Time to flesh out the PN's vision

In essence, the PN is actually one step backward, once again

Currently, Bernard Grech and his merry men have failed the PN on this (file photo)
Currently, Bernard Grech and his merry men have failed the PN on this (file photo)

Perception, as has been said, is the essence of propaganda, which aims at fulfilling the propagandist’s needs.

Vague words about the PN’s new vision after Bernard Grech’s election as party leader have been repeated again and again ad nauseam in the PN’s media. In attempting to ‘explain’ this purportedly new vision, the PN media has come out with even more meaningless vague words that provoke the listener to ask: where’s the beef?

Compare the PN’s vague words to a speech by the recently appointed finance minister, Clyde Caruana, at a recent business breakfast event organised by the government and titled ‘Towards a New Prosperity’. He hinted that Malta’s taxation system may have to be tweaked to placate international disquiet while stressing that in its financial set-up, Malta was doing nothing wrong but had to be ‘astute’ when trying to convince others.

Our tax system had cleared the European Commission’s hurdle when Malta joined the EU but – he explained – pressure has been growing across the bloc for a common corporate tax system, something that Malta will keep on disagreeing with.

He insisted no new taxes will be introduced, saying: “Businesses have already suffered a blow with the pandemic and government will not be giving them a second blow by increasing taxation.”

This was Caruana’s first major policy speech. Did you see any reaction from the PN explaining whether this does fit in – or otherwise – with the PN’s ‘new’ vision? The PN’s response was a deafening silence because one cannot compare tangible policies with vague talk about vague visions.

Do we know where the PN now stands on certain issues such as the open-ended financial commitment for free health, or the reform needed in our pension system that has only avoided a serious crisis thanks to the sudden increase of NI contributions by the extraordinary increase of foreigners working in Malta?

Other questions for which answers are expected to be part of the PN’s new vision include illegal immigration; the Police Commissioner being directly responsible to the minister of the day; and the country’s regulatory institutions and mechanisms that are mostly failing the consumer.

Add to these, the policies on education that are failing us in the case of children coming from depressed areas – with a child from Attard having a much better chance of moving into tertiary education than a child from Cottonera.

If the PN has any answers to these problems, they would be a repetition of what the PN used to say before Lawrence Gonzi became leader so many moons ago. That is because the PN needs a serious revamping of its policies rather than more and more vague talk about its ‘new vision’ that suddenly turned up from nowhere when Bernard Grech became leader.

People switch voting from one party to another as a result of dissatisfaction with the party in government and the perception that a change of government would tackle the origins of this dissatisfaction.

None of this has happened – or is happening – since Joseph Muscat became Prime Minister back in 2013. The PN was right, of course, about Muscat’s corruption-ridden administrations but Labour is now cleverly putting across the perception of a Labour government under Robert Abela, slowly but surely cleaning the stables without rocking the country’s economy.

Meanwhile, the PN tries to attack Robert Abela by assuming that there is no difference between the Abela and Muscat administrations; one being a continuation of the other – a narrative that does not fit in with people’s perceptions.

The PN attacked Alfred Sant on the assumption that his policies were an extension of those of Labour’s previous leader, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. It lost the 1998 election. It is now attacking Robert Abela on the assumption that his policies were an extension of those of Joseph Muscat. It will fail again.

In essence, the PN is actually one step backward, once again.

That is why it needs to formulate new tangible proposals to persuade people who switched to Labour in the last two elections to conclude that they will be better with a change in government.

Currently, Bernard Grech and his merry men have failed the PN on this.

COVID vaccine nationalism

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged richer countries to consider the plight of poorer ones and support Covax, an international initiative to share vaccines around the world.

More than half of all vaccines against COVID-19 have been reserved for one-seventh of the world’s population. The phenomenon of “COVID Vaccine Nationalism” has led to the UK securing enough doses to vaccinate each of its citizens five times, while the EU and the US having ordered enough vaccines for three times their populations.

Tensions have already risen between the EU, UK and AstraZeneca over a shortfall in vaccine production. The UK had originally boasted that their ‘winning’ the COVID vaccine race, describing it as a Brexit benefit. Now stories glorifying vaccine nationalism fill the headlines in British tabloids, while Boris Johnson celebrates the UK having vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined.

In a short-sighted silly reaction, the European Commission briefly threatened last week to impose emergency controls on vaccines crossing the land border in Ireland. After an outcry from London, Belfast and Dublin, the Commission swiftly changed course.

The global fight against HIV should have taught the world how to deal with a pandemic. The more HIV treatment is available, the fewer people are able to pass on the virus.

But this lesson was, once again, lost in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of the international approach, with a vaccine rollout across the globe, individual countries have selfishly decided to go it alone.

The past shows us that it is perhaps unrealistic to expect any nation to act altruistically. Yet, when countries do not see the benefit in helping others as well as themselves, everyone stands to lose.

To quote Deborah Gold, writing in The Guardian: “A pandemic is not a league table. Vaccinating the population quicker than other countries should not be a source of pride. It is evidence of a global failure to grasp the very nature of a pandemic – a stupendously short-sighted act of collective self-harm.”