

Imma l-gvern baqa` ghaddej.` U meta ppressat u beda johrog dettalji li ma setax jahbi izjed bdew hergin bcejjec li lanqas jitwemmnu. John Dalli ftahar li n-negozjati ghamilhom wahdu bla ghajnuna ta` hadd. Dan meta f`kazi bhal dawn hija l-prattika li anke l-esperti igibu esperti ohra biex jghinuhom f`negozjati li jinvolvu miljuni kbar.

U mbaghad meta gew zvelati il-workings ta` kif gie ffissat il-prezz gibt ghajnejja wara widnejja.` Biex wasal ghal prezz, il-qliegh futur tal-Mid-Med gie skuntat ghal valur tal-flus tal-lum b`rata ta 12%. Ghala 12% staqsejt` Ghax 6% huwa il-valur ta` l-imghax.` Kollox sew.` U s-6% l-ohra` Dawk risk premium kienet it-twegiba.` Risk premium ta` x`hiex` Bank sod u b`sahhtu bhal Mid-Med li jikkontrolla nofs is-suq bankarju Malti m`ghandux ikollu risk premium ghax m`hemmx riskju.

U wiehed irid jifhem kemm jaghmel differnza dan il-fatt ta` zieda ta 6% risk premium. Kieku l-iskont sar bir-rata ta` 6% skont l-imghax applikabbli u mhux bi 12% bir-risk premium mizjud kieku il-prezz tal-Mid-Med kien ikun Lm140 miljun u mhux Lm70 miljun!

U jien allegajt li biex il-kalkoli saru kif saru allura bilfors li l-gvern qad fuq kalkoli li ghamluhom l-HSBC stess. Ghax min jixtri kellu l-interess li jgholli r-rata ta` skont billi jiddahhal risk premiun gholi.

Ir-risposta tal-Ministru kienet immedjata permezz ta` cahda kategorika u li dawn il-kalkoli saru mill-Ministru stess u n-nies li kienu qed jghinuh inkluz stockbroker li qatt ma ssemma ghalkemm gie allegat li huwa l-istess stockbroker ta` l-HSBC.

U l-mistoqsija ghal dan kienet immedjata wkoll.` Allura la dawn il-kalkoli ghamilhom il-Ministru b`liema ragunar dahhal risk premium ta` 6% fir-rata ta` skont biex gie kalkolat il-Mid-Med Bank. Ghaliex Ministru li deherlu li ma kellux bzonn ghajnuna ta` esperti u lanqas ta` maltin ohra li kienu jafu l-bank ahjar minnu, flok fil-process tan-negozjati beda jitlob prezz gholi ghal-Mid-Med hu stess ghamel kalkoli li jbaxxu l-prezz`

Ghal dan twegiba ta` xejn. Ghamilt il-mistoqsija fil-gazzetti ufid-dabitti tat-television. Risposta ta` xejn. Skiet li jtarrax.

Ghal dan hemm bzonn risposta cara u definita ghax din tinvovli miljuni kbar li issa qed ihallsuhom il-maltin f`taxxi.` Hemm bzonn twegiba ghal min halla l-impjegati tal-Mid-Med esposti ghal mod kif issa qed jigu ttrattati mil-bank.` Bank li jidher li m`ghandu problemi ta` xejn izid l-ispiza amministarttivi b`aktar minn Lm2 miljun f`sitt xhur f`pagi u spejjez tal-barranin li qed imexxu izda li jidher li ghandu problema li jasal fi ftehim ragonevoli ghal kumplament tal-haddiema.

Min kien hadha kontrija li kont urejt thassib` li n-negozjati tal-ftehim kollettiv kienu twaqqfu waqt li kien ghaddej il-process tal-bejgh tal-bank forsi issa jifhem kemm kelli ragun. Kemm l-esperjenza ghalmitni li ma noqghidx fuq il-kliem sabih izda fuq il-fatti li nara u mmiss b`idejja.

Tassew li wasal iz-zmien li jinqata s-skiet ta` min kien repsonsabbli tal-balbuljata tal-bejgh tal-Mid-Med Bank u min biegh lil Bank u lill-haddiema tieghu b`irhis. Dawn mhux deceriji tal-detto sul detto. Dawn fatti u figuri cari u precizi.` Jehtieg risposta.

Friday, 28 July 2000

Let`s Pretend

The Malta Independent

Let`s Pretend

As June turned into July we had two glaring cases of let`s pretend which only a lethargic public and a dormant press would accept without as much as a bat of an eye-lid.

The Times of 1st July carried two stories on the front page.` The first told us that Drydocks was set to lose another Lm14 million this year which will be subscribed to as usual, along with some other Lm6 million of Malta Shipbuilding, by the public budget in a vote titled capital expenditure ` productive investment!

The other story told us that Freeport posted $5 million profit in 1999. An unwary reader would immediately think what a disaster our shipyards are and how successful our Freeport is! This is only 50% right.

That our shipyards are a financial disaster is a sadly accepted fact. What is unbelievable is that this state of affairs has been allowed to run for 19 years of subsidies without in anyway addressing the basic problem. Anyone who thinks that by so doing one has been doing any favours to Drydocks and its employees does not have any idea of what serious management is all about. Blame not the workers and the unions. Blame the management and the government who has been using our hard earned tax-money to avoid applying a real solution.

But pretending that Freeport made a profit of $5 million in 1999 is a borderline between farce and tragedy. Firstly this is incorrect even on the reported figures. The consolidated result was a loss of nearly $1 million not a profit of $5 million.` Secondly this consolidated loss was after taking in $21 million grants from government and without taking a charge of depreciation, rental or finance cost for Terminal One which is still owned by the government but operated by Freeport. So let there be no doubt. Freeport in the first year when it had two terminals in operation made a net loss $22 million plus whatever appropriate rental charge should `have been paid to government for using Terminal One. Unless the problems at Freeport are addressed there is another Drydocks in the making!

The let`s pretend game was further played in the Cottonera project.` Whilst the promoters are still running around trying to obtain equity finance support for this project it was officially green-lighted` by our pompous smiling Minister. And of all places the project started by breaking up some of the most architecturally and historically precious buildings in Cottonera.

Having been through the process of getting the Portomaso project through the mills of bureaucracy one wonders how things have changed in the short space of 5 years.

In the case of the Portomaso project the developer was rearing to go but was stalled by the authorities who wanted checks and re-checks on the availability of financial backing, environmental guarantees and detailed plans to be fully approved before even demolishing the then existing hotel structure.

In the case of Cottonera the promoters are nowhere near ready to go but are clearly being forced to start, whatever the consequences, as part of the let`s pretend game which government hopes will whip up the elusive feel good factor.

The let`s pretend game normally has a very short expiry in spite of the evident willingness of the press to extend this dangerous game beyond its reasonable limits.

Sunday, 23 July 2000

Partit tas-Soluzzjoni


Partit Tas-Soluzjoni

Fil-konfuzjoni li l-Partit Nazzjonalista tefa fiha lill-pajjiz jehtieg li d-differenza bejn il-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista tohrog cara. Differenza` li filwaqt li l-Gvern ma ghandux soluzzjoni ghal problemi tal-pajjiz il-Partit Laburista huwa Gvern alternattiv lest b`soluzzjonijiet prattici u effettivi.

Niehdu l-kaz tal-Kalaxlokk.` Dan il-kaz fih zewg aspetti li jehtieg li ma jithalltux ma xulxin.

L-ewwel aspett huwa fundamentali ghad-demokrazija. L-impjegati tal-Kalaxlokk kienu mweghda abjad fuq l-iswed bl-aktar mod esplicitu qabel l-elezzjoni li Gvern nazzjonalista jiggarantilhom il-post tax-xoghol u jtejbilhom il-kundizzjonijiet.

Il-Gvern huwa marbut mal-programm elettorali tieghu. Jista` jkun hemm xi weghdi li ma jwettaqhomx bhal per ezempju il-weghda tat-tabib li trid int b`xejn. Izda li taghnel l-oppost ta` dak li tkun wghedt mhux accettabbli.

Jekk il-Gvern mhux kapaci jonora il-weghdi elettorali tieghu allura triq wahda ghandu biex jonora l-impenn demokratiku.` Iwarrab. Gvern Laburisti fl-1998 bl-akbar irgulija hekk ghamel meta ra li l-mandat elettorali ma setax iwettqu ghax kien qed jigi imminat fit-twettiq tal-weghdi elettorali minn min ried jimponi programm tieghu persunali fuq kullhadd.

M`hemmx kwistjoni jekk haga hix tajba jew hazina.` La weghda irid iwettaqha. Ara fil-kaz tal-impressed il-weghda saret u giet onorata. Mil-lat ekonomiku ma tghamilx sens ghax il-Gvern inaqqas l-ispejjez jehtieg u mhux izidhom. Izda weghda elettorali hija kuntratt mal-poplu u jekk Gvern ma jistax jezegwixxi li wieghed irid iwarrab.

Il-fatt li ma` tal-Kalaxlokk qed jintuza kejl differenti minn dak uzat ma l-impressed ifisser biss li dan il-Gvern irid konfront mal-GWU. Irid jizvija l-agenda politika biex inehhi l-ghafsa li ghandu meta kien qed jara li l-progett ta` Svizzera fil-Mediterran kien qed jixxettel sew f`mohh il-Maltin Jghid x`jghid Mintoff il-Maltin bdew jifhmu li hemm triq ohra, triq ahjar minn shubjija ma l-UE , it-triq li ghazlu l-Isvizzeri valida llum daqs erbghin sena ilu ghalkemm f` kuncetti aggornati.

Ghalhekk irridu noqghodu attenti li ma nizfnux ghad-diska li jrid idoqq il-Gvern biex jizvija l-agenda politika. Diga` ghamel attentat biex jaghmel dan fis-suppost kaz tat-tbaghbis fl-elezzjoni tal-Leader.` Meta ma qtajnilux l-ghatx bil-perzut beda jaghrax lil tal-Kalaxlokk.

Ghax verament tal-Kalaxlokk hija taghrixa. Fejn il-piz tal-problema tas-sussidji lit-tarznari, is-sussidji lil Freeport ( li allajbierek ma jsemmihom hadd anzi jiftahru li Freeport ghamel qliegh!! ` qliegh sabih! Kieku ghamel qliegh veru x`kien hemm bzonn ta` sussidju ta` $22 miljun fl-1999) hdejn il-piz finanzjarju ta` nies aktar milli hemm bzonn fic-civil li s-sena d-diehla ser jiehdu zidiet jiswew Lm35 miljun, il-problema tal-Kalaxlokk hija taghrixa.

Cebto centuno jghidu u flok naqbdu ma tal-Kalaxlokk hemm bzonn li tinstab soluzzjoni vera ghal problema tal-pajjiz. Il-problema tal-holqien ta` xoghol rejali biex tal-Kalaxlokk, tat-Tarznari, tal-Freeport, tac-civil ma jibqghux piz fuq ic-cittadin li jhallas it-taxxi izda huma wkoll jibdew irendu gid lin-Nazzjon.

Din hija l-problema vera u l-Gvern huwa car li ma ghandux ideja kif ser isolviha. Kellu tlettax il-sena biex jaghmel dan u mhux talli ma solvihiex talli kollox mar ghall-aghar. Qatt li qatt ma ndenja juru il-Gvern jindirizza din il-problema bis-serjeta`. Kull ma ghamel f`dawn l-ahhar tlettax il-sena kien li skarta il-problema u spalparja hafna flus f`sussidji minflok f`investiment sod u rejali.

M`inhix kontra xi sussidji ghal zmien qasir dment li l-flus` jintuzaw biex ifejjqu l-problema rejali. Izda sussidji ghal dejjem ta` dejjem huma harba mir-rejalta. Huma bhal genitur li jissellef halli ibnu jkollu x`jonfoq bla jithabat u mbaghad mal-mewt tal-genitur l-iben flok testment ta` beni isib il-piz tad-dejn.

Dan mhux ghaqal. Din illuzjoni, harba mir-rejalta` li minnha ghad irridu nqumu mahsudin bhal hmar il-lejl.

Il-Partit Laburista filwaqt li jiddefendi lil tal-Kalaxlokk, lil tat-Tarzna u lil kull min ghandu l-impjieg mhedded irid juri li ghandu s-soluzzjoni vera ghal-problemi tal-pajjiz. Is-soluzzjoni tal-holqien tax-xoghol biex is-sussidji jinqataw bla ma jintilfu mpjiegi. Biex il-haddiem jinghata opportunita` irendi favur in-nazzjon immexxi minn leaders sodi, serji u b`vizjoni u fiducja li dan il-pajjiz nistghu mmexxuh ahna u mhux niranuh lil barrani.

Il-Partit Laburista mhux difensur ta` l-iStatus Quo. Il-Partit huwa avangwardista, jemmen fil-bidla u fil-htiega ta` l-efficjenza u produttivita`. Jemmen izda li dan irid isir bi ftehim mal-Unions fejn hadd ma jkun ghar-rimi u fejn il-piz tal-bidla jintrefa minn kulhaddd skond kemm jiflah u mhux biss minn dawk li ghandhom xogholhom imdemdel. L-ewwel piz irid jintrefa mill-Gvern stess li jrid jaqta` x-xaham li rabbew maghhom il-Ministri u l-Awtoritajiet li qed ifaqqsu bhal flieles fir-rebbiegha.

Il-Partit Laburista irid juri li huwa l-partit tas-soluzzjoni.

Sunday, 16 July 2000

Lulju mghaxxex

Il-Kullhadd Lulju Mghaxxex

Dan Lulju jidher li gej mghaxxex sew! Wara xhur twal ta` tgergir kien bhal donnu bejn April u Gunju li l-affarijiet kienu donnhom bdew jistejqru xi ftit l-aktar fis-settur tat-turizmu.

Izda hekk kif beda Lulju kollox rega mar lura ghal li kien. Kien hawn aspettattiva li l-affarijiet kienu se jkunu mod iehor. In-negozjanti kienu qed jistennew boost qawwi mill-bejgh waqt il-fiera tan-Naxxar.` U tal-lukandi kienu qed jistennew li x-xghira li nqabdet minn April `l hawn tkompli tissahhah halli jirkupraw xi ftit mit-telf li sofrew fix-xitwa li kienet wahda mill-aghar.

Gara izda bil-maqlub. It-turizmu rega ha sabta u l-lukandi fl-ewwel gimghatejn ta` Lulju kellhom bookings baxxi hafna u kellhom irahhsu il-prezzijiet ghal kumplament tas-sajf. Mhux hekk biss.` Il-bookings ghal kumplament tas-sajf dehlin bil-mod wisq. Is-suq Germaniz li kien b`sahhtu u kien qed jaghmel tajjeb ghat-telf mis-suq ingliz f`daqqa wahda tghaxxex.

L-istess jista` jinghad ghal fiera tan-Naxxar. Nies marru hafna izda l-aktar bhala harga u mhux biex jixtru. Hafna negozjanti irrapurtaw tnaqqis fil-bejgh u dan minkejja offerti specjali u prezzi skontati.

Dawn mhux affarijiet li wiehed jiehu gost bihom. Dan it-tnaqqis fir-ritmu ekonomiku jaffetwa lil kulhadd. Din Malta taghna lkoll u mil-gvern jew mill-oppozizzjoni l-ghan taghna ghandu jkun li naraw li pajjizna jimxi `l quddiem u jsahhah l-ekonomija tieghu.

Ghalhekk wiehed irid jara sewwa sew x`qed iwassal ghal dan is-shab iswed li qed jikkarga.

Donnu l-Gvern m`ghandux risposta ghal dak li qed jigri u qed jippretendi li l-affarijiet jissolvew wahedhom. Mhabbat kif inhu fl-objettiv tal-UE donnu li xejn izjed m`hu importanti lanqas il-hobza ta` kuljum tal-haddiema.

Il-weghdi facli li saru qabel l-elezzjoni donnu li ma saru jfissru xejn. Donnu li t-tibdil u tigdid li hemm bzonn isir fl-ekonomija jista` jsir biss fi sfond ta` krizi u mhux b`mod programmat u mahsub.

Jien min ta` l-ewwel li nsostni li l-pajjiz ghandu problemi kbar li biex jissolvew jehtieg sforz qawwi minn kulhadd, Gvern, Oppozizzjoni Unions, sidien u haddiema. Il-problemi issa dahlu wisq `l gewwa biex jistghu jissewwew bla tbatija.

Izda minn naha l-ohra dawn il-problemi ma jistghux jibqghu jigu skartati u miknusa taht it-tapit. Dawn problemi li qed jgherru l-ekonomija. Problemi ta` sussidji insostenibbli lit-tarznari u lill-Freeport. Problemi ta spiza insostenibbli mill-Gvern fuq il-pagi tan-nies tac-civil. Problemi ta` nuqqas ta` investiment u holqien rejali ta` postijiet tax-xoghol.

Ir-risposta ghal dawn il-problemi ma tistax tkun l-arroganza tal-Gvern li jippretendi li tghaddi tieghu biss meta jrid u kif irid u min ma jogghbux allura ma haqqux jiekol.

Ir-risposta trid tkun sforz komuni biex l-ewwel kulhadd jifhem il-kobor tal-problema, it-tieni kulhadd jifhem il-konsegwenzi jekk il-problemi jkomplu jkunu ttraskurati u fl-ahhar jintlahaq sforz genwin bi qbil bejn kullhadd biex jigu ndirizzati il-problemi bl-inqas tbatija possibbli billi l-piz jintefa fuq kullhadd skond kemm jiflah u mhux biss fuq dawk li ser jitilfu l-impjiegi bla tort ta` xejn.

Biex jintlahaq dan l-iskop jehtieg tmexxija ispirata. Tmexxija krejattiva li kapaci tirbah il-konfidenza tal-partijiet involuti halli kullhadd jaghmel il-parti tieghu.

Hija sfortuna li bhalissa il-gvern jidher bla tmexxija. L-unika soluzzjoni li jidher li fadallu l-gvern hija t-triq tal-konfrontazzjoni biex johloq pretest halli jiggustifika il-problemi finanzjarjarji u ekonomici li issa bdew joqorsu lil kulhadd.

Il-konfrontazzjoni mhix soluzzjoni. Hija biex attentat iddisprat minn min tilef il-kontroll biex jiggustifka ghemilu. Il-pajjiz jixraqlu mod iehor.` Il-pajjiz jixraqlu tmexxija friska, dinamika moghnija b`idejat godda.

Jekk le mhux biss Lulju ser ikun nghaxxexx.` Izda diversi snin li ghandna quddiemna u minn dan ibati l-aktar minn jiflah lanqas.

Saturday, 15 July 2000

All that's wrong

The Times of Malta

All that`s wrong!

The Kalaxlokk affair and the incidents that triggered downing` of` tools by shipyard workers who marched` into the capital city last week, symbolises all that is wrong with our country. The result of near twenty years of political instability and/or weak leadership.

Kalaxlokk is relatively a new vintage problem. Compared to the Shipyards and Freeport problems, two main beneficiaries of government handouts, the Kalaxlokk problem is relatively modest. In comparison with the cost of over-manning of the public sector the Kalaxlokk problem is miniscule.

Yet these much bigger problems remain neglected. I remember that in 1985 the incoming Prime Minister Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici had requested me to investigate why Malta Drydocks` demand for subsidies, modest by current demands, was growing and becoming more insistent. Malta Drydocks had last made a profit in 1981 was it was then in its 4th consecutive year of losses.

I reported immediately that Drydocks needed surgery and a total re-organisation in the way it conducted its business. Failing that the State should prepare a fat cheque book to finance Drydocks existence` in its then current state.` Fifteen years later the losses grew bigger and many State cheque books have been used to write subsidy cheques.

With an election in the offing 1985` was not the opportune time to conduct such surgery which could not be painless.` The present government however has been running the country for thirteen years two months bar a small interlude of twenty two months. It is tangible proof of the incompetence of our leaders that the Drydocks and Malta Shipbuilding problems have been allowed to fester during the whole` course of thirteen years. Not only that but we created two new problems. One at Freeport which last year swallowed no less than US$22 million from government subsidies. The other problem` is` Kalaxlokk which again is asking for more.

I cannot help feeling that government willingly keeps these problems ticking because they serve its political objectives well even if this is done at the expense of the national economy. Nothing else can explain the persistence of these problems for thirteen years. Thirteen years is an overlong time.` Thirteen years ago Microsoft, Cisco and Vodafone, three of the largest international companies, either did not exist or where little more than incubation companies.

During these thirteen years a horrendous amount of millions of liri have been burnt up without addressing the problems. If these same millions were invested to create new sustainable jobs those employees who last week` had to march in dirty boiler suits would have been quietly at their work place in clean white overall operating a robot or a cnc machine proud to be part of a successful exporting organisation and enjoying wages far higher than the ones they are currently getting, often with delay.

Politically these unresolved expensive problems suit the government spin doctors fine. Whenever the government political agenda is under attack they could easily whip up some instability which works wonders as a diversionary tactic.

The GWU obliges` the government spin doctors strategy with splendid obedience. A few thousand of yellow hard helmets walking into the city make wonders to shift the political agenda. It delivers the message that for all the Government`s failings the present is still better than the rampage and instability which ruled during Labour`s last full term in the eighties.

Not just that! Such incidents which are perfectly orchestrated help to make Labour continue to suffer` loss of identity. Labour new image alienates the hardliners whilst the GWU organised street shows alienate the moderates.

This is nothing short of a double dividend to the party in government which helps to extend its term of office but at a very high cost to the national economy.

National interest demands otherwise. National interest demands that the country cannot sustain the high cost of subsidising the shipyards, the Freeport , Kalaxlokk and others.` We cannot continue burning hard earned tax money by carrying indefinitely an overblown public sector.

On the other hand these problems cannot be resolved by confrontation. They can be resolved by a three stage approach; firstly identification and quantification of the problems, secondly by explaining the consequences of allowing` the problems to fester, and lastly by agreeing an action programme which whilst not painless spreads the burden equitably in a show of solidarity` even on those not directly affected by these problems.

Such a sensible approach to problem resolution demands leadership which is sadly missing. On the contrary we get from our leaders easy election promises which send a clear message that one does not need to give an honest day`s work to earn a decent day`s wage.

Such problems fit the government` spin doctors fine. They are however a bullet in the head for the national economy. Our tax money is not meant to meet spin doctor agenda but to stimulate economic growth for us and for future generations. We have to wake up before it is too late.

Friday, 14 July 2000

Nice Doubts

The Malta Independent

Nice Doubts

Next December the EU Council will meet at Nice, on the French Riviera, hoping to reach a historic agreement on reforming the EU institutions to pave the way for effective decision making within an enlarged EU.

The leftovers of the Amsterdam treaty will have to be sorted out at` Nice. Leftovers is a deceptive word. The outstanding issues are not unimportant breadcrumbs. They are meaty bones that could bring out the old European confrontation.

The two major issues that risk stalemating the enlargement process are the composition of the EU Commission and the rights of veto and voting powers within the Council.

Italy, our most ardent supporter for enlargement has tabled a proposal for the big countries to have 33 votes each` while the smaller countries will have a minimum of two votes. No prizes for guessing who will get two votes and how uninfluential these would be in the final analysis.

The big countries that will be losing one of their two Commissioners would want to make up for this by increasing the weight of their vote in the Council. They will try to do this in a way that it will be difficult for the small countries to form a blocking minority to the re-defined majority voting that will be extended to practically all areas currently requiring consensus.

Would Tony Blair, torn already as he already is domestically over the Euro issue, risk alienating the electorate further by divesting the British Parliament from its current veto powers` Would Germany demand more votes than France, UK and Italy based on its larger population` If so, where would Poland be classified to ensure that it does not dilute the domination of the big countries`

Resolution of these decisions requires a very strong Commission to arm twist member countries into the necessary concessions. But the Prodi Commission is anything but strong. In a straw poll of analysts and journalists accredited to EU institutions published in the Financial Times last Monday, Prodi garnered only 9 points out of a maximum of 30 whilst the enlargement commissioner Verheugen pooled 20 points, well below average.

There remains the problem of` the composition of the 20 strong Commission with a potential of 27 members. No prizes for guessing which members will be asked to forego permanently or partially the right to appoint a Commissioner.

The French presidency of the EU is seemingly preparing the ground for appreciation of a glorious defeat as being better than a miserable victory. Pity the British Minister for Europe had nothing substantial to say on these issues during his recent visit where he found time to utter many empty platitudes.

These circumstances make the Swiss model a much safer bet to build upon than the never never accession policy. If Nice doubts will prove realistic, Malta`s interest would be better served by demanding a Swiss type arrangement keeping the membership option open for when we would know what sort of EU we would eventually be offered to join. Otherwise we will just be giving up the benefits of being out without enjoying the benefits of being in and without necessarily knowing what these benefits would be once we are eventually offered the choice to go in.

Switzerland in the Mediterranean vision is relevant now more than ever.` Nice will prove it.

Sunday, 9 July 2000

Mintoff vs. Mintoff

Il-Kullhadd Mintoff vs. Mintoff

Il-kobor ta` dak li ghamel Duminku Mintoff ghal Malta sal jum tal-Helsien fil-31 ta` Marzu 1979 ma jista` jichdu hadd. Ikun zball li xi hadd icekken dawn il-kisbiet minhabba dak li gara wara.

Tant hu kbir dak li ghamel Mintoff sal-kisba tal-Helsien li huwa biss Mintoff stess li jista` jcekken il-kobor tieghu. U minn dak li ilhi nara u minn dak li rajt fil-monologu sic intervista ta` din il-gimgha,` jidher li anke Mintoff stess wasal fil-final ta` dan it-tkissir.

Jien nsostni li l-istorja ta` Mintoff ghandha zewg kapitli kuntrastanti.` Wiehed jispicca propju f`dik id-data li nkurunat dak kollu li Mintoff kien hadem ghalih ghal 32 sena shah ta` attivita` fix-xena poltika. Dan huwa kapitlu ta` glorja li juri li Mintoff ma kienx biss il-politiku izda kien ir-ruh tal-pajjiz. Dak li bid-dinamizmu u l-perzwazjoni spira tieghu lil Malta biex tohrog mill-era tas-servitu` kolonjalista u neo-kolonjalista, u tilbes il-mantell ta` nazzjon liberu. Nazzjon` li bbrilla f`Helsinki fl-1975 biex pogga fuq l-agenda politka internazzjonali il-bzonn ta` paci fil-Mediterran.

Dan kien kapitlu ta` kisbiet socjali, kisbiet ekonomici u kisbiet intelletwali li kienu ghamluna kburin li ahna Maltin. Kapitlu ta` kisbiet demokratici fejn l-ghaqda tal-haddiem nnewtrallizzat ix-xibka ta` poter ta` min bil-kapital jahseb li jixtri li jrid u `l kulhadd.

Ma tmien ta` dan il-kapitlu glorjuz hemm il-bidu ta` kapitlu iehor iswed. Kapitlu fejn Mintoff ma setax jaccetta il-bidliet li gab hu stess.` Kapitlu fejn Mintoff ried jirristringi il-helsien li gab permezz tat-tkisser tal-gagga kolonjali billi jorbtilna spaga ma saqajna u jiddeciedu hu ghalina f`kollox,` mic-cikkulata li nieklu sat-television li naraw. Kapitlu fejn Mintoff sa setax jaccetta li la darba ghallimna kellna dritt nuzaw mohhna u mhux nobdu dak li jghid il-mexxej bil-ghama. Kapitlu fejn Mintoff ma gharafx li fil-helsien il-pajjiz jehtieg tmexxija differenti minn dik mehtiega fil-process tal- kisba tal-helsien.

Il-kapitlu ta` Mintoff wara Marzu ta` l-1979 huwa iswed sew. Kien qisu ribell jiggieled kawza li kienet diga mirbuha u fil-process ikisser dak li kien inbena.

Ibda mit-tkissir tat-Times u l-invazzjoni vjolenti fid-dar privata tal-Kap ta` L-Oppozizzjoni. Dawn mizuri anti-demoratici li jittradixxu dak kollu li kien iggieled ghalih. Il-kolmo ta` din ic-cahda intlahqet bir-rizultat tal-l-elezzjoni ta` Dicembru 1981.

Tista ggib l-iskuzi kollha li trid izda l-fatt jibqa` li dak in-nhar il-maggoranza tal-poplu ghazlet Gvern` Nazzjonalista. Kieku Mintoff gharaf is-sinjal taz-zmien kien jikber fl-istutura kieku sab mezz kif din ix-xewqa tal-poplu, fl-ispirtu ta` demokrazija prattikata, tigi mwettqa.

Minflok zarma l-kredenzjali demokratici li kien bena billi mexxa b`mod ripressiv kontra x-xewqa tal-poplu.` U kompla jaghmel dan anke meta fid-deher irrezenja minn Prim Ministru biex mar jisparpalja Lm40 miljun fl-loghob spekulattiv fir-rizervi tal-Bank Centrali, jilghaba ta` espert f`materja li fiha huwa anqas minn novizz. Kompla jindahal lil` Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici b`mod imprudenti li tax cans lil persuna gentili bhal Karmenu jaghti timbru gdid lit-tmexxija tal-pajjiz.

Fi zmien meta l-Partit Laburista mar fl-Oppozizzjoni baqa jindahal minghajr l-awtrota` tal-kariga izda biss bl-awtorita` tal-persuna,` dwar min u kif ghandu jmexxi. B`indhil bhal dan ir-rizultat ta` l-elezzjoni tal-1992 kien inevitabbli u previdibbli. Li ma kienx prevedibbli kien li Mintoff ma kienx ser jaccetta l-ghazla ta` Leader gdid li ma kienx imbierek minnu.

U dan il-fatt kien bizzejjed biex mil-bidu nett ma accetax it-tmexxija ta` Alfred Sant u kien jikkritika kull haga li Sant kien jaghmel. Il-kolmo ta` dan intlahqet bl-aktar mod kiefer meta Mintoff cahad lil Partit Laburista u bi tkomplija tat-tkisser tad-demokraizija li tant kien iggieled ghaliha, waqqa` gvern elett demokratikament bl-akbar maggoranza li qatt gab gvern laburista.

Il-kuntrast ta` Mintoff ta` qabel l-1979 u ta` wara johrog minn memorja li ghandi ta` konferenza stampa li kien ta qabel l-elezzjoni ta` 1976. Gurnalista staqsih xi haga u fil-process uza il-frazi `il-partit tieghek`. Mintoff kien dlonk ikkoregih u qallu li hu ma ghandix partit tieghu. Qallu `Jien tal-Partit`.

Qabbel dan mat-tezi li meta hareg ghall-elezzjoni fl-1996 ghalkemm hareg mal-Partit Laburista u bl-arma tal-partit, huwa kellu programm ghalih. Mela issa veru ppretenda li l-partit sar tieghu biex flok ibaxxi rasu ghar-rieda tad-decizjoni tal-Konferenza Generali tal-Partit li approvat biss manifest wiehed, dak ufficjali, jippretendi li jimponi fuq kulhadd il-programm tieghu.

Il-kobor ta` Mintoff ta` qabel l-1979 tant u kbir li huwa biss jista jkissru. U qed jaghmel dan bl-akbar efficjenza kif ta` xhieda sewwa` din il-gimgha.` Veru kaz ta Mintoff vs. Mintoff.

Alfred Mifsud

Friday, 7 July 2000

Football Politics

The Malta Independent

Football Politics

The Euro 2000 final of last Sunday was not strictly a football affair.

The result had immediate repercussions on the Italian political scene. The Italians had not even touched home base from their Belgian/Dutch success/disappointment that Italian politicians were turning the whole affair into a political game.

The political significance of the event was however deeper. Even the events as they unfolded on the field of play had certain elements which` bear strange resemblance to events that are unfolding on the EU scene.

The Italians in the first half showed that contrary to initial expectations, they were not inferior to the French even though the actual level of play created by both sides was largely insubstantial. In the second half the Italians showed for long stretches that they were actually superior and they were in control cruising to an undreamed victory which was less than one-minute away.

The champagne was ready for popping and the Italians had generally assumed that they were home safe and dry.` With a few seconds to go and the French not having shown any real threats to the Italian defence,` there was however a rude awakening to reality and a turning of the tables which will long be remembered in the annals of football.

Is this not symbolically close to what actually has been happening on the EU scene` With Romano Prodi at the helm of the EU Commission the Italians have long been feeling securely in control of the European enlargement process.

As the Portuguese were handing over to the French the Italian led Commission had every reason to feel secure that during the French Presidency the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) meant to change the way EU institutions work will be brought to a close.` This is an essential prelude to enlargement. It will re-dimenionise the voting powers of the members of an enlarged community rendering most decisions to be taken by qualified majority reflecting the size of the respective populations represented by the member states.

Right when everything seemed to be sailing at cruising speed towards the Nice Summit next December, the French with the assistance of the Germans (could they be symbolised with the Swedish referee who gave an extended injury time to the match) came out with the rally cry that enlargement is not their top priority. That re-structuring of the EU institutions had to go much deeper than what was on the agenda at the IGC. The French envision that an EU constitution would be necessary and this should be put together by a secretariat of the countries who opt for enhanced co-operation, outside the EU Commission structures.

Is the Prodi dream of an early Italian-led enlargement heading for a rude awakening to reality similar to the shock treatment` the Italian national team was subjected to late last Sunday`

The involvement of politics in the football game is not strictly a Berlusconi affair.

Sunday, 2 July 2000

Zuru lill-Habsin

Il-Kullhadd Zuru lill-Habsin

L-opri tal-hniena tghallimthom mill-muzew. Fost is-sebgha opri tal-hniena li jmissu l-gisem hemm propju dak li ghandna nzuru lill-habsin.

Kienet ghalhekk haga stramba li l-gurnal in-Nazzjon b`headlines tkazat ghax xi esponenti tal-Partit Laburista marru jaghmlu zjara lil Lawrence Pullicino, ex-Kummisarju tal-Pulizija, fil-habs ta` Kordin waqt il-hin tal-vizitaturi bla habi ta` xejn u skond ir-regolamenti.

Skantaw dawn li ma skanatw xejn li l-Prim Ministru jiltaqa` bil-mohbi fis-satra tal-lejl taht il-pont ta` San Giljan ma kriminal ttesserat. Lanqas ma tkazaw meta lil dan il-kriminal b`akkuzi gravi mdendla fuq rasu, inkluz dik ta` traffikar ta` drogi, tah mahfra presidenzjali fuq tlett akkuzi serji. Dan minkejja li x-xhieda ta` dan il-kriminal ma hija kkorroborta bl-ebda mod u diga` gie ppruvat li l-Qorti ma emmintx il-verzjoni ta` dan il-kriminal. Ghalhekk qed jirrizulta li l-mahfriet presidenzjali jkun hadhom ta` xejn!

Izda ghax ufficjali laburista jghamlu dmirhom skond l-opri tal-hniena allura dak skandlu li jixraqlu jitperrec fuq il-pagna ta` quddiem, b`ittri kbar u b`implikazzjonijiet daqs li kieku din iz-zjara kienet xi konfoffa mal-kriminali.

Jien ukoll dan l-ahhar ghamilt dmiri u mort zort lil Pullicino fil-habs. Dispjacir wiehed ghandi. Li dan ma ghamiltux aktar qabel u aktar spiss u ta` dan nitlob skuza lil Pullicino.` Hemmhekk ma sibtx quddiemi xi kriminal. Sibt bniedem uman b`qalb mugghuha li hallas aktar min bizzejjed ghan-nuqqasijiet tieghu. Bniedem li jhoss li gie milghub biex ikun simbolu ta` kif jissallbu l-laburisti jekk jippruvaw jieqfu lix-xibka ta` poter li minnha il-Partit Nazzjonalista huwa biss cellula politika.

L-istorja ta` Pullicino nahseb li ghad trid tinkiteb.` F`Pullicino rajt bniedem determinat li meta minn hawn u ftit gimghat ohra jkun skonta is-sentenza ezegarata li gie mghobbi biha jkompli jistinka halli l-verita` fl-ahhar mill-ahhar tohrog.

Jien nhoss li biex dan isir trid issir inkjesta serja li terga` tgharbel il-kaz mill-gdid b`mod oggettiv, jekk hemm bzonn fil-maghluq, biex dan il-kaz ma jibqax jigi politicizzat ghal finijiet ulterjuri.

F`din l-inkjesta wiehed l-ewwel irid jistabilixxi jekk min qatel lill-vittma , li zgur ma kienx Pullicino izda x`aktarx kienu id-daqqiet li tawh dawk li gawdew mill-mahfra presidenzjali,` ghamilx dan bi zball jew apposta.

Irid jigi stabbilit jekk il-mahfriet presidenzjali inghatawx biex tintlghab il-loghba politika biex jigi akkuzat laburist li kellu htija sekondarja li ghatta l-fatti, u gie salvat nazzjonalist li kellu l-htija primarja tal-ezekuzzjoni. Irid jigi stabbilit jekk din il-mahfra presidenzjali kienetx premju talli ghamel li ghamel biex b`hekk ghalaq halq il-vittma darba ghal dejjem.

Ghax nghiduha kif inhi. Il-vittma kien qed fil-kustodja tal-pulizija wara li nqabad ipoggi bomba mad-dar residenzjali tal-Kummissarju Pullicino. Lanqas wiehed li seta` kellu nteress li l-vittma jmut qabel jitkellem kien l-istess Pullicino. Anzi dan` kellu kull interess li jgieghel lil vittma jikxef min kien il-mandant. Huwa car li l-vittma ghamel li ghamel mhux ghax hu kellu xi haga ghal Pullicino izda ghax kien imhallas biex jaghmel dak li ghamel minn min kellu nteress iwerwer lil Pullicino fil-qadi` ta` dmirijietu.

Tafux min` kull interess li l-vittma ma tikxifx min kien qabbdu jezekwixxi l-att kriminali kontra Pullicino` Min seta` jibza li f`idejn il-pulizija l-vittma biex issalva gilda tikxef il-mandant` Dan l-interess kien tal-mandant li forsi kien xi hadd li fid-deher izomm hajja religjuza u ezemplari izda fil-mohbi jkun puppet master ta` xibka kriminali. Ma ninsewx li dan kien iz-zmien ta` bombi wara l-bibien ta` kull min b`xi mod jghin lill-Gvern laburista. Zminijiet ta` qtil ta` nies b`mottivi li b`xi mod jippuntaw lejn il-politika. Ibda mill-kaz ta` Karin Grech u spicca sal-kaz ta` Cardona.

Hemm bzonn ta` inkjesta li tasal biex tgharbel jekk Pullicino kienx biss pawn fl-loghba akbar tac-chess li l-ghan taghha kienet li tnehhi mil-poter lil-gvern laburista. Loghba li regghet intlaghbet fit-22 xahar ta` gvern laburista 1996-98 u li terga` tintlghab kull meta jkun hemm gvern laburista. Tintlghab` minn min jemmen li ghandu xi edit soopranaturali biex imexxi lil pajjizna u li haddiehor qatt ma ghandu jinghata cans demokratiku biex jaghmel dan.

Lil Lawrence Pullicino nsellmulu talli bid-dinjita` sofra dan kollu, nghidulu kuragg u nistennewh fostna halli flimkien inkomplu nahdmu halli tohrog il-verita`.