Monday, 30 June 2003

A Bouquet of Pensieri


Half Way Mark

The end of June is the half way mark of a year that started with a lot of promise and turned into a nightmare for people like me who genuinely believed that
Malta needed a breath of fresh air through a new Labour government.

Events that happened after the election dismayed me more than the result of the election itself. Whoever loves Labour more than himself must be utterly unhappy that we have not only thrown away an election that should have been clearly won, but even more so that we are prejudicing our chances for the next one too.

They Have Media Strategy

And the post-election events have been a strong re-confirmation of the strength of the PN’s media strategy.

For anyone who thinks with his mind not just his heart, the PN must be truly pleased with themselves not only that they won the elections but also that Dr Alfred Sant was reconfirmed Leader of the MLP. Nothing gives them a better chance to look fresh at the next elections when they can present a new leader whilst Labour would present a leader who would be at his fourth asking having lost roundly the last two elections and with a record that he could not manage the first he won when still an unknown quantity.
The PN are aware of the unorthodox way, as are the rest of us, how the party media was used to discourage contestation and to disadvantage those who dared to. How the original decision for holding the early contest before analysing the election result was taken on the wrong premise that Alfred Sant would not be re-contesting, a premise he changed as soon as such decision was taken without a single word being uttered about it in the decision making process.

Yet the PN media and their friends in the English language press see no news value in them. Compare this to the great hype and ensuing damage about the stories of a few summers back related to speculation of corrupt practices in the 1992 leadership election. The conclusion is clear.

The PN and their friendly media will not do anything to weaken Alfred Sant’s position in the first part of this legislature. Only when he is firmly embedded in his place and with little time left for a possible change of leadership will all the criticism about the 2003 leadership election make it to the headlines to ensure maximum damage for Labour for the then forthcoming election process.

Alfred Sant has become an easy and predictable target for the PN and they manage his media image with clever style. This leaves true Labourites like me mouth wide open gasping for some political oxygen as Labour media gets elated by fine speeches in parliament rather than devising real winning strategies for next election.

Out Of Control

The structural fiscal deficit for the first 5 months of 2003 has reached an astronomical figure of Lm105 million being Lm37 million more than deficit at the same point last year and more than double that of the year 2001.

The deficit is simply spinning out of control confirming how pressing was the need for change and how bad Labour has presented itself for the last election, if in spite of all these problems, the electorate again chose those that are mismanaging so grossly.

The deficit for the entire 2003 is budgeted for Lm75 million. Even if we manage to cash in the Lm22 million in grants as projected, no mean task in itself given the bureaucracy of managing funds under the Italian and the EU financial protocols, this will be just a match for the Lm21 million extraordinary revenue registered in later months of last year from the privatisation proceeds of MIA.

So given that last year we finished with a budget deficit of Lm88 million and at this point we are already Lm37 million out on last year, if we assume we keep to budget from this point onwards with grant moneys and all, the deficit for the whole of this year will shoot up to Lm125 million which is where we were in 1996.

Who knows what schemes are being devised to replay last year’s sleight of hand to make privatisation revenues look right ordinary revenue?

It would be one joke too many.

Portfolio Performance

Strategy 1 No Risk Lm1002.282
Strategy 2 Medium Risk 997.700 (after Lm40 charges)
Strategy 3 High Risk Lm 980.100 (after Lm20 charges)
Strategy 4 High Risk For Curr 1001.590 (after Lm40charges)

All quotes are net of withholding tax on profit or interest where applicable, and use latest available price quotes and rates on Saturday 28thJune.

This week was dominated by the Fed decision to shave its Fed Funds overnight right one quarter to 1%, the lowest since 1958. Yet the market expected a half percentage point cut. It could not decide whether to be happy that the Fed felt that the economy did not need a half point push or sad that the economy still needed rate cuts to attempt a revival and wondered what would happen when the Fed runs out possibilities for further interest rate cuts.

Consequently equities and bonds dipped while the market reflects and awaits signals about 2nd quarter corporate profitability which will start pouring in the next few days. In this uncertainty, cash is the king.

No changes were made to the portfolio.

Sunday, 29 June 2003

Tourism - Let`s get Serious

The Malta Independent on Sunday 

Tourism is and will remain a vital part of our economy. It has the potential for sustainable and healthy growth. It is therefore important that the industry is given due attention and gets lifted from political bickering which plagues most aspects of Maltese life.

Recent events indicate that we are not doing so. MHRA held a press conference to present its findings from a survey amongst its members for the first quarter of 2003 which made rather poor reading. The Minister for Tourism makes short shrift of the MHRA survey and was reported as follows in the press:

“The Minister refused to be taken aback by the survey which revealed among other things that the hotel industry had reported a gross operating loss of 21 per cent compared with a loss of 13 per cent during the same period last year.

Pointing out that he would always avoid pessimistic attitudes, the minister stressed that all tourism players were working hand in hand to reverse the downward trend - and there were already encouraging signs.”

It might be a virtue to maintain a positive attitude in the face of all adversity. But on the other hand it is irresponsible to avoid facts and just hope that positive talk will on its own deliver solutions.

I would probably have let the matter pass as just another of so many instances where we refuse to face reality and refuse to organise a broadly supported action programme to deliver a sustainable solution so that we can see tourism where it belongs – as the primary growth generator of the Maltese economy.

But coming in the days when it was announced that Louis Grech is being unceremoniously relieved from his chairmanship of Air Malta I could not let my reflections go unwritten.

Malta does not make many like Louis Grech. He has led Air Malta for the last seven years in the most admirable way keeping it operationally profitable in the face of all adversity. He did his damn hardest to keep to company afloat when strategic decisions taken by his predecessors (purchase of the RJ’s and investment in Azzurra Air) drifted the company away from its raison d’etre and started driving holes in its financial structure.

Air Malta is an integral part of our tourism. Following the unfortunate experience of the RJ’s and Azzurra Air, everyone seems to have accepted the obvious, that Air Malta exists to promote Malta tourism and its performance and that of Maltese tourism industry are inter-dependant.

It is therefore important that Air Malta is guided with stability and professionalism and not with political affiliation or nepotism. If it was time for a change at the top of Air Malta, and one could accept that after seven years at the helm there could be room for change to induce new styles, fresh ideas and account for good corporate governance which may be enhanced through occasional changes of responsibilities, then change should be done with the dignity and honour which an outgoing chairman as Louis Grech deserves.

He should certainly not hear rumours about it in the press and much less be officially informed just 4 days before it takes effect. Such crude approach will inevitably lead objective observers to the logical conclusion that such biased treatment is reserved for chairpersons who were initially appointed by a Labour government.

My comments do not in any way reflect negatively on the ability of the new Chairman, my friend Lawrence Zammit, to build on Louis Grech’s good work and take Air Malta to higher grounds. Lawrence has already shown his entrepreneurial leadership skills and one should be quite confident that Air Malta will continue to be well served through his chairmanship.

The point is that there is no shortage of other places where Lawrence Zammit’s skills were needed, whilst Air Malta was well served by Louis Grech. If when all is said and done the government or minister responsible still considered it proper to terminate Louis Grech chairmanship, than at least this should have been done with dignity.

The larger view is that tourism can only deliver the growth we expect and need, only if we pool all talent to transform the industry to one where we can compete effectively on our unique competences rather than continue to compete in terms of price against mass market locations. The message should be “come to Malta for three or four days as what you can see in Malta in three or four days you will not see anywhere else”. This is a strategy which builds on the uniqueness of our small size and turns a threat into an opportunity, a disadvantage into an advantage.

If we manage to so transform our tourism, Air Malta would practically double its workload on the basis of existing bed-stock and the spend per tourist night will rise exponentially as we get tourists who spend Lm200 in three days rather than in two weeks.

To do so we need to transform our product from predominantly tour operator driven to a collection of niche competences in conference and incentive, multi point destinations and fly and cruise holidays. This is easier said than done and to succeed we need Karmenu and Louis as much as we need Lawrence and Francis. When are we going to start?

Diversita` u Lejalta`


Il-Partit Laburista huwa partit kbir. Anke jekk mhux kbir bizzejjed biex ikun fil-gvern xorta jibqa l-fatt li huwa partit kbir li jirraprezenta minoranza qawwija hafna tal-poplu Malti.

Xoghlna huwa li naghmluh partit akbar. Partit li jkollu warajh il-magguranza assoluta tal-poplu Malti biex b’hekk nirbhu l-gvern. Ghax huwa biss mill-gvern li l-Partit jistajilhaq l-ghanijiet tieghu. Mill-oppozizzjoni ma nistghux naslu biex inwettqu dak li ghalih nezistu. Mill-oppozizzjoni nistghu biss niddefendu izda ma nistghux nattakkaw u niskurjaw. U niddefendu kemm niddefendu tajjeb, fl-ahhar naqilghu goal u nitilfu l-loghba.

Anke jekk inkunu oppozzizzjoni ta 49.9% xorta ma jkunx bizzejjed biex niehdu l-gvern. Ghal dan ghandna bzonn magguranza, xejn anqas.

Issa ilna zmien twil wisq fl-oppozizzjoni. Sa l-elezzjoni li jmiss se nkunu ghamilna 21 sena shah fl-oppozizzjoni hlief ghal intervall qasir ta’ 22 xhar bejn 1996 –1998 li issa kwazi hadd ma ghadu jiftakarahom. Min ser jivvota ghall-ewwel darba fl-elezzjoni li jmiss m’hu se jkun jaf xejn hlief gvern nazzjonalista.

Biex nigbdu warajna magguranza daqshekk wiesgha fil-partit ghandna bzonn nghozzu d-diversita’. Biex ikollok partit daqstant kbir m’huwiex possibbli li kullhadd jaqbel ma kullhadd f’kollox. L-importanti li jkun jaqbel mal-principji bazici izda fuq id-dettal tistatigi ttolerata diversitataopinjoni. Ghax biex nirbhu l-gvern irridu lil min huwa ahmar skur daqs lil min huwa roza car u maghhom irridu l-magguranza tadawk li lewnhom abjad u ohrajn li jibdlu l-kulur minn celest ghal roza skond ic-cirkustanzi.

U zgur ma rridux ninfluwenzaw ruhna meta l-media kkontrollata min-nazzjonalisti joqghodu jonfhu u jkabbar id-diversitataghna dwar dettalji u jpenguhom bhala xi firda strategika. Jekk naghmlu dan naqghu fin-nassa li jkunu nasbulna.

Ghax hija normalissima li partit kbir jittollera diversitadwar dettalji filwaqt li jitlob u jishaq dwar uniformita fuq il-principji bazici. Anke n-nazzjonalisti stess ghandhom diversita' ta opininjonijiet fuq dettalji. Hemm minnhom min huwa kaccatur daqs kemm hemm min huwa ambjentalist. Hemm min irid joqghod ghal kollox ghal li tghidilhom l-UE u hemm min irid jinnegozja aktar u jkun ezigenti izjed. Hemm min jemmen li l-UE hija s-soluzzjoni takollox u hemm min jahseb li l-UE ma ssolvi xejn u rridu nkunu ahna primarjament li nerfghu u ngorru l-piz.

Biex inshahhu id-diversitairridu noqghodu attenti li ma naghmlux zbalji bhal ma ghamilna li nghollu ghal livell taprincipji bazici affarijiet li wara niskopru li ma huma principji xejn u nkunu lesti nibdlu l-pozizzjoni taghna sempliciment biex naccettaw rejaltijiet godda li jizviluppaw mit-telfa elettorali. Il-principji bazici huma biss dawk li fil-gvern daqs kemm fl-oppozizzjoni ma jinbidlu qatt.

Jekk ntellghu ghal livell taprincipji bazici affarijiet li jkunu biss tattici, allura jigri li nohonqu d-diversita’ u nitilfu parti mill-elettorat li taf tfisser id-differenza bejn gvern u oppozizzjoni.

U f’dan il-kuntest wiehed irid jifhem il-konnessjoni bejn id-diversita’ u l-lejalta’. Jekk ser nittolleraw id-diversitabiex nghaqqdu magguranza li twassalna ghal gvern ma nistghux li kull min ma jaqbilx maghna sa lanqas dettal narawh bhallikieku qed jonqos mil-lejalta’. Ma nistghux naccettaw id-diversitajekk imbaghad inqisu l-istess diversitabhala nuqqas talejalta’.

U hawn ta’ min jipprofondixxi il-kuncett talejalta’. Meta nghidu lejaltalejn min ghandha tkun din il-lejalta’? Ghandha tkun lejaltalejn il-persuni, lejn il-Partit jew lejn in-nies komuni li huma l-gisem tal-partit li jezisti biex jiddefendi l-interessi taghhom bhala haddiema li jaqilghuha u jiekluha?

Dawn huma mistoqsijiet importanti li jehtieg li nkunu cari fuqhom jekk irridu tassew li jkollna partit haj, miftuh u li jikber biex nibdlu il-minoranza f’magguranza u biex mill-oppozizzjoni mmorru fil-gvern.

Jien nemmen li l-lejalta taghna ghandha tkun l-ewwel u qabel kollox lejn il-principji bazici tal-partit , lejn il-principju tas-socjalizmu demokratiku u l-principju tal-helsien, u dwar dan ma ghandu jkunu hemm l-ebda margni ghad-diversita’. B’hekk inkunu nistghu tassew niddefendu l-interessi tan-nies tax-xoghol li ghalihom jezisti l-Partit Laburista.

Lejlata lejn il-persuni, huma min huma, huma sekondarji ghal lejaltalejn il-Partit u l-principji bazici tieghu. Jekk le nibnu, l-kult tal-persuna li huwa kontra l-principji tas-socjalizmu demokratiku fejn is-soliderjataghandha tirbah fuq l-individwalizmu.

Mela f’kull decizjoni li niehdu ghandha nizguraw li jkun hemm lejalta lejn il-principji bazici tal-partit u mhux lejn il-persuna, u li nhallu spazju kemm jistajkun wiesgha ghad-diversita halli nghaqqdu il-magguranza ghax dan huwa l-uniku mod li nistghu tassew inwettqu il-missjoni li ghaliha nezistu. Diskorsi u aspirazzjonijiet sbieh mill-oppozizzjoni jiswew ftit li xejn jekk ma jwassluniex biex nirbhu l-gvern. Attakki fuq laburisti genwini li ma jaqblux maghna dwar dettalji li ma joffendux il-principji bazici tal-partit, jiswew ferm u ferm anqas.

Friday, 27 June 2003

What we Really Need

The Malta Independent 

I gain the impression that the parliamentary process for ratification of the EU membership treaty will just be another diversion from focussing on what the country really needs.

The government continues to present EU membership as some sort of miraculous cure to all our ills. The opposition, while accepting the will of the majority, is clearly on the look out to see if there is a legal case to test whether parts of the treaty offend the Constitution in those entrenched clauses requiring two-thirds parliamentary majority and in respect of which the referendum and the election result are ineffectual.

While these could be a matter of particular interest, none of it helps to address the real problems at source and any belief that these will be addressed by the mere adhesion to EU membership is quickly evaporating.

Whether we like it or not, with EU membership or without it, we have to compete and win in a globalised world if we are to maintain and enhance the standard of living and meet the growing aspirations of society. We have to do so whilst economic tools used in the past are either not available or have become quite ineffective.  

 Interest rate policy is no longer ours to influence the economy with, as we used to do in days of stiff exchange control regime. The Central Bank keeps cutting interest rates in sympathy with the decisions of` foreign central banks representing the currencies in the Lm rate of exchange basket. Fiscal policy needs tightening to come in line with Maastricht criteria for EMU membership even though real results do not match the stated intentions. This can only make future tightening that much more painful. Rate of exchange policy has not been an effective policy tool for the last 10 years and will become less so as we approach the fusion of the Lm into the Euro.

So solutions have to be addressed at source through economic re-structuring and no longer through intermediate policy tools. In particular we need to address the issue of how to make the country competitive again leading to attraction of` direct investment at a level much higher than we have seen in recent years.

This is what the country really needs. The EU decision can only help by bringing the stability of knowing what the rules of the game are. An improvement over the previous insecurity of not having the benefits of uncertain membership without enjoying the benefits of non-membership whilst we were officially on the road to membership.

The problem is that we do not have a road-map ( to use a suddenly popular phrase adopted in the Middle East peace plan) of how can we get there. We should at least make a national plan identifying the areas for which we have the natural characteristics to compete effectively.  

 In 1999 I published a book where I identified five areas which merit our focussing investment and development efforts. All these sectors cannot be dependant on competitive cost base but on the value we can add to the process. We just cannot compete on low wages and competitive costs with other candidate countries that are geographically better linked to the EU mainland, are starting from a much lower cost base and have economies of scale that, given our size, we can never have.

These sectors can only be developed if we accept that our only real competitive edge or point of distinction is our size and the intrinsic abilities of our human resources. So development must compulsorily involve huge investment in training and re-training of labour resources, increased efficiency in the use of such resources especially, but not only,` in the public sector, greater flexibility in our labour laws and adoption of the concept of life-long employability rather than life-long employment.

And none of this will come about by the simple adoption of early retirement schemes especially if the public sector indulges in the scandalous` habit of` paying huge sums for early retirement of its best able-bodies and than getting the same people through the back-door simply increasing` costs rather than efficiency.  

Thursday, 26 June 2003

Allaharesqatt jew Rejalta Gdida


Bdiet fil-parlament id-diskussjoni dwar ir-ratifika tat-trattat biex Malta issir membru ta’ l-UE. Il-gvern qed jemfasizza li t-trattat iffermat ma jistax jinbidel u allura bhal speci id-diskussjoni fil-parlament qed issir bhala procedura u mhux biex issir analizi li tista’ twassal ghal xi tibdil.

L-argument tal-gvern huwa li il-poplu ddecieda b’mod car jekk mhux fir-referendum allura fl-elezzjoni u ghalhekk issa jonqos biss li d-decizjoni tal-poplu maghmula b’mod demokratiku tigi ezekwita permezz tal-magguranza fil-parlament.

U dan ma tantx tista’ targumenta kontrih mil-lat prattiku. Ghax il-fatti huma li huma. Mil-oppozizzjoni tista’ tikkritka, targumenta, tilmenta jew tipprotesta izda ma tistax tezegwixxi.

Nghid ghalija jien ghadni konvint, kwazi aktar minn qabel meta nara l-izviluppi li qed isehhu mil-Konvenzjoni dwar il-Futur ta’ l-Ewropa, li ghal pajjizna il-politika ta’ Partnership kienet aktar addattata. Konvint li l-Ewropa li ser nidhlu fiha ma hix dik li fuqha sar il-ftehim tat-trattat. Il-Konvenzjoni ga qed tipprogetta tibdil kbir li jkompli jnaqqar is-sovranita’ tal-pajjizi membri individwalment specjalment tal-pajjizi z-zghar, l-izghar fosthom Malta. Hafna drabi qed jigri li biex jiggustifikaw it-tibdil li jixtiequ, Malta qed tintuza bhala argument ghala t-tibdil huwa mehtieg.

Il-pajjizi ‘l kbar jargumentaw li ma jistax certi decizjonijiet jibqghu sugett ghal veto ghax inkella pajjiz zghir bhal Malta ikollu sahha jimblokka decizjonijiet li jaqblu maghhom il-magguranza tal-pajjizi u tal-popli ewropej.

Huwa car li l-UE li ser ikollna nghixu rejalta gdida maghha, ser tkun differenti min dik li ftehmna fuqha. U dan kien u ghadu previdibbli. Ghax jekk ma jinbidlux l-affarijiet l-UE li ser tikber ghal 25 membru u aktar tard ghal 27, 28 u eventwalment ghal aktar minn 30 membru ma tistax tahdem bil-konsensus. Inkella tistalla u tibqa’ ffrizata meta tigi biex tikkompeti ma l-Stati Uniti kemm f’termini ekonomici kif ukoll f’termini politici.

U aktar ma jigri dan aktar nikkonvinci ruhi kemm kien ikun jaqbel ghal Malta li naddottaw politika ta’ partnership anke jekk ekonomikament konna naslu ghal ftehim li jwassal biex Malta gradatament tippartecipa b’mod shih fis-suq uniku ewropew bhal ma jghamlu n-Norvegja u l-Islanda u bhal ma ghad taghmel l-Isvizzera.

Ejja niehdu biss biss x’gara fil-kwistjoni tas-sigriet bankarju ghal depoziti ta’ barranin ma banek Maltin. Malta u pajjizi kandidati ohra ma thallewx jinnegozjaw arrangamenti li jzommu dan is-sigriet bankarju ghax l-UE ghamlitha cara li anke pajjizi membri li ghandhom dan is-sigriet iridu jnehhuh. Gara izda li pajjizi membri bhal Lussemburgu, Belgium u l-Awstrija fl-ahhar irnexxielhom izzommu s-sigriet bankarju. Allura issa gejna li pajjizi barra l-UE zammew is-sigriet bankarju, pajjizi ga membri zammew is-sigiret bankarju izda l-membri godda fosthom Malta ma thallewx izomm is-sigriet bankarju. Min qal li l-UE ma tistax tati arrangament ahjar lil min hu barra milli tati lil membri taghha, nahseb li jekk jiehu dan b’ezemplu ghandu jerga jahsibha.

Izda tajba kemm hi tajba poltika bhal din, konvinti kemm konna u ghadna konvinti minnha, jibqa l-fatt li l-progetti tista biss twettaqhom mill-gvern u mhux mill-oppozizzjoni. U jigri hafna drabi li rejalta’ la darba ssehh ma tistax treggaghha lura lanqas meta ghada pitghada tkun fil-gevrn. Ghax l-affarijiet jinbidlu, ic-cirkustanzi jinbidlu, l-erghuq jinzlu fil-fond u biex tibdel tispicca taghmel aktar hsara milli gid.

Niehdu b’ezempju il-power station ta’ Delimara. Ma naqblux sal-lum li saret fejn saret izda jista’ xi hadd jghaddielu minn mohhu li jzarmaha u jehodha x’imkien iehor? L-istess l-UE. Sa hames snin ohra Malta tkun integrata tant fl-UE li minkejja kull konvinzjoni li l-affarijiet setghu saru ahjar, ghal maghmul ma jkunx hemm kunsill u jkun jaqbel li flok toqghod timmedita l-passat tara kif ser taghmel l- ajjar minn cirkustanzi li ma tistax tibdel izjed. Bhal meta tizzewweg u jkollok it-tfal x’jiswa li toqghod tohlom kemm kien ikun ahjar kieku bqajt guvni jew xebba?

Hekk hi l-UE. La darba tidhol anke jekk din tkompli tinbidel b’mod li ma tkunx tirrifletti dak li l-poplu jkun ivvota ghalih fil-bidu, isir difficli hafna li tikkonsidra xi alternattiva li tmur lura ghal pozizzjoni ta’ qabel is-shubija.

U ghalhekk semmejt dan l-artiklu allaharesqatt jew rejalta gdida. Biex tifhmu li dak li konna nghidu qabel l-elezzjoni kien tajjeb qabel ma l-poplu fis-sapjenza tieghu vvota kif ivvota fl-elezzjoni li ghaddiet izda ma ghadux jghodd ghal cirkostanzi fejn Malta issa, tajjeb jew hazin, ghazlet li ssir membru fl-UE.

Li hu zgur huwa li l-Partit Laburista jekk ser jibqa’ fl-oppozizzjoni ser ikompli jitlef il-kredibbilita’ ghax ikollu bilfors jitlaq minn platforms ta’ policy li jkun bena tul hafna snin u kull darba jrid jerga’ jibni mill-gdid. Li juri kemm huwa minnu li partit politiku li jaghmel zmien twil fl-oppozizzjoni jibda jipperikola l-ezistenza tieghu.

Ghalhekk ejja nibdlu policies kull fejn hemm bzonn biex niehdu konjizzjoni tar-rejlatajiet godda. Izda qabel kollox ejja nizguraw li niehdu il-mizuri kollha li hemm bzonn biex il-partit isir kredibbli ha jigbed warajh il-magguranza ta’ l-elettorat. Ghax l-aqwa policies u pjani ma jiswew ghal xejn jekk nibqghu fl-oppozizzjoni.

Ghalhekk jien ghadni mugugh sal-lum li meta ppruvajt nuri minn qabel fejn konna se nwegghu, l-aktar billi ghedna li kollox jigi deciz b’elezzjoni flok accetajna minn qabel decizjoni ta’ referendum basta jsir sewwa u wara l-elezzjoni, flok hadt apprezzament li kont qed nipprova nevita hames snin ohra fl-oppozizzjoni, hadt reputazzjoni li jien ma naqbilx mal-policy tal-partit. Policy li fil-fatt qatt ma kien hemm u li saret kif kont nissugerixxi jien proprju fl-ahhar, meta izda kien tard wisq. 

Monday, 23 June 2003

Conflicting Evidence

Conflicting evidence continues to emerge regarding whether the US economy has resumed a growth path or is continuing to inch gradually towards a no-growth deflationary scenario.

No other economy has been as pre-emptive as the
US in trying to re-start its economy and seeking to mitigate the threat of deflation that has gripped Japan and is threatening Germany.

The Federal Reserve has been aggressively pushing down interest rates from the 6.5% where they were at the beginning of 2001 to their current level of 1.25%. It is widely believed that this week the Federal Reserve will take out a further insurance against deflation and will knock interest rates down a further 50 basis point to a record low of 0.75%.

Fiscally the US has quickly spent its way out of the surpluses bequeathed by the Clinton administration and has approved a package of $350 billion stimulus even though the federal budget has swung deep into the red as slow revenue growth was compounded by additional defence expenditure.

Yet the consumer, excluding housing starts financed by cheap mortgages, continues to move cautiously and is not coming up with the expected increased demand normally associated with periods of feel-good economic growth. The consumer is still worried that the risk of recession or depression could threaten his job and is not giving the economy the kick-start that loose fiscal and monetary policy are inviting him to give.

Which proves that economically speaking as well, you take the horse to the water but you cannot make it drink.

This uncertain scenario where we continue to receive conflicting evidence of increased confidence and increased job losses, seems to have taken the momentum out of the rise of Stock Markets from the substantial advance they registered since mid-March 2003.

I meet strongly divergent views. On one hand there is the pessimistic view about the real risk of deflation expecting stock markets to plunge back to reflect pessimism on future economic growth. On the other there are optimists who predict a scenario where it is expected that as the economy grows payroll hirings would increase to strengthen the consumers’ confidence about the future, opening a period of non-inflationary growth which would boost stock market prices as they take account of enhanced corporate profitability.

It is too early to be confident as to which scenario will prevail. Stock dealers can probably forget about a summer holiday as up or down I expect sharp movements in Stock market prices in the summer months.

Loss Of Sovereignty

There is no way that an EU of 25 and planning to increase to 27 than 28 and eventually to 30 and more, can work on the basis of the current Treaties. It is clear that for the EU to function at this enlarged level, veto decision making will have to be abolished, and important decisions will be taken by qualified majority.

It is also clear that countries like Malta will have little or no say in what is decided and we will also miss our place in the sun formerly expected once every 13 years by being denied the rotation of EU presidency. The presence of a permanent Maltese commissioner has been watered down substantially as well.
Malta could well argue that this takes away the sovereignty that we expected to be able to maintain through vetoes and spotlight places, but if we thought that these could outlast the enlargement then we were na├»ve indeed. Facts are facts and as the EU becomes a more centrally controlled organisation with one voice in the world of finance and foreign relations, small countries cannot expect to act like toddlers wearing their father’s clothes.

This was made clear in a book I published on this matter way back in 1999 and although europhiles initially criticised me for being too negative in my expectations, time unfolds to bring hard reality out of soft dreams.

Once we were not disciplined enough to do what we need to do outside membership we can hardly complain that they are changing the EU we thought we were joining and it increasingly looks unfit for our size.

Portfolio Performance

Strategy 1 No Risk Lm1001.712
Strategy 2 Medium Risk 1002.410 (after Lm40 charges)
Strategy 3 High Risk Lm 969.210 (after Lm20 charges)
Strategy 4 High Risk For Curr. 998.067 (after Lm40charges)

All quotes are net of withholding tax on profit or interest where applicable, and use latest available price quotes and rates on Saturday 21st June.

Strategy 4 lost from stalling of Stock Market march and drop in Biotech shares as there was disappointment from a drug thought to be promising a cure for Alzheimer. The loss was mitigated by strengthening of the USD vs the Euro. Strategy 2 kept steady as it is a balanced portfolio with shares and bonds.

Strategy 3 also retreated as Maltacom shares lost 3c0 to close the week at 89c0.. Strategy 1 accumulates interest at 3.5%.

No changes were made to the portfolio.

Sunday, 22 June 2003


L-abbozz tal-ligi biex jigi ratifikat it-trattat ta’ shubija ta’ pajjizna fl-UE qed quddiem il-parlament.

M’inhiex fi hsibni noqghod nargumenta li permezz ta’ trattat bhal dan is-sovranita’ ta’ pajjizna ser tigi mxellfa sew ghax ser nissotmettu ruhna li naccettaw bla paroli decizjonijiet li jittiehdu fi Brussel li hafna drabi m’hu se jkollna l-ebda inflwenza fuqhom. Tant li fl-abozz hemm provdut li mhux biss qed nirrtifikaw dak li ga huwa miftiehem izda wkoll dak kollu li jista jigi miftiehem aktar ‘l quddiem skond kif ipprovdut fit-trattat.

Izda l-poplu kien jaf b’dan. Zgur li ma jistax jinghad li l-Partit Laburista ma ghamilx il-kaz car quddiem il-poplu li dan it-trattat itellef parti sew mis-sovranita’ taghna. Il-poplu fis-sapjenza tieghu ghazel li hemm affarijiet ohra li huma ta’ beneficcju superjuri u ddecieda favur li jsir trattat bhal dan.

Decizjoni tal-poplu torbot lil kullhadd skond ir-regoli tad-demokrazija u anke jekk ma naqblux li din kienet l-ahjar ghazla, irridu nirrispettaw id-dritt tal-gvern li jwettaq l-ghazla tal-poplu anke jekk anke nuru rispett lejn l-opinjoni tal-minorinza billi nivvutaw kontra.

Dment li l-partitjiet tal-kostituzzjoni li biex jinbidlu jehtiegu maggoranza ta’ zewg terzi ma jigux mittiefsa allura l-oppozizzjoni trid bilfors tirrispetta li titwettaq ir-rieda tal-magguranza skond ir-regoli tad-demokrazija.

Izda t-trattat li hemm ghall-approvazzjoni tal-parlament jikser wahda mil-principji fundamentali tad-demokraizja. Id-demokrazija titlob separazzjoni cara bejn il-funzjoni legizlattiva tal-parlament u l-funzjoni ezekuttiva tal-gvern.

Anke jekk il-gvern ghandu magguranza fil-parlament ma jfissirx li l-gvern u l-parlament huma l-istess haga u li l-gvern jista’ jaghmel affarijiet u jkun qisu ghamilhom il-parlament. Fost dawn hemm il-ligijiet. Il-gvern ma ghandux poter jghaddi jew jemmenda ligijiet. Dan il-poter jappartjeni lil-parlament. Il-parlament fil-ligijiet li jghaddi jista’ mbaghad jghati awtorilta’ lil-gvern li biex iwettaq il-ligijiet jista johrog Legal Notices fuq affarijiet ta’ dettal dwar l-ezekuzzjoni tal-ligi. Izda s-sustanza tal-ligi trid tghaddi mil-parlament.

Fl-abbozz dan il-principju qed jinkiser. L-abbozz qed ifittex li jghati poter lill-Prim Ministru li ghal perjodu tranzitorju ta sena mill-1 ta’ Meju tas-sena 2004, il-Prim Ministru wahdu ikollu poter li jibdel kull ligi ta’ Malta li jkun ghadda l-parlament Malti biex fejn din ma tkunx konformi mat-trattat kif inhu u kif jista’ jinbidel skond kif provdut fit-trattat stess, igibha konfermi u dan bla ma jkolli jgib l-ebda approvazzjoni tal-parlament.

Fl-opinjoni tieghi din hija insult lejn id-demokrzija billi qed tikser il-principju tas-separazzjoni tal-funzjoni legislattiva mill-funzjoni ezekuttiva u qed tiddivalwa l-istituzzjoni tal-parlament, fejn l-oppozizzjoni tista ssemma lehinha anke jekk fl-ahhar mill-ahhar il-gvern jista jimponi r-rieda tieghu permezz tal-magguranza.

Tajjeb niftakru li l-gvern Laburista fl-1998 waqa ghax tilef il-magguranza fil-parlament u dan qed nghidu biex nifhmu kemm hija importanti s-separazzjoni ta’ dawn iz-zewg istituzzjonijiet.

Jidhirli li din hija arroganza zejda tal-gvern ghax xorta seta halla kollox normali u jghaddi kull bdil ta’ ligi li jrid bil-proceduri tal-parlament. Izda jidher li l-arroganza tant zdidiet li d-demokraizja saret xkiel ghal gvern u jidhirlu li anke jekk ghal perjodu transitorju, jista jehles mix-xkiel tad-demokrazija parlamentari u jpoggi lill-Prim Minsitru bhala persuna singola li ghandha dritt li taghmel il-ligijiet.

Arrangamenti bhal dawn huma addattati ghal zmien in-nobbilta Franciza ta’ qabel ir-rivoluzzjoni fejn ir-re kien jghid li huwa l-ligi, u mhux ghal pajjiz demokratiku li lest jitlef parti mis-sovranita’ tieghu biex jidhol fil-kollettiv Ewropew. 

Friday, 20 June 2003

I am the Law

The Malta Independent 

The bill for ratification of the treaty signed in Athens on 16 April, providing accession to the EU, is now before parliament.

There are at least three very valid reasons why the Opposition should vote against the bill. Firstly, the Opposition has to respect the opinion of the 48 per cent of the electorate that voted against EU membership. Of the candidate countries that have conducted EU referenda so far, Malta has registered the highest dissenting vote. It is only fair that this is reflected in the parliamentary ratification vote. The will of the majority will still be executed while taking cognisance of the fact that a sizeable minority held a different opinion.

Another reason why the Opposition should vote against the ratification of the treaty is to preserve the promise (emphatically made by government in the run-up to the referendum) that those provisions in our constitution which require two-thirds majority for any modification, will not be affected by the ratification. If the Opposition were to vote in favour, what defence could then be put up should it prove necessary, for compliance purposes, to change the constitution even in those matters that are entrenched for qualified majority voting?

The third reason why Labour should vote against the bill for ratification is because the bill is much more than that. It ratifies not only all other treaties, agreements, and protocols that
Malta becomes a party thereto by virtue of ratification of the membership treaty, but also all future treaties which the Prime Minister declares to form part of the Accession Treaty.

Now I perfectly understand that once
Malta has decided to join the EU it has no choice but to do what the ratification bill is proposing. There should be no question that membership involves loss of sovereignty and this is reflected in bill. The people were well informed about this and once they still voted for it, than as long as the entrenched matters in the constitution are not prejudiced, so be it.

However, expecting the Opposition to vote in favour of something that they were adamantly against and for which they were endorsed by 48 per cent of the electorate, is to expect that the 52 per cent majority can pretend that the 48 per cent minority is just not there. This is certainly not the case.

However, the bill does not even stop there. No matter how unpalatable it may be for the minority, it is natural that the government has to execute the democratic decision taken and present bills that are in conformity with and necessary for its execution. But the ratification bill goes well beyond the natural and in a particular section relating to transitory provisions we enter the realm of the unnatural.

Through this provision the Prime Minister is giving himself, for a period of 12 months following accession date, the sole authority to change Maltese legislation to bring it in line with the EU Treaty. This is where it results that the legislation is not conforming with the treaty as is or as it may be extended by the declaration of the Prime Minister that future treaties are to be considered as part of the original treaty, and for new legislation which the EU may adopt in future as provided for in the accession treaty.

This is a declaration of “I am the law” which should have no relevance in our current state of democratic development. It is also completely unnecessary. With a majority of four parliamentary seats the least we can expect is for changes to Maltese legislation to be processed through parliament rather than become the prerogative of a single person no matter how transitory such provision could be.


Monday, 16 June 2003

Zero Interest and Others


Zero Interest

When two weeks ago the European Central Bank (ECB) surprised the market by going for a bold cut of 50 basis points in the Euro interest rate bringing it down to a record low of 2%, the ECB President Duisenberg was emphatic in stressing that he was not giving any signal for future direction of interest rates.

But it seems that as in politics, a week can be a long time even in economics. And both the most influential central bankers in the world, Greenspan from the US Federal Reserve and Duisenberg were last week giving signals that they are preparing to fire more of their diminishing dry powder reserves in the form of further cuts in interest rates.

In fact it is now widely expected that the Federal Reserve will next week cut US dollar interest rate by a minimum of a quarter and a possibly one half of a percentage point from the already low level of 1.25%. It is also widely expected that the ECB will also trim interest rate downwards again in July in order to check the strength of the Euro against the dollar.

What is making Monetary Authorities cruise quite fast towards the zero interest rate level that have prevailed in
Japan for nearly three years, is the fear that price inflation is falling dangerously below the 2% annual level which is considered healthy for economic growth. Indeed in some economic areas served by the USD and the Euro, there are indications that prices are falling and this spells out the word DEFLATION that central bankers repeatedly assure us there is no real risk of. Their action shows otherwise.

Stock Exchanges have recovered substantially from their lows of mid-March and investors seem to be pricing in strong economic growth for the last quarter of 2003 believing that the interest rate cuts will finally start delivering where prior cuts have failed.

The only way that both investors driving up equity prices world-wide and the main Central Banks can be simultaneously right is if there results a period of inflation-free strong economic growth. This is quite a myopic wishful thinking scenario. It assumes that growth in consumption and consumer confidence will fill existent spare production capacity and benefits from technological efficiencies. This will keep the unit cost of products from rising threatening future inflation and will avoid constraining Central Banks to engineer sharp turnarounds in their interest rate policies.

This is quite uncharted territory in post-war economic history and we have few benchmarks to guide what we can realistically expect. The issue as to whether bonds will again outperform equities this year is not yet closed and the possibility that both would perform well, quite an unusual outcome, is also possible given the experience of the last three months.

It all depends on the consumer. If the consumer can sustain a bright outlook towards economic growth long enough until this could start being reflected in higher payrolls than things would work out for the better. On the other hand if the consumer gives up confidence under the pressure of falling payroll numbers and insecurity about their own future job retention, than not even zero interest rates can force the consumer to spend the economy out of deflation.
Measuring Political Leadership

I am gaining the impression that finally people have started reasoning with their head and no longer with their heart and are increasingly questioning whether it was wise for Alfred Sant to re-contest for leadership following two wide general election defeats. They are also raising doubts as to whether it was wise to hold the leadership contest before the Party had had time to analyse the reasons for the bad performance at the polls last April.

I am meeting an ever larger number of grassroots who are questioning on what basis the leader has assumed that the analysis work being undertaken by an autonomous working group will absolve him from any serious guilt? How has he come to conclude before the analysis work is concluded, that his continued leadership of the party is in the interest of giving MLP the best prospects for winning the next election?

When discussing these issues the question crops up as to what criteria to adopt for measuring the efficiency of a political leader. One of my colleagues has suggested that four criteria should be adopted for such purpose:

- Loving the Party more than one loves oneself

- Keeping the team together united by a strong vision

- Getting results and achieving objectives so as to translate the vision into reality

- When objectives get missed with untypical regularity knowing that it is time to go so as to make it less painful for the Party to choose new leaders that can take it to its objectives.

Not much to argue about I think. I shall certainly be adopting these criteria when the full facts of what led Labour to its defeat last April are made known through publication of the analysis report now under way.

Portfolio Performance

Strategy 1 No Risk Lm1001.141
Strategy 2 Medium Risk 1002.650 (after Lm40 charges)
Strategy 3 High Risk Lm 1001.880 (after Lm20 charges)
Strategy 4 High Risk For Curr. 1015.800 (after Lm40charges)

All quotes are net of withholding tax on profit or interest where applicable, and use latest available price quotes and rates on Saturday 14th June.

Strategies 2 and 4 gain from the continued strength of the international equity prices last week. The greatest gain was made by Strategy 4 which is all equity based with a great bias versus technology and biotech shares. This strategy is also USD over-weighted and gains when the USD moves well relative to the Euro.

Strategy 3 also moved ahead as Maltacom shares added 2c0 to close the week at 92c0.. Strategy 1 accumulates interest at 3.5%.

No changes were made to the portfolio.

Sunday, 15 June 2003

Conflicting Policies

The Malta Independent on Sunday 

Two months have gone by since last election and this is just about the right time to start drawing some logical conclusions why things happened the way they did.` It is the right time because heads have cooled down and whilst the pain is still there one can reason with a cool head and a clear mind. It is close to enough to make conclusions worth drawing and distant enough to draw them objectively.

Labour had a two-pronged policy to militate for the aspired success at last elections.` On the domestic front Labour argued the PN in government for nearly 16 uninterrupted years had become a spent force neglecting domestic issues and pinning all hopes for a cure on discipline and magic through EU membership.

Labour argued that domestic problems, best typified by the dual mountains of debt and debris, were our own to address and we needed to find in the inner strength to do so without necessarily depending on Brussels to force us to do so. It was a matter of having the right leadership qualities so as we get inspired to do the necessary changes without having to take on board the whole load of excessive, stifling and unnecessary bureaucracy that came with the discipline of EU membership.

And to reinforce its case Labour presented its own model for relationship with the EU. A relationship which needed tailor-made negotiations outside the membership structure. A relationship that respected our own geo-political realities rather than accept the final destination of common this and that implied in EU membership.

Both these policies had their own merits. The feeling that it was time for a change of administration to give the democratic cycle a chance to check corruption, arrogance and inertia was widespread. The perception that Labour could do a better job on the domestic front was widely held and supported by scientifically held opinion polls.

Not the same could be said of Labour`s EU policy.` To people`s mind, Partnership` was a complicated arrangement needed long years or hard and tough negotiations for which there was small appetite in Brussels who were clearly eager to get Malta to conform with their great plan. Even if it had theoretical merits the feeling was clear that people were very doubtful about its practical application. The huge media resources available to the opposing political camp whose main argument for EU membership was that of inevitability,` rendered Labour`s EU policy very scant in mind penetrating properties.

As the EU argument warmed up it was becoming clearer that the EU issue would capture people`s mind and relegate domestic issues to second tier in their judgement for the elections. It started becoming clearer that Labour`s two main policies were not at all complimentary and reinforcing each other.` They were in fact conflicting.

The more Labour argued with success about the deficiency of the PN on the domestic front the more it weakened its own other policy for a special relationship with the EU outside membership and by consequence the more it strengthened the inevitability argument of the EU membership camp.

I had foreseen this trend and wrote specifically about it in several of my contributions but more specifically in my Friday column of the Malta Independent of June 28 2002 when under the title Ironic I said:

`How ironic! The most forceful argument in favour of the EU membership project is government`s own incompetence.

With increasing regularity I meet people who are forming an opinion in favour of membership not because they like what is being negotiated. Indeed they hardly know or care to inform themselves. They are starting to favour EU membership as they fear it is the only way to save us from our own incompetence and indiscipline.

They are realising that 15 years of irresponsible money no problem culture has landed us with mountains of debt and debris which are becoming unmanageable and` are threatening our sustainability as a truly independent state.`

So if there is one major fault with Labour`s plan for winning last elections it is that of not realising that its two main policies, while standing up on their own merits, were together appearing to conflict and were encouraging people`s mind to form in favour of giving superiority of the EU issue over domestic issues as one could not be solved without the other.

Labour blind insistence on bundling these two conflicting policies in one electoral decision was its downfall. The increased evidence of conflict in its main policies should have persuaded Labour to separate the issues as much as possible by making the people`s choice on each issue to be taken through a different methodology.` The domestic policy should have been the main topic of the general election whereas the referendum should have been the medium to choose the EU policy.

Bundling the issues where strict separations was called for was a fatal mistake which did injustice to Labour`s policies which could have been chosen by the electorate if presented separately and in the right sequence. The strategists within the MLP, who had all the fair warnings of the grave risks of their illogical choice, and who had already erred in a similar manner through bundling issues that should have been kept separate in 1998,` need to be held accountable to all those who are still hurt that Labour is not in government. Accountable even to those who were forced to vote PN because Labour gave them no option.   

Biex Nkattru l-Gid


Anke mill-oppozizzjoni nahdmu biex inkattru l-gid. Dan pajjizna lkoll. Ahna tant ahna zghar li ma jkunx difficli tifhem li lkoll qeghdin f’dghajsa wahda. Jekk immorru hazin inbaghtu lkoll u jekk immorru tajjeb ingawdu lkoll.

Bhala partit politiku li naspiraw li mexxu l-pajjiz mil-gvern nemmnu li ahna ghandna merti biex immexxu l-pajjiz ahjar mill-avversarjio taghna. Izda l-poplu ma qabilx, jew ghal raguni jew ghal ohra, u ahna suggetti ghad-decizjoni tal-poplu.

Mill-oppozizzjoni irridu inkomplu nistinkaw halli l-magguranza tigi warajna waqt li nhallu l-gvern imexxi skond il-mandat elettorali tieghu u kull fejn nistghu nghinu ha naghmlu l-gid.

Hazin min jghaddilu minn mohhu li xoghlna fl-oppozizzjoni huwa li ntellfu u naghmlu l-bsaten fir-roti halli l-gvern jitfixkel u jidher ikrah hekk kif il-ajjiz imur lura. Il-pajjiz huwa ahna. Jekk imur lura immorru lura mieghu. Aktar ma tkun zghir fis-socjeta’ aktar tbati jekk il-pajjiz imur lura. Ghax iz-zghir jehtieg l-ghajnuna ta’ l-istat permezz ta’ servizzi socjali u jekk l-istat ma jkollux minn fejn l-ewwel li jaqlaghha huwa zghir.

Ghalhekk anke mill-oppozizzjoni jehtieg li naghmlu sehmna biex jitwettaq il-gid. Is-sehem principali huwa tal-gvern ghax huwa ghandu r-responsabbilta’ ta’ tmexxija. Izda hemm certi problemili l-ebda gvern ma jista’ jsolvi wahdu. Problemi li ghandhom bzonn front nazzjonali biex insolvuhom halli l-pajjiz jimxi ‘l quddiem.

Hemm wisq problemi li ilhom traskurati ghax il-gvern jibza’ jiffaccjahom li ma jmurx jidher ikrah. Jekk jibqghu jigu traskurati aktar jigrilna bhal marda li tidhol il-gewwa u l-kura taf tkun hafna aktar kumplikata u difficli. Fl-interess taghna stess li dawn il-problemi nghinu biex jissolvew halli meta ghada pitghada nitilghu fil-gvern insibu li ma irridux nibdew mill-bidu nett.

Jekk hemm dejn nazzjonali dan mhux tan-nazzjonalisti, avolja ghamluh huma. Dan dejn taghna lkoll. Jekk is-servizzi socjali saru piz kbir li l-pajjiz ma jiflahx habba ragunijiet ta’ demograifja din problema taghna lkoll.

Izda meta nigu biex insolvu problemi ma nistghux ninsew li ahna partit socjal demokratiku. Li ahna f’kull ma naghmlu irridu nzommu f’mohhna lildawk tal-qiegh nett li jekk ma jghinhomx l-istat jitkissru. Jekk jintelqu ghal-forzi tas-suq jitghaffgu u jbatu l-faqar. F’qoxra ta’ blata bhalna ma nistghux nghixu fejn minn gawdut sew hafna u min ma ghandux x’jiekol.

Ghalhekk hadd ma ghandu jippretendi li l-Partit Laburista se jiehu sehem f’xi pjan nazzjonali li suppost johloq il-gid billi jghakkes liz-zghir. Jekk l-FOI tahseb li l-problemi tal-pajjiz, problemi kbar, se nsolvuhom billi nattakkaw lil min lanqas li jiflah u lil min ma jistax jiddefendi ruhu allura mhux talli mhux se jsibuna maghhom talli se jsibuna kontrihom. Ghax il-principji taghna niddefenduhom mill-oppozizzjoni daqskemm mill-gvern.

Dal-pajjiz ghandu bzonn riforma, tigdid u ristruttura. Hemm bzonn naqtghu il-politika tat-tribujiet, hemm bzonn mezz kif ikun hemm bilanc ahjar bejn id-drittijiet tal-haddiema bejn dawk tas-settur pubbliku ma dawk tas-settur privat, hemm bzonn investiment kbir fit-tahrig ta-haddiema, hemm bzonn qbil fuq jinghataw iz-zidiet ta’ l-gholi tal-hajja bla ma nitilfu l-kompettiivita’, hemm bzonn studju sew dwar kif se nsostnu il-kura medika pubblika u hemm bzonn tant u tant riformi ohra.

Kollha difficli u li jehtieg ftehim wiesgha dwarhom biex il-piz jintrefa b’mod ekwu ha naslu biex noholqu l-gid biex ikollna xi nqassmu u nwieznu. Izda jekk l-FOI u ohrajn jahsbu li tezisti xi soluzzjoni li titfa’ l-piz fuq min lanqas jiflah, fuq min huwa bil-minimum wage, allura nahseb li lanqas biss ser nibdew.

Nittamaw li dan kien zball minn naha ta’l-FOI li jgahrfu li ma jghinx halli nkunu naslu fi fethim wiesgha halli tassew jinholoq il-gid fi sfond ta’ armononija socjali. Ejja naqtghu l-ghazz u l-hela fejn hemm izda ejja ma ninsewx li lil hinn mil-flus hemm id-dinjita’ tal-bniedem li ghadnu dritt jghix dicenti anke b’paga minima. Ghax jekk innaqqsu l-paga minima kif iridu ta’ l-FOI il-pass ta wara jkun li nnaqqsu il-beneficcji socjali ghax inkella hadd ma jahdem bil-paga minima u kullhadd imur bil-benefeccji socjali. U l-problema flok innaqsuha inziduha.