Part 1: Decisions that we could have avoided

Change for the sake of change is not always beneficial and there is nothing wrong in admitting to a mistake and addressing the problem by going back to the drawing board

Number 1: Gender mechanism 

To tackle the poor representation of women in the Maltese parliament we opted to change the Constitution so that women candidates who have not attained the district quota can get elected to parliament. The end result has been a posse of very unimpressive female politicians. Indeed, many of the fortunate female candidates selected by the new gender mechanism have failed to make the grade and are most of the time shunned by their colleagues for their political naïveté. 

The solution?   

The solution is a major reform of our archaic electoral process, which should be replaced by a system based on proportional representation that does away with the electoral districts and also includes party lists. When one votes for the party, the elected candidates, depending on the proportion the party would have won nationally, will be chosen one after the other depending on how they are listed. It would be up to the political parties to push their female politicians to the top of the list as their preferred candidates as has happened in many European democracies.  An electoral reform of this magnitude would also severely diminish nepotism and allow for new parties to make it to parliament. 

Number 2: Cannabis reform 

The reform to decriminalise the use of cannabis was ill-thought and short-sighted. The reform gave the impression that the use of cannabis is tolerated in all cases when clearly this is not the case. The police and the sports authorities are worried that cannabis users are unaware that the drug is still considered to be illegal and in the case of sports could lead to their suspension. It also has caused serious concerns with residents who complain of no respect in condominiums from cannabis users. Furthermore, the argument that the law will lead to less criminal activity from drug lords and traffickers appears to be a myth. Dependence on illicit trade is still prevalent. 

The solution? 

The solution should have be been a focus on decriminalisation of all offences involving drug users and a clear legal definition of the use of cannabis and related products for medical purposes.   

Number 3: Height limitation policy 

The decision in 2015 that translated the height limitations in floors found in local plans into a height in metres, paved the way for the approval of five-storey developments in most urban areas. This has led to the disfigurement of all villages and towns in Malta and Gozo.  There is now an attempt to enshrine this policy in new local plans. This will serve as a death knell to the fabric of our towns and village and permanently damage our chances of saving what we still have. 

The solution? 

The solution is for planning policy to be driven by values that champion the common good and not the interests of speculators and the construction lobby. The political class has to think big and look to a sustainable future and appreciate that Malta’s small footprint needs more care and importance given to aesthetic, environmental and social considerations.  

Number 4:  Allowing 16-year-olds to vote and represent us 

16-year-olds in Malta cannot drive and thank God for that but they can vote and more importantly also serve as mayor. Malta serves as one of the first democracies to have introduced such an innovative aspect in its electoral process. Yet it fails to appreciate the intrinsic banality of this reform, considering the lack of maturity of many youth and their lack of experience in administering let alone serving as mayors. 

The solution? 

The solution is to admit this was a mistake and return to the 18-year-old limit for voting and representation. 

Number 5: Confusing reforms with being progressive 

The Muscat administration introduced many of these reforms and changes under the guise of being progressive and different. As Joseph Muscat waded through his years as a power monger he learnt more about electoral campaigns and trophies. But there was little thinking in the process. Most reforms were rooted in ill-conceived ideas with little consideration for their implementation and the ripple effects on society. Many were also motivated by electoral considerations with little respect for the bigger picture. 

The solution? 

Change for the sake of change is not always beneficial and there is nothing wrong in admitting to a mistake and addressing the problem by going back to the drawing board. 

More in Part 2 next week