The nanny state for you

Beyond the petty squabbles over the choice of a Standards Commissioner, there is a brave new world which will have a massive impact on the way things will be changing in the months and years ahead

There is complete ignorance on the part of the public about how much the State subsidises and supports families and businesses.

The health and education bill is staggering, and yet as is expected the public make use of these services without question.

God forbid it was not the case. But there has to be more cognisance of the monies that are being forked out.

It could be that I am wrong, and it could well be that the public is after all mindful of what monies are being dished out by the State.

Or it just could be that we could not give a hoot that we are recipients of the greatest, national welfare programme ever, and completely unappreciative of how crucial taxes are to sustain all this.

Let us a just take a fleeting look at what we take for granted. A normal family receives energy subsidies to cover the increasing costs for water and electricity, subventions (or grants) on solar or PV installations, subsidised fuel for cars, free public transport, children’s allowance, free drugs for the rest of your life if you are vulnerable or fall in a special health category (collected from your own village pharmacy), free hospital care and free medical services, free schooling if you wish to avail yourself of State primary, secondary and tertiary education, monthly stipends for university and post-secondary education, free transport to schools even if you happen to choose private schooling, subsidies on essential items, grants for extending your studying at post-graduate level, no exam fees, and property tax exemptions for first-time and second-time property buyers... and the list goes on and on.

The nanny state syndrome is not something started by this administration of course; it has been a national philosophy that has driven government spending with high taxation or intensified tax collection.

And dishing out subsidies and freebies is the order of the day, leading to creation of an atmosphere that makes the general public more dependent on the state – making it too indispensable to rock the boat of power.

There is no going back and as we get older, the number of support programmes increase making Malta what it is – a comfortable place to live in if you need a health service or social support.

There are, probably few countries outside the Western orbit, that can give a population the reassurance of an efficient cradle-to-grave health, social and education system as Malta.

The grand minus is the state of our environment, the worsening quality of air, the assault on our countryside and open spaces and townscapes, and of course, the inflationary attack on our pockets – be it the Russian war on Ukraine, or some bistro that will flog you a €12 southern Italian wine for €34.

My point is that, if you buy into the romantic reassurance of the welfare state, it should be a sine qua non for the Abela administration to inculcate into the people a sense of appreciation for the monies from our taxes that are being forked out to all and sundry.

It is not enough to simply spend it with no concern for tomorrow... it should be explained to everyone that this reassurance has been financed by the taxes that people pay.

No consideration for means-testing takes place, at least to award those who are in need instead of simply forking out the same financial benefits to everyone irrespective of their financial means.

It goes without saying that the same benevolence shown to families and individuals is extended to businesses.

There is no doubt that Malta would not be what it is without the profound role of state intervention.

But there must be a consideration that there will be times, possibly soon enough, when monies would be better spent for other projects.

It could simply be that in terms of health, the need to extend support and help is not there yet – simply because the budgets are what they are.

My experience of the outstanding health service we have in Malta is not that we do not have a good service, but rather that there are several pockets of people who still cannot benefit from all the services.

And the reason for this are simply budgetary considerations, that is, the money has been spent elsewhere, instead of extending the fantastic national health service.

Which is why you cannot simply splash out on all the strata of society equally forever, as if there was some open cheque from tax.

This is something which must define modern policies in a so-called modern social democratic government.

But there is a sensation that nothing like this is really happening. You talk to ministers, and you are regaled with a very dull response that things are very much the same and not much is happening. You ask them about new projects on the block, and you get nothing.

In a year of uncertainty and global crises, it would not be a bad idea if the administration of the day loses some sleep over instilling some concepts and ideas in society.

Beyond the petty squabbles over the choice of a Standards Commissioner, there is a brave new world which will have a massive impact on the way things will be changing in the months and years ahead.