The Malta Independent 16 December 2018, Sunday

How?

Alfred Sant Monday, 8 October 2018, 07:42 Last update: about 3 months ago

The divergences between high income earners in this country and those whose earnings are low to too low have greatly increased. The reason is that the income of people earning a lot continues to rise. Meanwhile, lower income strata have hardly experienced any rise in their earnings – more likely they have seen it decline, in relative terms if not absolutely.

The first development does not bother me. For as long as people who have earned good money and are earning even more, do so honestly and in a situation where social justice prevails, why not?

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It’s the second scenario that I find disquieting. What is making poor people become poorer? A lack of good jobs? The absence of effective social protection? Deficiencies in the educational system related to the ways by which young people are taught and trained?

The questions that arise are then: How can the situation of those who lag be improved? By boosting social services? By improving pensions? By increasing the minimum wage substantially?

Answers to such questions are relevant for any worthwhile social policy to be followed, here and indeed in the rest of Europe.

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Eurozone rules

The quarrel that looms between Italy and the European Commission concerning the government’s budget for 2019 could stiffen in the next few days.

The Italian government has presented its case in a rather confused manner. At times it put things one way, at others differently. Or that’s how it’s getting perceived. The final objective – if I’ve understood correctly – is to increase public spending in order to accomodate new investment projects and to boost the income of citizens and pensioners with new grants-in-aid. Thus, trade should increase, as would the level of general economic activity in the country as a whole. So that should in turn mean the creation of additional jobs.

Meanwhile though, the government’s deficit will be in the increase, breaching euro zone rules. The European Commission seems not prepared to allow this to happen.

Where I surely do agree with the Italian arguments is about investments. Eurozone rules on public deficits tend to inhibit the government’s ability to provide stimulus to the economy. For long, I have been claiming in vain that the basis on which the deficit is calculated should not put investment expenditure on the same footing as recurrent outlays.

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Exaggerated

It is true that once again, Tony Zarb could have been much more prudent in how he put his views across. You can disagree with him, condemn him...

However it’s a total exagerration to carry your disapproval to the point of proposing a motion in the House of Representatives to strip him of the medal of honour that he was awarded. That’s what the Opposition brought forward.

One can well understand why the Opposition is gaining a reputation for not being able to find its feet. Although there are  many national issues on which to focus critically, it seems unable to decide on the message it should choose.

Meanwhile one can only keep finding deplorable the ugly ways of saying things which the so-called social media have promoted in our society – ways that have been adopted by the two – or perhaps more than two – sides of the partisan divide that exists in our midst. Ugly forms of expression are being employed indiscriminately by young and old.

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