The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
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Joining hands with Italy

Evarist Bartolo Tuesday, 20 September 2022, 08:42 Last update: about 10 days ago

Elections and governments come and go but Malta and Italy need a strong constant strategic partnership whoever is in government in both countries. It would be myopic to restrict this cooperation to combatting human trafficking and human smuggling from North Africa. We must continue working together to fight all kinds of economic crime like tax evasion and money laundering.

We must strengthen our collaboration in the framework of the Central Mediterranean Security Initiative to fight oil, arms, drug, medicine and waste trafficking that takes place on the Hurds Bank. The fact that this area is beyond the national jurisdiction of both Italy and Malta makes cooperation against transnational crime more complicated.

If Matteo Salvini becomes Interior Minister after the coming Italian general election, Italy will take a tougher line on immigration. Does that inevitably mean that Malta will become the weakest link on the EU’s southern borders and the immigration inflow will be diverted from Lampedusa to Malta?

The pressure will grow but it also depends on the departure points of the outflow from Libya and our indispensable cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guards.

Malta and Italy also need to cooperate more in the areas of business and culture seeking joint projects in industry, trade, green energy and the dialogue of culture and religions in our diverse Mediterranean Sea.

A Giorgia Meloni government will stress that the EU is an intergovernmental and not a federal union and that an important role remains for the decision of sovereign states. We should find common-ground on this as it is not in our interest to get absorbed in a one-size-fits all federal European Union. We should not be timid in asserting our national interest in the EU. Other Member States do that, even if they camouflage their posture.

Malta and Italy also need to work together to push the Mediterranean and Africa further up the EU agenda. As a third of EU member states (9 out of 27) the Mediterranean European countries are allowing the Eastern Neighbourhood and Indo-Pacific to dominate the EU agenda to the detriment of our relationship with the Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our geopolitical absence on the African continent is allowing developments there not only to be without the EU but also against the EU.

It is in Malta’s, Italy’s and EU’s common interest to remind other member states that by 2050 the 54 African countries will have a total population of 2.5 billion, mostly young people seeking jobs.

It is for the mutual benefit of both neighbouring continents to work together on development, peace, climate change, energy, regular migration, build new regional supply and value chains in nearshoring projects to create wealth and jobs for people not to have to migrate to seek a better life. We should also work together in culture and education to enrich each other and understand better one another.

 

A tale of two Kenyas

Kenya is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and over the last few years has manged to reduce poverty to 33% of its population of 54 million people. In the elections that took place six weeks ago, most of the campaigns at local, regional and national level focussed on economics, corruption and good governance.

Parties and candidates tried to attract voters by promising to address the problems faced by ordinary Kenyans, to improve their income and welfare and build a better Kenya. They will be watched closely by a media which is active in holding politicians to account. Will the elected politicians deliver on their promises?

The poor in rural Kenya live on 25 euro per month. In urban Kenya they live on 42 euro per month. 68% of Kenyans live in rural areas and depend totally on the informal agricultural economy which is rain fed, lacking reservoirs and dams as necessary infrastructure for water conservation. This kind of agriculture suffers from low production and poor marketing.

82% of total land in Kenya is arid or semi-arid. An additional 4.1 million Kenyans have been plunged into severe food insecurity because of drought. The daily life of the majority of Kenyans has been made worse by Covid and the war in Ukraine which has pushed up the prices of maize, their staple food, and fertiliser, indispensable for their agriculture.

Poverty is also due to poor governance, landlessness, low wages, unemployment and the lack of infrastructure in education, health, roads and water.

Poverty and money play a big role in politics. During electoral campaigns politicians give handouts to mobilise crowds for rallies, though the lower turnout (65% compared to 79% in 2017) shows that this does not necessarily lead to voting for the politicians who uses patronage to try and garner votes.

Men, women, young people and children are given up to 8 euro to attend rallies. A man travelled 150km to get that money for a rally only to be killed by being run over accidentally by a car of the bodyguards of the candidate.

The situation has become so dire that poor Kenyan mothers can only buy a few spoonsful of cooking oil at a time for their families.

Young people cannot afford to leave the homes of their parents. When they live in Nairobi, they rent a room only as rent is high (€150 a month). Young people feel that the politicians do not care for them and say “Why should I line up to vote and put someone in power who does not care for me?”

Kenyan politics is among the most expensive in the world. Candidates who campaign successfully to become senators spend up to €426,000 on their campaign. Governors spend up to €300,000. Members of Parliament spend up to €200,000 to get elected. Candidates who lose, also lose because they have less money to spend than the successful ones.

There will be pressure by Kenya’s vibrant civil society to put pressure on political parties to support campaign finance reform to make Kenyan politics accessible and affordable to talented and honest people who would like to take up politics for the good of the Kenyan people.

 

 

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