30th April 2006
But it was not only the title that was odd. The content was bizarre as Minister Gatt argued that HSBC’s decision to invest in an international call centre, creating hundreds of new jobs, showed how misguided Labour was in criticising the sale of Mid-Med Bank to HSBC.
This is twisting history unnecessarily and misguiding. Labour’s criticism of the Mid-Med Bank deal was not that it was sold to HSBC but that the method for doing so was opaque and highly suspicious and, as a consequence, the price obtained was way below the bank’s true value.
Or is Minister Gatt suggesting that privatising on the cheap has some indirect benefit in bringing in second round investment from the foreign acquirers to compensate us for the bargain we offered them? Is the same reasoning being applied in the case of Maltacom’s privatisation at below market price in compensation for the investment in SmartCity by the same investors? I am reliably informed that this is not the case, so much so that Minister Gatt needed a lot of persuading before taking SmartCity approach seriously when it was proposed for his approval by Malta Enterprise.
Irrespective of who says it, I am prepared to subscribe to the thesis that change pays dividends on the proviso that change is well thought and implemented. The proposed constitutional changes to the electoral boundaries meant to re-integrate Gozo into a single electoral district do not unfortunately fall in this category.
The Constitution is not the sort of law that ought to be changed frequently to suit this or that particular requirement. Before embarking on any changes it is important to take a wide view of things to avoid having to make frequent amendments, especially given that many clauses require two-thirds majority and that changes could reduce the manoeuvrability of a future democratically elected government. Above all, changes have to pass the test of equity and reason and not just the test of law.
The argument that unless Gozo is considered as a single region, Gozo residents will be considered as second class citizens, by implication means that
So what is all this fuss about part of Gozo migrating to the 12th district in order to respect existing electoral rules as provided for in the Constitution? Are we trying to isolate Gozo or integrate it?
The argument of a single district makes sense but only if applied on a national basis. This will have two great advantages. Firstly, it would reduce, hopefully eliminate, the gerrymandering in delineating electoral districts for partisan purposes. There will simply be no districts to delineate. Secondly, it will reduce the political clientelism by widening the voting pool promoting voting oriented on merits to represent the people at national levels, rather than through relations with voters at micro-level.
So if our political formations are after fair and reasonable constitutional changes in order to guarantee a better and more serious electoral process, they cannot play around with the Constitution purely to play the Gozo heroes but need to seriously consider the wider aspect to produce a lasting solution.
There will also be the question of governability. By rendering the threshold to parliamentary representation more accessible to political formations other than the two main traditional parties we could end up in situations where governments have to be formed by coalition of parties represented in Parliament. It appears that there is a feeling that this could render the country ungovernable.
While I strongly believe that a party with an absolute majority has a right to govern out-rightly, and a party that has a relative majority where there are only two parties in parliament has also a similar right to govern out-rightly, where there are more than two parties in parliament, governing by coalition is an essential ingredient of democracy. Many countries are governed by coalition governments and they are far from ungovernable.
Maybe such constitutional changes could pay dividends by ending our routine five-year dictatorships.