Promoting a culture of dependence

The raft of measures come one after another. Just to make the point more emphatic, each of them is accompanied by loud banging and Mick Jagger grins. Malta Ġusta is appropriated and repeated like a broken record to convince us that this is all justice.

Is it?

The dignity of work implies that workers are paid a wage which does justice to the work they do and is enough for a decent living. Year after year, the country’s GDP has increased by leaps and bounds.

The mantra of unbridled growth is pedalled with vigour, yet, the figures eclipse what is behind this generation of wealth.

Wealth has increased, yet, the minimum wage has been kept frozen like a pointer stuck in a rusty gauge.

To avoid “giving shocks to the system”, an incremental increase to the minimum wage was announced. A step in the right direction, of course, but it is nowhere near what a decent wage should look like.

Increases should have been at least three times as much as the figures announced. Malta Ġusta is it?

Some may be quick to point out that the government has minimum wage earners covered through handouts announced during budgets. 

What this implies, however, is that, rather than having workers being paid a decent wage, minimum wage earners are kept praying, waiting and, ultimately, depending on handouts announced in yearly budgets to save them from going under by the third week of every month. 

Dependence on the State is a staple. Who said neocolonialism was dead?

The social benefits scandal is a stark reminder of this malaise. People who were finding it difficult to make ends meet were tempted by none other than those functionaries of the State, rubberstamped by the party.

Documents were forged to secure a quick buck for the small fry, to gain their eternal gratitude, adulation and, ultimately, allegiance. By keeping them dependent, they sought to buy their vote, using public money.

The driving licence scandal is yet another symptom of the same malaise.

On Little Rock, getting your due in an expedited fashion depends on who you are and whom you know. Ask, and it shall be given. Favouritism? Of course not. It’s customer care!

No wonder they prefer keeping to an electoral system based on districts. It serves them well to keep the queues lined up.

Politicians remain gatekeepers. Ministers keep opening offices in their constituencies from taxpayers’ money, outshining each other with promises and freebies, to make sure that the culture of dependence remains alive and kicking. 

Being “close to the people” becomes little more than a race to the bottom. The convention for constitutional reform remains a pipedream languishing in procrastination and a wanton disregard for the national interest.

Not even the backbench is spared the shackles. Their silence is bought through government jobs, consultancies and a blank cheque to “pig out”; a dependency which keeps them well-fed and comfortably numb.

Convenient, isn’t it?

So, before feeling good about the long list of handouts that characterise every budget, spare a thought about what this is doing to the collective psyche.

And justice has little to do with it.

Mario Mallia
ADPD Deputy Secretary General
Published in The Times of Malta – Sunday 12 November 2023