The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Logging all meetings - A step that should be taken by all ministers

Monday, 20 January 2020, 10:34 Last update: about 2 months ago

In what can only be described as a great move in the right direction, Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia had told The Malta Independent on Sunday that he will start publishing a register of all meetings he has with stakeholders, and that meetings between his Head of Secretariat and stakeholders will also be logged and published.

This announcement is a push towards better transparency in a sector that is constantly under fire… in a sector where developers are seen as having excessive influence over those in public office.

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This step should be an example to all other ministries, one that all government ministers should follow.

In order for the government to be held to account, it is imperative to know who our ministers are meeting with. That way they can be held more accountable for their actions, and doubts as to whether a minister is too close to a particular person or not can be either justified or dismissed.

Such a practice should immediately be taken up by the Prime Minister, and orders should be issued for all ministries to do the same.

Concerns of the close relationships between businessmen and government officials have been at an all-time high over the past few years and really came to light with the whole Labour Party’s fourth floor reveal. Certain planning applications including high rise buildings and massive projects have always raised doubts as to why they were approved in the first place for example. If the government wishes to preach about transparency, then it should take Aaron Farrugia’s step as a prime example of moving in the right direction.

While it is a start, more also needs to be done. Another step that should be taken is the logging of phone calls with stakeholders, and the publication of such a list. Since the government is seen as being very close with business, this would also be a great step forward in terms of transparency. In addition, contracts on major projects involving the government must be published in full, without any parts being redacted.

While on the topic of the government’s relationship with business, Prime Minister Robert Abela also made an interesting comment last week with regards to the government’s overall policy. He highlighted a shift in the government’s philosophy, from a pro-business approach to one that is pro-market. He said that this is aimed to give equal opportunities for businesses to flourish but, at the same time, for profits to filter down to all levels of the population.

How Abela intends to do this is still an unknown, however his statement brings about a number of questions, such as whether certain tax changes would be in the works, or tax incentives of some sort.

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