Friday, 23 February 2001

Lessons from La salle

The Malta Independent

Lessons from La Salle

Fourteen years of` benign, probably irresponsible, indulgence regarding the Drydocks structural problems bleeding hard-earned millions out of the exchequer each year for the last fifteen years, reached` climax last week.` The government fired an ultimatum.

Most of us are thankful that the union managed to convince its militant Drydocks section to back down from its earlier constitutionally inspired rigid stand.` The nation has enough problems and can do without another confrontation at Drydocks. But for the majority of us who pay taxes without seeking any return from the state, has it been a fair deal I doubt it.

With maximum exposure on government friendly media the Prime Minister handed down a no ` nonsense ultimatum. Either work or the financial subsidy lifeline will be immediately shut off. The choice was made. The workers decided to work and leave constitutional interpretations to the politicians and legislators. Which basically gives them eternal rights to access the subsidy lifeline. The government has boxed itself into a situation where it can no longer use the subsidy lifeline as a lever to bring about real restructuring at Drydocks.

In2 months time, when His Holiness would be visiting for the third time, this government would celebrate 14 years in power interrupted only by a brief Labour interlude of 22 months. Fourteen years ago Gorbachev was still philosophizing about perestroika. Reagan was still President of the United States, and Margaret Thatcher was still in her glory as Britain`s Prime Minister.` All these leaders have been assigned to the history books. Their successors have been succeeded.` Countries which were once communist are now truly re-structured into market economies. Two Germanies have become one, communism has disappeared from Europe but the Drydocks problem is still with us.

Was fourteen years not a time long enough for the Drydocks problem to be resolved.` The horrendous millions mentioned by the Prime Minister in his ultimatum` which the Drydocks owes to the government and to Banks earning interest from these government guaranteed dead loans should have made the prime Minister blush.` All these millions have been drained down the budgetary black hole through sheer and utter financial irresponsibility. Long gone are the days when Prime Ministers have the courage to look the workers in the eyes and challenge them on their genitals regarding their ability to run the Drydocks in a commercially sound manner.` Instead for fourteen years the Drydocks tree has been over-watered with easy money which has damaged its commercial roots, withered its leaves and left it with an aged trunk.

Was this part of a political project to melt down the bedrock of laboursim in Malta` Is the sudden change of heart versus the Drydocks related to government`s` failure to get the GWU to toe its line on the EU issue So many millions politically invested without any return`

For honest tax paying citizens last week was a sad week.` It was the week when government thought it had a check-mate situation to break union militancy at Drydocks only to find itself checkmated into eternal subsidies without serious re-structuring.

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