The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

Racism

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 22 November 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 13 days ago

Finally the penny has dropped... we have begun to understand, or some of us at least have so understood, that in our country there exists a current of racist opinion and belief. Such a realization has taken time to crystallise, even after an African man was shot and killed in cold blood while walking down a road as if he were an animal to be hunted for sport, and after another African suffering from grievous injuries following an accident on a construction site was dumped in the middle of a road.

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The truth is that as living conditions in Malta improved, racism in our society became more marked: surely by way of considering those whose skin is darker than ours (which itself is already rather on the dark side) as our total inferiors, with whom we would not like to mix. Such feelings prevail across all social strata.

We need to launch an all-out educational and information campaign to roll back these ugly sentiments. Crucial in such an effort would be schools and communications media. Among the latter, only one newspaper – the Maltese language daily l-orizzont – stands out for its sustained and admirable efforts to combat racism, while focussing on the problems of immigration but not only.

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DIGITAL MONOPOLIES

Major digital undertakiings, such as Facebook and Amazon, have spread globally. They make enormous profits and dominate markets.

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the competition that the free market generates, and about how such competition supposedly leads to a better deal for all. It has become hard to claim that such a competitive scenario has developed among digital enterprises, with the emergence of  monopolies or quasi-monopolies on a global scale.

So the argument follows that for this reason markets should be strictly regulated to ensure that the bigger companies are prevented from controlling markets at the expense of other enterprises and of consumers.

However the growth of the digital quasi-monopolies has been so overwhelming that one could convincingly claim that regulation of markets cannot cope with, and is not coping with the challenge. I believe this way of looking at things makes sense.

Which points to the conclusion that the only option left by which to neutralise the monopolies would be to split them up into smaller entities.

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ACCOUNTABILITY

No matter how widely the need for accountability in public life is recognized and accepted, there remain lots of obstacles that prevent it from being properly exercised. Sometimes it still seems like there is more interest in how it could be sidstepped rather than actioned. This goes beyond how how officials who are expected to give a serious account of their doings and decisions behave: usually by blaming others or by explaining that they only did what their superiors ordered them to do.

Just as relevant are the structures of the organizations which have been set up to run public programmes: they just carry forward multiple ambiguities and uncertainties. Responsibility for a given project gets distributed among a number of agencies so that it becomes difficult to figure out where a project starts and where it has ended. The auditor’s reports (NAO) on a number of areas of governmental action  show this up quite well.

On questions of accountability, the required reforms cannot cover only attitudes and mentalities. They need to also deal among others, with the structures of ministries and governmental agencies.

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