The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

Hard decisions

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 7 January 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 14 days ago

In our democracy and in others that it resembles, how easy is it to take hard decisions when the time to take them arrives? In terms of partisan common sense, if one side is trying to implement reforms that “hurt”, the other side has all reason to promise to reverse the “reforms” as soon as the people give it the chance to do so.

So the best move in the political game is to promise the soft alternative when whoever runs the show now must follow the hard road.


Life would have been so beautiful if big decisions were to centre only on choices between beautiful or soft options... Unfortunately  it’s not like that. If a leadership is going to be responsible, it cannot shy away from taking hard decisions. The fear then remains that when an election arrives, the winners will be those who lobby for the soft options, even if their consequences are risky.

This accounts for the greatest benefit that is attached to an executive presidential system of governance. However such a system too, must – as in Mexico – be tied to the condition that an executive president can only serve one term. For consider what is happening in France, where another presidential election is looming and where President Macron must keep looking closely at how many likes he’s getting from French voters...



Among other places, in New York, Malta, France, Spain, there has been criticism that the vaccine needed to kill of the Covid 19 pandemic is being adminsitered too slowly. That such complaints would arise was to be expected. The problem is to come to some some reasonable judgement about such claims.

It’s a new vaccine – its development was hugely accellerated – for some reason the scare campaign about it was effective and impressed too many people – the method by which it is administered is new and carries its own complications – the delivery of stocks of vaccine being outputted by production centres seems in some cases to have been disrupted.

In the circumstances, no one wants to make a mistake that would trigger new crises. Yet the caution that is essential should not be allowed to morph into paralysis.

By contrast, at the beginning of the New Year, the Netanyahu government in Israel was declaring that already ten per cent of the Israeli population had been inoculated. That is an extraordinary achievement.



The feast of the Epiphany – of the Three kings – as we used to call it when I was a child, has practically disappeared. I am not a fan of festas but I was sad on realizing this.

The 07 January used to signpost the end of the Christmas holidays which would be a fortnight long, precisely. True, the arrival of the three Magi – as we also used to call them – bringing their gifts usually felt a bit out of synch since the Xmas gifts we received as kids would have been presented long before and would by this time have become everyday items. Meanwhile all the sweets and cakes of Xmas Day and the New Year would have been consumed.  

Yet the feast of the Three Kings had its own appeal. Beyond the message it carried about how there comes an end to all that begins, it also signalled that one could still celebrate the conclusion of a good thing and enjoy the nostalgia that comes attached to it. 

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