Populism and friends

As the annual budget gets nearer, we are being reassured by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana and Prime Minister Robert Abela that yet again they will be maintaining subsidies for fuels. However, they are doing so without discriminating between the rich and the poor.

The shortsightedness of this proposal is understood by even the most diehard Labour stalwart as, with a €9 billion debt, we can hardly continue to carry on as if nothing is happening.

Our position as ADPD is that subsidies on fuel and electricity have to target those in need. A democratic and humane society protects the weakest among us and expects more responsibility from those who can pay more.

This bitter pill doesn’t go down well with our prime minister, as,  according to him, it is not easy to limit energy subsidies for the wealthy and wasteful. So, what is easy? Putting everyone all together, so as not to anger the well-off?

Guidelines to be adopted by the public sector, such as limits on temperatures for air conditioning and dimming the lights on public buildings and monuments, are a positive step. However, by refusing to do more, the government is playing a political game rather than exercising responsible stewardship.

When one thinks that subsidies are costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euros, these proposals are merely something conjured up at the last minute to momentarily appease the cry of the Chamber of Commerce, which also backs the idea of stopping these blanket subsidies. This money should have been spent on energy efficiency and renewables long ago.

If you think that the subsidies aren’t affecting you because they are not getting spent directly from your wage, think again. Just think about the shoddy services we are getting and you will see the bigger picture.

Transport Malta employees have been told that they will no longer be offered free milk with their coffee while its CEO, Jeffrey Curmi, will still be earning €115,000 a year.

The University of Malta will undergo a cut of €1.1 million. Then there is the elephant in the room which everyone is ignoring: the number of lecturers and staff working in precarious conditions with contracts getting renewed on a yearly basis.

Cataract operations have been undergoing cancellations for the past three months because of a lack of resources to actually carry the procedure: intraocular lens power and operating packs and also our uncompetitive salaries when compared to other countries, leaving us with understaffed hospitals and clinics.

Let us not forget the freeze on national projects, like the new ITS in SmartCity, which makes us regret the dirty decision to sell the original ITS site in Pembroke to db Group for a pittance.

Leading requires guts and a long-term vision, something which our politically myopic prime minister lacks.

It is time to give the right medicine to this country: a medicine which has been postponed first because of elections and now because of lack of will, energy and a fear of ruffling voters who will be woken up from their sleep.

We need to face a challenging reality, cleaning up our governance from the corrupt clientelist system which is a massive drain on our finances and competitiveness.

We need to make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share,  particularly those who get favourable treatment from the government because of their influence. It is time that they deal with reality like the rest of us.

Sandra Gauci
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Times of Malta – Friday 7 October