The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

Democratic advances

Owen Bonnici Friday, 11 January 2019, 07:57 Last update: about 5 months ago

“Only three countries improved their scores in 2018: Finland, Germany and Malta.”

For all those who are proud of the country they belong to, for all those who strive to better democracy in our country, the above sentence should stand out from the 68-page report and make them proud that they live in a country defined by the Economic Intelligence Unit as “Full Democracy”. What a start to the New Year!

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This report further ignites our resolve to continue to enhance our work in this important sector of our country: strengthening democracy no matter what.

Just for the sake of those not familiar with this report, the EIU is the world’s leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. Most importantly, it provides accurate and impartial information. With a network of some 750 country experts and analysts worldwide, the EIU operates independently as the business-to-businessarm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.

Back to the report. ““Only three countries improved their scores in 2018: Finland, Germany and Malta.” This is clearly stated in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Democracy Index, published Wednesday. Malta is one of only 20 countries to be ranked as a full democracy by the EIU, scoring 8.21 points overall in 2018, and marking an improvement of 0.06 points from the preceding year – up from 8.15 points.

It has to be emphasised that only a minority of countries – 20 in all – are considered to have a full democracy, with a total of just 4.5% of the world’s population living in them. It has to be pointed out that the index provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories – which is almost the whole population of the world. The official press release of the EIU also explains that countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: “full democracies”, “flawed democracies”, “hybrid regimes” and “authoritarian regimes.”

The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of the government; political participation; and political culture. Delving into the report, one finds that Malta registered 9.17 points for electoral process; 8.82 points for civil liberties; 8.75 for political culture; and 8.21 points for the functioning of the Government. The overall index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in these five categories.

The report also gives a clear signal that there are sectors that we need to work on, political participation – with 6.11 points this is a sector we need to improve. Having said that, this is however a confirmation of the importance being given by this Government in this sphere. This Government has already stated that there is a need for a political reform with one of the emphasis being that of having more participation of women in politics. A reform earmarked to happen during this year. This measure will definitely improve our standing in this sector.

The above also echoes the Prime Minister’s statement back in March last year when he said that in the coming years, political parties in Malta will be judged by their ability to enact the necessary reforms to modernise the country, and not simply by the creation and distribution of wealth. He said that,“The issue is not going to be which party is capable of creating and distributing wealth, but also which party is capable of making this country a modern one and which party can enact the necessary reforms.”

We are enacting the necessary reforms, in all sectors. Reforms that are putting Malta on the map as an innovator, as a country that is putting words into action, improving the people’s standing – again in the past days statistics showed that Malta has been revealed as one of the happiest places in the world, ahead of France, Spain, Italy and Brazil: a list ranking 156 countries based on factors including life expectancy, social support, corruption levels and health.

This Government is working on reforms nobody will lay the red carpet for, but for which it is the time for action. It is the moment that this generation gives the next one a country ready for the future.

Writing about reforms and democracy, one also has to mention the Venice Commission Report, published during the last weeks of last year.

During the past legislature and the present one, a substantial number of reforms were undertaken to strengthen the rule of law, including a law deleting time-barring by prescription on claims of corruption by holders of political offices, a whistle-blower protection act, a party financing legislation, a new Parliamentary oversight mechanism on appointment of Chairpersons of main regulatory authorities and non-career Ambassadors, Constitutional reforms for the creation of a Judicial Appointments Committee, and reforms in the field of artistic and journalistic freedom of expression. Most of those reforms were implemented for the first time in our history as a nation.

However, we also acknowledge that more needs to be done, and we have absolutely no qualms in saying this.The Government is open to bona-fide dialogue with all international institutions to implement further reforms for a better justice system and a stronger rule of law and democracy.

Since 2013, this Government has implemented a series of robust reforms, and several recommendations made by various stakeholders have been implemented gradually. During ths legislation and the previous in just five years, a number of important laws came in force, among them:

Party Financing Laws; a comprehensive and holistic Whistleblowers’ Act; a law abolishing time-barring on offences related to corruption by politicians; a law which strengthened judicial independence by reforming the manner in which judicial appointments and discipline take place; a law which subjects high-level appointments such as Chairpersons of principal regulatory authorities, and non-career Ambassadors and High Commissioners, to parliamentary scrutiny; a law lessening the powers of the Attorney General in drug and other cases; and laws which introduced the right to a lawyer during arrest, the right of disclosure, and other reforms brought into force which improved this sector.

This is proof that we are implementing. We do have democracy at heart, and we will be doing our utmost to see that further reforms come into force.

 

 

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