U-turn on mixed ability schooling?

The GonziPN government has started the process to open a highly selective school for top students only.

The GonziPN government has started the process to open a highly selective school for top students only. A number of heads of State schools have already been approached and told to draw up a list of the names of their top students. They have been told to select the top 5%. Not all heads of schools have been told about this plan.

Mtarfa is being mentioned as a likely location for this highly selective school which will be called a 'resource centre' for highly gifted students. This has never featured before in the spate of changes introduced in the past five years without any proper comprehensive planning and democratic consultation and implementation leading to head teachers and teachers suffering from reform fatigue.

Educators who have heard of this plan to open a highly selective school for top students only say that this new move confirms that the government lacked a comprehensive plan and vision to improve education in Malta and is admitting that its reforms have failed.

After years of talking about educational success for all, introducing mixed ability schooling, inclusion, closing down junior lyceums, area secondary schools and trade schools and bringing all the different streams of students under a single roof, it is back to selecting and educating students of different abilities in different schools.

Investors kept waiting

Thirteen days after the Malta Financial Services Authority issued a media release on the 31 December announcing the "conclusion" of the independent file review of investors' file, the 2,300 investors and their families are still earnestly waiting for the postman to deliver MFSA's advice. 

On Thursday evening, MFSA said that it sent BOV the list of investors eligible for further compensation on 4 January, and this without informing the complainants.

Earlier in the day, Paul Bonello of Finco - who has defended the investors - wrote to the MFSA, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition saying that: "It is now 10 days since the MFSA issued the Media Statement of 31 December announcing the conclusion of the independent file review of all investors. Yet our clients, and their financial and legal advisors acting on their behalf, have not been advised of one single result. This affair remains shrouded in mystery, perpetuating the anxiety of so many families.

"We firmly believe that this is symptomatic of a lack of transparency in the way the Bank, and worse still, the regulatory authority, has acted in this regard. This behaviour goes against the legitimate expectations of the citizens of this EU Member State."

PN's deputy leader Simon Busuttil had shown some sympathy with these investors, but this has now evaporated as it has not been translated into any tangible step to have their problem resolved adequately.

MFSA appears to have only remembered of its solemn promises of the previous 4 July and of 4 September that it would "finalise the review process and pay any further compensation by the end of December 2012" on 31 December 2012 in the late afternoon. Investors are hoping that this was not another case similar to when the MFSA had announced on 4 November 2011 the "imminent" conclusion of an investigation report into misselling, only for such report to be published eight months later - on 4 June 2012. 

MFSA high officials have confirmed in evidence given in open court that the MFSA started investigations into the said Fund only after clients of Finco started filing judicial protests in July of 2010. It hardly needs stating that it is appalling how the MFSA, as the statutorily appointed consumer protection authority in Malta, had not commenced any  such investigations itself and was only propelled into action by the general investing public. Now, more than two and a half years have passed from those long-overdue investigations, and investors are still waiting. 

Investors want the MFSA results now, and not after the forthcoming 9 March elections.

MFSA and BOV are not agreeing on the final list of investors which should be entitled to compensation. BOV are not agreeing to look into additional investors who are not on the Mazars who were appointed to draw up a list of investors deemed eligible because they have been defines as "inexperienced". The La Valette Fund had been missold to 2,230 investors who were not experienced to buy such a high-risk scheme which was never explained to them.

What is MFSA doing to resolve this issue? Many investors may end up being disappointed. This regretful situation has already materialised in the past. The investors in the TEP fund, sold by GlobalCapital, have been waiting for more than three years to receive compensation, and yet what is the MFSA doing? The MFSA is proving to be an authority without the required teeth to resolve consumer protection issues.

Gimmick or gift?

Last Wednesday PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil said that Labour's energy proposal to switch to gas instead of Heavy Fuel Oil to generate electricity and bringing down production costs from 18c to 10c per unit is "this millennium's gimmick".

On Sunday, 12 September 1999 Josef Bonnici - then PN's minister responsible for energy - had said that the PN's millennium's gift to Malta is going to be the policy to convert both the Marsa and Delimara Power Stations to operate on gas, as it is cheaper and cleaner.

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