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evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo

Facts not frenzy

The rhetoric will get louder between now and election day, but it is worth collecting our thoughts and analysing things from a factual point of view

evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo
19 April 2017, 9:38am
Nonetheless it is important we look at things which we, as a government, are accused of not doing well and try to get a factual perspective on these
Nonetheless it is important we look at things which we, as a government, are accused of not doing well and try to get a factual perspective on these
The past four years have been positive on many fronts: the economy is doing brilliantly, and so is the job market. Start-ups are finding great support, social services have improved considerably and health services are undoubtedly better. In education, we have made inroads to achieve a more human and diverse education system which serves all types and backgrounds of people.

Nonetheless it is important we look at things which we, as a government, are accused of not doing well and try to get a factual perspective on these.

The Labour Party’s 2013 mantra, Malta Taghna Lkoll, was about inclusion yet the Opposition accuses us of not following it up post-election. I can speak directly from experience when I say that I have worked with people from different political backgrounds all my life: the past four years have been no exception.

If you analyse important appointments and their (supposed) political affiliations there is quite a diverse mix. I relate to the Prime Minister when he says you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – one of the criticisms the Labour Party gets from some sections of its supporters is about this.

Especially in education and employment – such important sectors which should certainly be no home to partisan politics – we’ve worked with the best people and balance has been achieved. Past Nationalist administrations were non-partisan in some appointments but mostly not overall. There has been undoubted improvement on this issue in the past four years.

The Opposition have also made complaints about corruption and transparency. Let’s start with corruption by looking at it factually. I am not here to say corruption does not exist – it does, and it certainly doesn’t exist exclusively in the public sector.

My worry is not when cases of corruption come to light, but the attitude of the public towards corruption. Not enough people stand up to it. Not enough people are repulsed by it. Many see it as a malevolent force which has always been with us and there’s no point in fighting – this is very wrong. However, when discussing political responsibility, it is important to keep things factual. If you listen to Simon Busuttil, you’d think Malta pre-2013 had no corruption, and it exploded in the past four years. This is absolutely not true, and there are plenty of facts to back this up.

In the last Eurobarometer survey about the subject, which took place in February/March 2013, 83% of the Maltese said that corruption was widespread. In 2011, 88% said corruption was a major problem. In 2009 the figure was 95%, in 2007 it was 84% and in 2005 it was 89%.

So, between 2005 and 2013, the glorious years of the puritan PN administrations, between 83% and 95% of Maltese people thought the country was completely absorbed by corruption. Another study, Transparency International’s Corruption Index, shows Malta scoring between 55-57 between 2012 and 2016, which further dampens the partisan rhetoric that there were sharp changes in corruption during the Labour years.

It was the Labour government that introduced legislation to fight corruption and increase transparency. The Whistleblower’s Act and the party financing measures are among the most important. A bill for the removal of prescription on acts of political corruption was introduced in the first months of this legislature, removing once and for all the notion that Ministers can get away with it if things come to light years later.

Media is much freer today – censorship has been removed and the recent proposals, such as the removal of criminal libel and the removal of the obligation to register media houses, will continue to strengthen a free media in our democracy. The Freedom of Information Act was also crucial in terms of transparency, with public institutions obliged to provide information when requested.

These are measures that, for 25 years, were talked about but never acted upon. I remember the days not so long ago when censorship was rife, questions to public institutions were never answered and party financing was in the dark. This government introduced most of these laws in its early days and lots of good will come from them.

The problem Simon Busuttil has on his hands is that he has campaigned on rhetoric only, blasting the Government about corruption instead of cleaning up his own house, and forming some proper policies. The rug was pulled from under his feet a month ago when we found out about illegalities on an industrial scale, involving false invoices which had the sole aim of circumventing the same law his party failed to implement.

Have mistakes been made by this government? Yes, nobody in this government says everything is perfect. There’s a lot that we can do better. Fighting corruption is included in that list. The rhetoric will get louder between now and election day, but it is worth collecting our thoughts and analysing things from a factual point of view. Undeniably, things have improved for the better.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

DealToday
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