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If you’re gonna do it, do it right

Until a Minister for Getting Things Done is appointed, it is we who have to push and make our voices heard every chance we get

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar
12 January 2017, 7:37am
We need to continue to hold politicians and policy makers into account, and never let ourselves slide into complacency by accepting apathy as a fait accompli
We need to continue to hold politicians and policy makers into account, and never let ourselves slide into complacency by accepting apathy as a fait accompli
I seriously think it’s about time we appoint a Minister for Getting Things Done in this country.

Don’t call me a moaner or a whinger. Granted, this administration has put into place quite a few new projects and initiatives, and many of them have been implemented fairly well. The swiftness which certain legislation is rushed through Parliament and enacted is impressive, but they always seem to be laws which benefit specific special interest lobby groups and not the nation as a whole. (I still have yet to understand how some lobby groups seem to mystifyingly have more leverage than others).

On the other hand, there are other areas which somewhere along the way get stuck in the mire of either bureaucracy or lack of proper communication or civil service inertia. It could also be downright stalling for deliberate reasons. Take the announcement in June of last year by Konrad Mizzi that as from the beginning of this year, tenants would no longer need their landlords’ signature to register for the residential rate. Well, most non-Maltese nationals (who make up the bulk of tenants) tend to assume that once something becomes law, then you know, it’s the law. But when a group of tenants trotted over to ARMS on Tuesday morning to do exactly what they were told they could do, they were met by staff who simply stared back at them in confusion.

Led by the indefatigable Patricia Graham, who has taken up the cause on behalf of hundreds of tenants, she voiced their collective frustration: “We really hoped that we could get the people there today registered but when we asked to speak to the manager we were again told that we couldn’t register because of technical difficulties. I can’t understand what sort of technical difficulty takes 7 months to resolve,” she said.

As reported by MaltaToday, Graham said that she could not understand why the government is dragging its feet on what seems to be a relative non-issue.

“My problem with all of this is that these different departments clearly don’t speak to each other. Everyone just thinks it’s someone else’s job but if you don’t tell people to do something it won’t be done. If there is no conversation between these entities nothing is going to happen,” she said.

Ah, and there lies the crunch. Nothing happened because the decision was not immediately actioned. As if to further provide proof of this we have the official reply by the government spokesman: “…ARMS Ltd is currently finalising the implementation of administrative and technical changes necessary to allow tenants to apply for residential rates for electricity consumed in their primary residence, without requiring prior consent of the current account holder,” a spokesperson for OPM Minister Konrad Mizzi said.

He added that once the final testing phase was completed, ARMS Ltd would be able to offer tenants a new application process.

But why wasn’t this done immediately in June so that it would be all in place and ready to go in the new year as promised? I can think of absolutely no reason why, except maybe they were foolishly assuming that no one would actually remember that promise way back in the heat of summer, now that we are six months down the line. But they did not reckon with the resilience and perseverance of people such as Patricia Graham and those she represents.

The thing is, when you are paying through the nose for your utility bills, especially in this particularly freezing winter (yes by Maltese standards and due to our non-insulated homes, this is considered freezing), you are very much aware of every kilowatt of electricity you use. The thump of your mail through your mailbox matches the thump in your chest as you open your electricity bill with trepidation. The reason is that although you are renting long-term, according to ARMS you are listed on a domestic rate which is meant for second homes with 0 residents. Sometimes the difference between the domestic and residential rate runs into thousands of Euro.

As Ms Graham pointed out, “Nobody likes going to the press but I have no other option. If someone tells me they are going to do something I expect them to do it.”

It is a disgraceful situation, and one which is echoed throughout various sectors where the law is in place but somehow the willingness to actually put it into effect is lacking. We need to continue to hold politicians and policy makers into account, and never let ourselves slide into complacency by accepting apathy as a fait accompli. And until a Minister for Getting Things Done is appointed, it is we who have to push and make our voices heard every chance we get. 

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar's field is communications – and over the last 30 years she has worked in ...
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