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evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo

Every disadvantage has its advantage

I feel the Nationalist Party is over-prepared to attack, but under-prepared to govern. It has focused way too much of its energies on personal attacks

evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo
31 May 2017, 9:45am
The Labour Party is facing voters with a manifesto of positive proposals, aimed at continuing our strategy of improving social justice through the generation of economic growth
The Labour Party is facing voters with a manifesto of positive proposals, aimed at continuing our strategy of improving social justice through the generation of economic growth
I’ve seen a lot over the past 25 years in parliament. I’ve seen the good days and the bad days. I’ve seen people coming together to discuss ideas. I’ve had people coming from the other side to talk over issues and challenges, and I’ve raised issues, especially during the opposition days, when I genuinely tried to improve things despite the political capital one would have gained if things had gone wrong.

During my teaching and political career, I must have asked a thousand times of a thousand young persons to reconsider going back to education and not to stop their schooling. In Opposition, whenever things went wrong for the government I always believed it was my duty to fiercely challenge and expect better. I’ve disagreed with many policies over the past 25 years, but also agreed with many others under the PN governments. 

However, over the past two to three years, I think the Nationalist Party has let itself go. It ceased to be the engine of ideas it once was. It became dark, and parliament became more about personal attacks rather than policies. In the past four years the Nationalist Party has had a grand total of five different spokespersons for education. I always awaited their education proposals, and yet none came, and that includes this week’s manifesto.

As Education and Employment Minister, I have allowed complete access to the top hierarchy of the civil service under my remit. The Nationalist Party was briefed on each and every policy it wished to know about, directly from the people executing it. Yet, we are on the eve of an election and nothing comes along. I worry because the education sector, like the health, economic and the finance ones, must have well-prepared individuals to head it, otherwise we all suffer.

I feel the Nationalist Party is over-prepared to attack, but under-prepared to govern. It has focused way too much of its energies on personal attacks, on building this narrative but not enough on what would happen. The €10,000 Gozo fiasco and the pension miscalculations are the two latest examples. It’s like a football player on the bench waiting for his chance, and bad-mouthing the 11 players on the field. However, this player doesn’t want to train, focus or prepare. He believes he should be on the field just because he doesn’t like the ones on it. 

I’m not exactly known to mince my words. We could have and should have done better on aspects like good governance. I think in terms of policy we’ve done well in this area, with the introduction of numerous policies that promote good governance and transparency but I share the Prime Minister’s view that we’ve let down some people on this aspect. I think there has been a dose of misinformation in all this, aided and abetted by people who knowingly mix the truth with complete lies for political advantage. The biggest of all is the complete fabrication that the Prime Minister’s wife has an offshore company. It is sad that the Nationalist Party resorted to such cheap campaigning. The fact that Busuttil has now toned down the narrative (if he truly believed it to be true, would he?) shows weakness in leadership. 

It is a weakness further emphasised by the disastrous coalition he has pushed forward, fully knowing that his own party, at all levels, is not behind him on this. If Simon Busuttil and Marlene Farrugia would be leading the country on 4 June, we would truly have to worry because it’d be like the steering wheel on your car having no bearing to the direction of its wheels. We’ve seen this during the campaign, when they’ve embarrassingly contradicted each other in public. Imagine if they had to take truly important decisions for the country.

The Labour Party is facing voters with a manifesto of positive proposals, aimed at continuing our strategy of improving social justice through the generation of economic growth. We come before you with a much more modern country than in 2013. We have had a complete changeover for the better in civil rights, we’ve invested in better education and health, we’ve reversed rising unemployment trends to produce the lowest unemployment rate in history, business has grown and social reforms, such as the decrease in poverty, the rise in pensions and improved social assistance for the needy, have become a reality.

We have much more in the tank. We believe in this country not because of a false sense of grandiosity but because we’ve achieved, with our limited resources, things others had tried in vain. Every disadvantage has its advantage, Johann Cruyff once said, and Malta has used its small size to become efficient, target-oriented and focused. We have had governments in the past who were not like this and we’ve all paid the price for those. On 3 June, it’s about continuing to move forward.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment

DealToday
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