The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

A view of the city

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 17 May 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

It was a beautiful experience some days ago to walk down the streets of Valletta, in the burst of late morning sunshine. Especially down Republic Street, a sizeable crowd of strollers was to be seen. Shops were open and restaurants were getting their act together to service diners who were already assembling.

After the weeks of isolation and precautionary measures, this opening... though still not to be compared with the affluence we had gotten used to in the past... does instill hope and optimism. True, people around still carried face masks... which is what they’re expected to do. That has now become part of the modern dress profile – like veils and hats a hundred years or so ago.

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What is important is that people can now once again go outdoors and meet as a community.

That was why the appearance of Valletta... which recently seemed to have become a cloister... again came to life, indeed a gay one. There’s hardly any doubt that the very good initiative taken to organise a flower festival in the capital city helped no end to reinforce the ongoing transformation. 

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WHERE WAS THE CIVIL SERVICE?

A polemic has raged in past weeks about what really happened when at the St Vincent de Paule’s old people’s facility, a project to modernise kitchen facilities to cater for residents expanded to cover the construction of new residential buildings. The controversy focussed largely on the responsibility to be attached to politicians in charge... ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

Which is as it should be. When they get their job, they commit to ensuring that  government business is going to be carried out correctly, for it is funded by the people’s money.

However there’s more to it than that. State action does not uniquely revolve around political decision makers. Members of the public administrative system are also in the loop... they used to be called civil servants. They get to be employed as government officials in order to ensure that administrative tasks are being carried out as they should. If projects fail to follow established procedures of correct governance, their duty is to draw attention to this, to admonish, to protest, and make clear their reservations about what is going on.

Civil servants too need to be placed under scrutiny.

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OPTIMISTIC FORECASTS?

The European Commission’s spring 2021 economic forecasts are truly encouraging. The situation is expected to improve practically right through the EU, and by more than what was being prospected not so long ago. Not least in the case of Malta.

Europe – indeed, the whole world – is really eager for the uplift of good news.

Yet clearly, news being delivered should not be generated out of smoke with the aim simply to make people feel good.

That certainly does not seem to be the case for the European Commission’s forecasts. Even so, we all need to stay realistic. Even according to the most positive forecasts, it’s not going to be easy to ride back to where we stood a year and a half to two years ago.

Nor can disruptions be ruled out even as we follow the optimal path to where we need to reach.

Luckily it seems that everybody or almost seems to be keyed to the call – yes to optimism, but to prudence as well.

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