Saturday, 5 May 2001

Because I say so!

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Because I say so!

The hallmark of good leadership is timely and good decision-making. Successful leadership in whatever sphere of life (political, business, religious or philanthropic) demands taking good decisions, choosing the right from the wrong.

As leaders get confident in their jobs they get endowed with confidence to take the right decisions calmly and intelligently. But at some point in time, as leaders overstay their term in power, confidence turns into overconfidence, and the process of judicious decision-making stops functioning. Overconfidence turns into arrogance. Rather than choosing the right from the wrong through a process of analysis and judgement, decisions start being taken on the basis of this is right because I say so.

The major advantage of democracy over other governing systems is exactly its ability to guard against this risk.` As soon as it becomes evident that a leader`s confidence has turned firstly into over-confidence and then into arrogance the democratic system moves in to cut such leaders to size.

Remember Margaret Thatcher` She is still revered in Britain as the best post-war leader who engineered the modernisation of the British economy. But when she thought she could introduce the poll tax on the basis that this is good because I say so, the democratic system cut her to size.

In non-democratic systems it could be more painful to address the over-confidence and arrogance of political leaders. Just see what Germany and Italy had to go through to over-throw their war-time political leaders . Their leaders both started as judicious opinion shapers but the arrogance of their unchallenged hold of power soon led to a this is good because I say so decision making style. The consequences were tragic not only for their countries but also for the whole world.

The malaise with our current administration has much to do with this phenomenon. This government in its third legislature has clearly overstayed its term in power. The break between 1996 `1998 was far too short to cleanse itself from the arrogance, which a long-term hold on power inevitably brings.

This could not have been more evident than in the speech which the Prime Minister delivered at Ta` Qali on the afternoon of the 1st of May celebrations. A rare sober speech the day before where the Prime Minister acknowledged that the` privatisation process needed a wider consensus for its successful implementation, soon gave way for the most arrogant speech the Prime Minister has delivered this year.

What sparked the change of mood was probably an outburst by a nationalist` opinionist published in the press on that very day which basically told the Prime Minister to shake off the lethargy and the arrogance and start governing in the dynamic style of his first term in office.

The reply was ominously predictable and very typical of leaders who are staying in power on borrowed time.` You are all wrong; stop this senseless criticism; see the good things that we are doing and don`t just focus on our defects; if the electorate were to use` its` democratic right to choose an alternate government voters` would be fools and stupid. This and other utterance in the highest of style of arrogance was the May day reply to the emerging reality` of` dissent and discontent that` have become the hallmark of this administration.

This pitiful leadership is rubbing on to` ministers. Just consider the parliamentary debate on the` Mnajdra debacle.` Rather than accept the opposition well-mannered resolution to work together on a national plan for preservation of our heritage sites, the minister in charge published a so-called plan at five o`clock, expecting` parliament to start debating and approve such plan` at six o`clock.` Is not this the sort of attitude which can only be addressed by a gentlemanly way out of his position to make space for someone who is seriously interested in working a national plan for preservation our heritage`

Just consider the pitiful debate going on regarding Malta`s EU membership plan. Reports which could strengthen critics case stay locked in the cabinet`s drawer.` Whoever expresses doubts and demands a serious debate on issues which are unlikely to stand the test of time gets daubed as prejudiced, working against the national interest, and other names little short of insane.

For making a strong case, statistics and all, expressing serious doubts about Malta`s eligibility for Objective One funding in the context of membership within an enlarged community I have raised a chorus of critics who` continue to avoid the depth of the argument and consider the position as if we are joining the EU on our own within the present arrangement.

Who is serving the national interest best` Those who continue to promise us millions bonanza with the hope of alienating the electorate again with such promises of easy money as happened in the run-up to the 1998 elections` Or those who like me make the case that for all the good reasons why one could argue that we should join the EU, funding is certainly not one of them.

Unless this administration can disengage from the it is right because I say so mentality, the time till next elections is largely well described in Freddie Fender country classic `Wasted Days and Wasted Nights`!

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