The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Are technocrats better than politicians?

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 19 November 2020, 08:04 Last update: about 15 days ago

When I am told that it’s best to have the country be governed by technocrats rather than politicians, I cannot but be sceptical. (As I understand it, in theory a technocrat is a person with competence in scientific approaches by which to come to terms with the world in order to arrive at decisions, according to a balanced and well defined method.) The problem is that there are few examples of governments led by technocrats which seem to have done better than others led by politicians.

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I can think of two examples which rather failed to produce satisfactory results: the US in the 1960’s; and Chile in the 1980’s/1990’s.

The first one will suffice. Many management layers in the JFK administration in the US of the 1960’s were bound together by a faith in the ability of technocrats – as in the Defense Department under Robert Mc Namara. Yet results were not so good. The US went through the hell of the Vietnam War and as a consequence of decisions that were taken because of it, a tsunami of inflation swept all over the planet

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RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND POLITICS

The question regarding whether personal religous beliefs should be allowed to guide political action is hardly one that can be settled easily. In a secular state, a democracy where citizens behave according to the values of a diversity of religous beliefs should have rules that apply reasonably to all.

But what happens when these rules are felt by some citizens as going against  the fundamental values... religious ones if you like... that they believe in?

This is the dilemma being projected by the ongoing opposition to the project now before the Maltese Parliament which is meant to safeguard equal rights for all persons.

In my view, the government side is right to claim that secular values which prioritize the protection of equal rights for all till these truly become reality should on no account be put aside. Even when objections are raised under the banner of some religious conscience or other. 

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MONETARY POLICY

There is much to say about Europe’s monetary policy, run as it is “centrally” by the European Central Bank. Queries were rife before the corona virus pandemic took off and they have increased since it started rolling.

To encourage economic growth which had remained well below expectations, the ECB launched some years ago a share purchase programme that pumped billions and billions of euros as cash into European economies. This did not lead to price inflation; to the contrary, prices remained stagnant and in some countries actually continued to decline.

Which is why queries continue to be registered: Does it still make sense to tie the objectives of monetary policy in Europe to inflation targets? Is the ECB not running a hopeless policy of pump priming, if then European governments keep back from opening their financial taps and increasing budgetary spending to create greater economic activity?  (This used to be the claim prior to the pandemic. Then when the latter had taken off, the claim became:) While inflation remains so very low, why is this same ECB still running the same hopeless policy  even as governments have opened all their financial taps to counter Covid 19?    

 

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