The Malta Independent 15 August 2020, Saturday

Twixt north and south

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 27 July 2020, 08:00 Last update: about 20 days ago

During the last European Council, the contrast... or if you prefer, the distance... between the north and the south of the EU again emerged. Who’s on the north side has a self-image of being hardworking and prudent, and views those on the south as lazy and prolific spenders. Someone on the other sice, likely considers that the load of constraints resulting from European Union is too much while most benefits accruing from that association are going to the northerners, all avid profiteers.


These caricatures deserve to be dismissed at their face value and not allowed to become part of the lore by which the political choices facing Europe are described.

However elements of truth do exist which explain why the caricatures persist. It is true that often in southern countries economic management was too loose. It is true that the rule of the eurozone and the opportunities offered by the single European market are of greater benefit to the north. It is true that because they are members of the eurozone  and must follow its rules, when facing up to economic problems, southern states cannot but increase social burdens. It is true that some in the north, by way of the taxation that they charge companies, are riding on profits which have been made in the south.     



Regulation is one of the procedures by which modern economies are run. Monitoring of economic and social behaviour is carried out to ensure that it is respecting the rules agreed and set (usually by law) in the respective sectors. It may cover the buying and selling of commercial entities, professional activities and the operations of government agencies in fulfilling their remit.

Controversies never cease about how regulation should be carried out. Among other question marks: how could it be made more effective; and what is the best manner by which to run it – under some “independent” state authority – or through “self-regulation”?

As of now, the Maltese experience of regulation as a tool for modern governance has hardly been positive, both by way of having a state authority in charge as well as via self-regulation.



We still do not take into account sufficiently how auditing could help improve the management of an organization, especially a public agency. For many, the auditor is there just to inspect the financial accounts and check that all expenses have been made according to the established rules and in line with the aim set for them.

No doubt, the assurance of propriety that such an investigation gives is needed and of major interest.

More important and interesting than that though is the function an auditor exercises when he/she draws attention to the fact that though matters are being conducted in exemplary fachion, they still are not delivering the best result possible.

It is essential that matters are carried out according to set rules. Even so, it is equally important to ensure that the rules are fit for purpose, by way of leading up to the results for which they have been drafted.


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