Friday, 9 February 2001

No pipe dream

The Malta Independent

No pipe dream

The more honest believers in the case for Malta`s EU membership do not follow the government tag line that the EU is the easy solution to all our problems and that we need` do no further than proceed full speed ahead without need for much thought or analysis except to learn the meaning of such technicalities as acquis communitaire, derogations, Chapter One funding etc etc.

The more honest believers make the case that Malta cannot` survive as a truly independent nation and that in the 36 years of independence` we have brought the country to the verge of economic collapse with mountains of public debt and unrecycled waste. Foremost amongst the proponents of this line of argumentation is this newspaper`s editorial line.

Although it is more honest it is still both wrong and dangerous.` The progress made by this country since independence need no PH D`s to identify. Standard of living has lept in multiples. The benefit of economic growth permeated down to the lowest levels of society. Net migration has shifted from largely outwards to thinly inwards and such luxuries as travelling holidays, two-car family units and air-conditioning, if not the norm are not uncommon.

True our public finances have been in structural fault practically since the economic benefit of the last devaluation in November 1992 evaporated some 24 months later. True over-development and incompetent waste management has created an environmental problem quite difficult to unwind. True short-termism and lax purse policy has meant millions of liri have gone down the drain in useless subsidies and patchy infrastructure jobs which get done and re-done many times over.

But he country has progressed in spite of its incompetent administrations.` Just imagine what sort of potential awaits` to be explored if our creativeness is linked to strong political leadership which can impose serious discipline in the way this country administers its resources.

Rather than consider independence as a failed experiment it is an experience which has shown that we can do much better if we have the possibility to position our economic case differently from the priorities of former colonial masters.` It is of course unfortunate` that this potential has been blunted firstly in the first half on the 1980`s through political instability of a perverse election result, and again in the last half of the 1990`s through reckless spending policies meant to perpetuate the term in power of an expired administration that is now prepared to sacrifice our sovereignty to cover its mismanagement faults.

The ability of this nation to survive as a sovereign open economy trading its competences with the rest of the world without forming an integral part of an economic or military block is not a pipe-dream.` It is a pleasant reality we have lived for 36 years in spite of being administered incompetently by extremes for the last` twenty years. Firstly by the incompetence of whoever put more priority on saving rather than investing in a dormant economy and then by whoever thought it possible to continue spending our way out of structural problems.

If` this country gets serious leadership that` believes in our inner strengths to survive and prosper` we would need no Swiss, Singapore or Hong Kong benchmarks to envision our potential.` We will in a matter of a handful of years turn our potential into a pleasant Maltese reality which would be a model for other countries to benchmark against.

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