The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

Lack of progress in an unsustainable economy

Michael Asciak Sunday, 17 March 2019, 09:21 Last update: about 4 months ago

The European Union has flagged our economy as having high elements of unsustainability and has asked for real progress to tackle several problems. This means that the government is falling short of tackling several issues of our overheating economy and is failing to deal with several issues; this government's intransigence is leading to several social problems. Things are not as rosy as the PL in government would have us believe.

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The first issue flagged is corruption and money laundering. It seems that the stench produced by this government's corrupt practices has reached Brussels. To retain several people close to government in positions of power who have admitted to several practices which are anything but ordinary or legal is beyond reason and simply accentuates the idea that many more people high up in government are involved in this whole corruption racket. The European Commission has made it clear that it is not happy with the government's handling of corruption issues on the island and that these issues fester together within a weak framework for controlling money laundering on the island. The EU Commission has underlined that it expects a higher level of supervision on money laundering and a higher standard of ethical behaviour by the government regarding issues of corruption. This is of course the Labour government's own doing as crises of ethical behaviour in government has been purposely fostered. People are allowed to get away with illicit or semi-illicit behaviour when important government operatives' behaviours are flagged and this because they happened to be blue-eyed or I should say red-eyed boys! The Commission has made it clear that this behaviour by the government of Joseph Muscat is giving us a bad reputation and poses a serious risk to Malta's attractiveness to potential investors and therefore to future growth of the economy. This information is not so favourable and is all this sloppy government's fault with the ill-applied enforcement of the law on the islands. Enforcement is always Labour's Achilles' heel and it is particularly bad at it. The Commission laments that although legislation against money laundering is present, sanctions are rarely imposed, meaning certain people are allowed to get away with it; but that does not apply to you or me of course, but only those individuals who are in on it!

The EU Commission also refers to the unsustainability of the health care and the pensions system. This is actually being made worse with the government employing a policy of cheap labour operations which does not do any good in upping the value added to both our national pension funds and our health system. It is like patching new cloth with old patches or putting new wine into old wineskins, as everything is eventually ruined. We need an economy with high value added labour so that the returns into the national pension fund is increased without adding pressure on the islands' health system and housing problems by inflating demand for social housing. Lowering the bar for local workers and flooding the market with cheap labour driving wages lower puts a strain on local workers. The issue of social housing is particularly serious as low-income workers and their family are unable to keep up with the spiralling exorbitant rents and property market prices caused by a short-sighted economic outlook. All this is expected to lead to serious imbalances in the financial sectors with hardship for several people both local and foreign.

The Commission also highlights the lack of results obtained in the education sector with poor educational outcomes especially with "major disparities linked to socioeconomic background, disability status and type of school". All this after seven years of Labour government when the outcome of educational services was far superior to that seen today. The report highlights that under the PL, the number of early school leavers is the highest in the EU and there is very poor participation of the low skilled in adult educational programmes. All this in a paradise created by the Labour government which in effect means that it is the weakest and the poorest who are really suffering and bearing the brunt of an improperly managed economy with the gulf between rich and poor growing more and more. This is to say nothing of the threat to the environment by the large amount of excessive building and development going on everywhere with the loss of open spaces and natural habitat.

This report highlights the fact that although the government tries to give the false impression that the economy is doing well, in effect, the way it is being managed is leaving several individuals high and dry and the outlook for the future sustainability of the economy is not so rosy. I would say it is even bleak. So much for burst bubbles. Government operatives seem to be only interested in getting rich quickly and do not seem to be the least interested that many parts of the economy and several people are burning. I would not say that social or environmental sustainability are anywhere on the priority list of this government and when those issues go down the economy is sure to suffer as will the quality of life of the people. 

 

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Dr Asciak is a medical doctor and a graduate in M.Phil. (European Studies and Genomics) PhD. (Bioethics).

 

 


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