The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Vote distancing

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 23 March 2020, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

This week it is planned that the European Parliament will be voting in plenary but at a distance. MEPs are expected as much as possible not to travel and to vote while remaining in their own country. Only those living in Brussels or close to it will physically attend the session, so that they can address the plenary in person. Before September for sure, no sessions will be held in Strasbourg.

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This is a much better arrangement than the one for the last plenary at which deputies were expected to attend over two days of speechifying but no voting. To get the Parliament to assemble like that was a stupid decision which could have given rise to public health complications; perhaps they did arise.

One still needs to see how the new procedure will function, especially as apparently, much still needs to be done for the Parliament to operate an adequate electronic system catering for 700 MEPs and over. Nor can one reckon that the new arrangements will only need to apply for a short period. There is no indication yet as to how long the pandemic could remain in force.

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HELICOPTER MONEY

The economic dilemma governments, including ours, face is that as a result of the corona crisis, whole sectors will come at a total standstill: with no sales and no income. It’s the case in tourism, but not only. And again, there is no idea as to how long this situation is going to last.

Many families could end up with no income at all.

Unsurprisingly, the proposal has again surfaced to give grants to all citizens across the board, so they have money to spend. Such funds have been called helicopter money. When some years ago, the proposal was first made, at the height of the eurozone crisis, it was strongly opposed on the grounds that it would undermine the integrity of the currency.

It is clear that the proposal has its “dangers”. Historically there is no precedent for it (unless perhaps when armies would conquer cities and soldiers would be given the go-ahead to sack the place).

However the current situation in Europe (as well as in the rest of the world after all) is also without precedent.

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PRINT MEDIA

With time, the position of the print media in Malta seems to be getting more difficult. It’s strange that there has been no discussion at all about the problem.

While sales of local newspapers have been constantly in decline, all papers are now getting printed in the same establishment. Following the closure of the GWU and PN printing presses, even that of “The Times” which used to be considered as the most modern, stopped newsprinting.

This makes economic sense, even though when printing papers in Malta, given the low sales volume, unit production costs will always remain higher than abroad.

Then there is also the problem of what happens when the printing press now being used by all, seizes up. All newspapers either reach the shops late or fail to appear. Which likely pushes readers further away.

Will the transfer to online be really viable? There still must be some doubts about that.

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