The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

Mediocrity

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 23 May 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

It is in the order of things that for a small country like this one, all kinds of resources are missing or scarce. At the same time, as a sovereign country, we still need to keep national activities running in line with how larger entities keep theirs. Given the resources at their disposal, the latter find it easier and cheaper to organize national initiatives.

Which was one of the reasons why over the years, substantial numbers of the inhabitants of these islands believed it was not possible to govern themselves independently. Though this challenge has been met, the dilemmas which gave rise to it persist. They are still with us.

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All things considered, as of now we have managed, though the compromises regarding what the standards of good governance should be have continued to widen, at times excessively. Making do was and still is part of the game – but given the circumstances, one could hardly expect differently. The worst approach though would be to accept mediocrity and make it our standard of measurement for public behaviour, in order to maintain the appearance of effective governance. The temptation to do this will never be absent.

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ADMINISTRATIVE LETHARGY

The truth is that significant advances have been made in public administration to give citizens better and quicker service on the back of new digital systems. For those having problems with their social services support or needing to clear administrative dues, enormous and useful progress has been achieved in this way.

Still huge problems remain pending with the administrative lethargy that dominates procedures which involve more than one competence, or where regulations come into play that for some reason require an input from more than one authority. Here, in many instances, tight blockages have endured.

For a while, the “one stop shop” callsign used to be in fashion. Perhaps it still is but surely it is weaker than it used to be. It needs to get recharged and spread to wider reaches of the public administration, not least that of the enforcement of environmental regulations.

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SOCIAL JUSTICE

In a democracy, political stability is not preserved only by ensuring that democratic arrangements are fully sustained, as happens here. It also needs a system of social justice which guarantees a treatment based on justice and solidarity for all citizens, especially those who are least endowed with material resources or who need special help from the community in order to live decently.

The prevailing political arrangements and the measures of social justice both need to retain the general support of citizens if the wished for stability is to prevail. Even in this regard, it seems that there is general support for them and they are not contested.

However, so as not to allow doubts to emerge about social justice, attention needs to be kept on two fronts. First, abuses that might be happening with social solidarity measures need to be contained and controlled. Secondly, as soon as new scenarios for social injustice emerge – which is an inevitable development in any dynamic society – they must be faced and dealt with.

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