The Malta Independent 17 October 2018, Wednesday

Before the context changes

Noel Grima Sunday, 20 May 2018, 10:16 Last update: about 6 months ago

There is a sense of déjà vu in Maltese politics at the moment, a sense that all that could have been said was said and nothing new was added. Daphne’s murder is there, big as a mountain overhanging all of us. Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri, with a host of lesser figures are still all there. The same arguments are made, over and over again, and very little new news is discovered.

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This sense of déjà vu carries on to the folds of the Opposition. Last Sunday, the speech by Adrian Delia was announced as the definitive restating of the PN plank by the new leader. At the end, it was nothing of the sort, so much so that In-Nazzjon, the PN’s paper, dedicated just a few paragraphs to the speech and filled up the rest of the page with pictures. Certainly, the words in the report were about a third of the words as reported by other papers, including our sister daily.

Adrian Delia remains the typical Maltese lawyer – thinking on his feet and making up his speech as he goes along. He did have a paper he consulted from time to time but there was no coherence in the speech, no planned organisation of the points he wanted to make, no political strategy underlying his words. I have felt it before: he gets to meet many people and believes this provides him with a skeleton of the speech he wants to make.

I have still to discover what his assistants provide him with, apart from jealously guarding their position, that is.

There is no evidence in his speeches of any strategy. The five pillars he mentioned in his speech were not new at all and did not announce any new political direction. And heaven knows the Opposition can do with new political directions. The country too, after 10 years of Joseph Muscat. But if the Opposition will continue in its wall-to-wall opposition to Muscat or worse, continue to show day in day out evidence of internal strife and people acting at cross-purposes, it is digging its own tomb.

There are huge areas of policy matters that can be explored and utilized. If you consider it, Joseph Muscat based his approach in 2013 on a couple of policy innovations that we now know masked a carving out of the future government’s range of power of incumbency.

I strongly believe this country needs a thorough clean up – roads need to be redone, markings kept visible at all times, rubbish removed, glaring illegalities tackled, and so on. I believe there is a huge constituency that would back such a plank, if it were made sufficiently credible. On the other hand, a year after the election, Labour’s campaign promise to spend €700 million on so many roads was just an election gimmick.

Things that work: many things in our country do not work or no longer work. We lit up Valletta’s bastions in one year but the next government allows them to fall dark. Visit Gozo and see for yourselves how the improvement registered on the Gozo Channel ships and the Mgarr and Cirkewwa landings no longer work. Other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Singapore and the like are known internationally as places where things work smoothly. We on the contrary tend to complicate all that is simple. Take the ARMS bills and see how we render simple things complicated.

This government has become top-heavy with the immense numbers of politically appointed persons who are promoted beyond their level of competence and create the messes to which I have just referred. Past PN governments meekly took on such persons and let the country suffer through their incompetence. How to bring in justice in this area is a very difficult task to carry out, and one in which past PN governments did not exactly shine. PL just gives promotions to all who demand it, and hang the cost. Is this right?

Yesterday’s march in support of the police was the right response to the terrible attack on a lone police officer who tried to do his duty. But what about more measures to strengthen the arm of the law such as more protective clothing, more investment and above all put a stop to crony promotions to form a top-heavy and inefficient force?

These, and similar issues did not feature in Delia’s speech last week. What are his assistants doing if they do not point him in the right direction?

Beyond all this, we are living in a changing world, a world which will soon make our local political context a completely different one.

To take but one example: the new and nearly formed Italian government has put fighting illegal immigration as one of its main pillars. This will mean mass repatriation of illegal immigrants. It is a safe bet many will find they can come to Malta with no problem at all, since there are no checks at the seaport. Delia has often spoken about migration in terms that have led some to call him populist. What will he concretely suggest in case the inevitable happens?

Brexit is another changed context and very little seems to have been done to examine and plan for possible outcomes.

And speaking of the economy, we are now on top of the economic cycle but what about when the cycle turns and today’s growth path slows down?

 

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