Independent - Friday Wisdom Malta
Is it sustainable that we have come to a situation where earnings from labour are fiscally more oppressed than earnings from capital? Have we moved away so much from yesterday’s political battle cry of the left “Repubblika mibnija fuq ix-xoghol” (a republic built on work) to the current reality of a republic built on capital gains from property trading (or speculation, if you will), equity trading on the Malta Stock Exchange or outright gaming and gambling.
Is it sustainable to render speculation through one’s capital, assisted by uncontrolled asset price inflation, more rewarding than earnings through one’s production? What role does Malta’s political left have to defend labour’s share of the spoils, both that measured by statistical Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Income, as well as the much larger cake that includes the increase in overall wealth through asset price inflation, ie through higher real estate and quoted equity prices?
Following its defeat at the polls in 1987,
The crushing defeat of 1992 was a refreshing wake-up call, which brought substantial change in the Left’s positioning on the Maltese political spectrum, distancing itself from extreme intervention policies and moving the party to occupy the middle stream of Maltese society. Labour recognised that having succeeded in giving individuals the right to a high level of education, it could not expect those individuals to deny the right to choose their own lifestyle within the economic capacity that they had succeeded in generating. It endorsed policies for the liberalisation of trade, broadcasting, education and the movement of capital, among others.
These policies impressed where it mattered and by 1996 a new-look Labour was back in power. But it was a false dawn.
It soon became clear that while the electorate was in its majority impressed by promise of new Labour, on the inside nothing was being done to keep the old Labour on board to preserve a majority in Parliament. Without such a majority Labour crashed out of government before it had had time to leave its mark and has since been running in the wilderness trying to find a raison d’être for its existence.
Two election defeats following the loss of the parliamentary majority have not been enough to deliver the obvious message to Labour’s leader that he is Labour’s problem and cannot therefore be part of Labour’s solution.
What is so damned clear to the vast majority of the Maltese seems to get so obscure when it enters Labour’s glasshouse. When I tried to do something about it soon after the election, many told me I was rash and it was too early. Now that we are well past the mid-term point in this legislature the same people complain that it is too late to do anything about it. For Labour it seems it is never the right time to do what is right.
Or is it that their overstay in opposition has rendered Labour afraid to win back government, just as slaves were afraid to redeem themselves to the responsibilities of freedom?
And because Labour has chosen, or been forced to choose, to continue to be led by the same leader who showed an utter lack of leadership qualities when tasked with the responsibility of government, as a nation we are forced to live the unreal situation where we pretend we can live off the easy buck rather than the earned lira.
It is just not real to live in a country where the large majority are eager to demand a change of political leadership through the ballot box at the first real opportunity but will not do so when the alternative is Sant.
His inability to preserve a parliamentary majority is a sign of failed leadership further underlined by his taking the party to a second election defeat by capriciously and unnecessarily conditioning his bid for government to non-EU membership.
His seeking re-election to party leadership in spite of such an awful record, when it is well known that leaders are expected to leave and not be thrown out through the ballot box, further erodes his credentials for national leadership.
This is evident in the emerging trend of election results. Whenever the electorate is asked to choose between Labour and PN where Dr Sant’s return to the premiership is not in the equation, Labour tends to win handsomely (as local and European Parliament elections bear witness).
But in general elections where a PN loss would bring Dr Sant back as prime minister, the PN win by Labour’s default. It has happened twice and could happen yet again. Is it real to contemplate 26 years, bar two, of continuous PN government?
Luck seems to be on the PN’s side as well. How else can one explain the reward Malta received from the EU budget perspectives 2007-2013 where, because of our lacklustre economic performance, we statistically stayed just within the norm for full objective one funding, whereas Cyprus have had to pay the price of their economic success by soon becoming net contributors to the EU budget?
Is it real to expect that we can continue to enjoy the fruits of our inefficiencies? I am confused as to whether to wish that we can continue to dream on or whether to hope for a salutary encounter with reality in 2006. Take your pick of what is best for a Happy New Year.