The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
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Genuine complaints

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 22 September 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 8 days ago

To whoever is in a leadership position, how to handle emerging complaints is always a persistent problem. Are they true or an invention by people who try to gain some advantage on the basis of the trouble the complaint could provoke? If a real problem exists, is it being caused by some incorrect application of the laws and regulations in force? Or by their unjust implementation? Or has the complaint been raised by the concerned individual because of some mistake of his, say by having committed a contravention which he wants to get rubbed away? Or could the problem be that some regulation impacts negatively on the complainant and his view is that it should not apply to him? Otherwise could it be that the law or regulation is truly unjust and is based on outdated premises?

A decision on all such matters is not always simple. This is even more so as quite frequently, any decision is likely to cause a precedent. In our clientelistic society, any complaint that rightly or wrongly gets smoothed over, will generate further demands. Any complaint that is turned down or ignored, even if with full reason, will likely carry a political cost, big or small.

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TOUGH CHOICES

The choices before European economy and finance ministers are tough. Inflation is not going to fade shortly, as the European Central Bank was accustomed to claim. It is difficult to predict how steep it will remain: at today’s high level? higher? lower?

Meanwhile, ministers can see recession approaching, with  many firms, especially smes, facing difficulties so serious that if they continue this way will lead to their closure. Ministers want to help them.

Due to the price rises, millions of families are ending up with their backs against the wall. Governments agree that they must be helped, either by clamping down on prices or by giving citizens a direct subsidy. On this second option, they would have to take the politically delicate decision as to whether they should subsidize all citizens or only those having  a meagre income.

All choices imply significant increases in government expenditure. Will taxes need to be increased?  

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FEEL GOOD

I mentioned the point a number of times in this blog. Today’s political language in Malta and elsewhere focuses mostly on how to create a feel good factor among citizens. Here, it was Dr Fenech Adami who first adopted such a government strategy. Later governments took it over mostly around the theme that tomorrow would turn out to be even better than today has been. In the UK, the same trend was triggered by Tony Blair.

In Europe, this communication strategy was badly undermined by the 2008-2012 financial crisis. But it came back into its own. The feelgood political language again predominates among governments and parties aspiring to government.

A complication arises when matters get out of hand for the language is not meant to inspire a readiness for common sacrifices. This problem should hardly be allowed to generate paralysis when tough decidison need to be taken with urgency. 

                       

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