The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
View E-Paper

Devolution?

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 25 May 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 13 months ago

When the establishment of a Ministry for Gozo was announced and later that of local councils, they were presented as part of a devolution strategy by which Gozo and local communities would be given the powers required for residents to decide how some basic services were to be run in their various localities.

Promises made in this respect were overblown. With time, devolution proposals were reined back. It could hardly have been otherwise since by way of how they were implemented, the initiatives remained tied to the principle that both the Gozo ministry and local councils would certainly not have as an available option the levying of taxes.

ADVERTISEMENT

In reality, given the administrative practices that were subsequently adopted, the idea of “autonomy” got completely scratched out. The model became one of decentralisation, with the Gozo Ministry and local councils serving as local offices from where central funds could be disbursed and managed according to norms decided from the centre.

All this had nothing to do with devolution. In a number of cases, mainly Gozo, decentralisation did not stand in the way of clientelism.

***

SCANDALS

All governments that I’ve known about ended up at one time or another under a barrage of criticism and denunciations in the wake of some scandal or other. Occasionally, more than one scandal would be making the headlines at the same time. Such as about decisions that flop; corruption; abuse of power; improper sexual behaviour by some member of the government...

Issues get raised by the media or by the Opposition of the day or by some dedicated NGO or by a combination of two of them or indeed all three.

The matter then develops into a soap opera with episodes being sequenced and “scripted” for maximium effect.

All this is typical of how modern democracies function. It is a normal and necessary feature that keeps the country’s top leadership on its toes and careful with what it does.

Come to think of it, the furore caused by scandal has always been part and parcel of the political package, and not just in the democracies of today.               

***

FEDERALISM

Right from the start, one of the main aims which defined how the European Union would develop was the achievement of a federation. Actually the original treaties referred to progress towards ever closer union as one of the aims being set.

Today it is being claimed that following Putin’s war in the Ukraine, the EU needs to feel secure from the Russian peril while maintaining a prudent stand given how widely moods swing in the US. The EU should therefore step up its efforts towards a further union.  This can only mean new developments towards a federalism that would also cover military and security affairs.

To be clear I always believed that this state of affairs would eventually come about; whether all of a sudden or quite gradually hardly matters. Whenever it happened, it would imply a huge brake on the independence of this island, which according to some Europeans, given its size, should never have qualified for the status of a sovereign country.

                       

 

  • don't miss