The Malta Independent 17 October 2017, Tuesday

Interesting debate

Alfred Sant Thursday, 20 April 2017, 08:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

It was a great achievement for the Labour government to have managed its financial accounts to the point when for the first time in decades, the outcome was not a deficit but a surplus. There are few European countries which have succeeded to get here.

The counter argument made about how this surplus was reached due to a curtailment and deletion of investments, raised an interesting debate. The same claim is made to explain how German finance minister Schauble has in past years, accumulated surpluses covering scores of millions of euros in his country’s financial books.

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Eurozone rules governing public finance make no distinction between investments and recurrent expenditures. I am one of those who have been raising this matter in the European Parliament and outside.

The accounting system should deal differently with investment outlays and recurrent commitments. As of now, governments have every incentive to put investment and current expenses on the same plane.

The Labour government’s financial success is in complete conformity with the euro zone’s financial regulations.

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Secular public

If our republic is truly secular, in today’s circumstances we really need to consider what place there should be for the teaching of religion in public instruction – indeed if there should be any religious teaching at all. Yet, the constitution defines our country as being of the Catholic faith.

On the one hand, there is the obligation, or so it seems, for the Catholic religion to be accorded a privileged position. On the other hand, there is the obligation not to allow discrimination against any religious minority.

From this to proceed to the point where we should expect state schools to provide lessons in the Islamic faith, seems to me to be a bridge too far. For on the same basis, we would need to make available instruction in the Luteran, Sikh, Buddhist and other faiths.

The best option will probably become that of indeed removing all religious instruction from the curriculum of public schools. Different religions would then be provided with the means, even by way of a subsidy, to hold classes in their particular religions after school hours.

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Erdogan

Turkey’s President Erdogan has finally obtained the result he long fought for: a change in the administration of the country, following which the President would take over practically all the powers of running the state.

Outside Turkey, criticism against this change and the way by which it was accomplished, has been building up from many sides. Actually, in scale, the referendum victory for the change is slight. Major urban centres voted by a big majority against the reform. The manner by which the referendum campaign was held, also got criticised. Europeans considered it was loaded too hard against opponents of change. As was to be expected, Erdogan ended up quite offended by this criticism.

For Turkey, the problem goes beyond such considerations, in my view. The “reforms” that will be introduced are indeed very radical.

When a political organisation introduces such measures while still enjoying the first enormous popular enthusiasm for its project, that is one thing. When it tries to launch them while its political gloss is flaking off, that is another thing.

In Turkey, the second scenario has taken shape. 

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