The voice of reason

Galea depicted his appointment as an opportunity for everyone to take part in the PN’s renewal – a renewal that is necessary, because every political party needs to continually update its policies and stances, if it is to survive

Former PN General Secretary and Minister Louis Galea
Former PN General Secretary and Minister Louis Galea

Former PN General Secretary and Minister, Louis Galea, who has been tasked by Adrian Delia with the gargantuan job of drawing up and implementing the necessary changes in the party to make it electable once again, was quite forthright when replying to questions in a recent interview on the Party’s radio station.

To many, like me, it sounded as if what Louis Galea was saying was obvious. It is incredible that the PN had to drag in Louis Galea to say what needs to be done, when this was obvious to anyone who is one step removed from the Party’s internal – and not so internal – machinations.

The internal situation in the PN had deteriorated so much with many missing the wood for the trees, that saying the obvious comes across as the voice of reason.

On the positive side, Galea depicted his appointment as an opportunity for everyone to take part in the PN’s renewal – a renewal that is necessary, not only because of the party’s internal strife since its electoral defeat in 2017 but also because every political party needs to continually update its policies and stances, if it is to survive.

The internal situation in the PN had deteriorated so much with many missing the wood for the trees, that saying the obvious comes across as the voice of reason

Louis recognises that to survive and succeed, the PN should be infused with the team spirit that has been lacking in recent years. With so much criticism of Delia being bandied about, many have been abusing the social media and unwittingly revealing the lack of team spirit in the PN.

Incidentally, the latest Eurobarometer Survey vindicated Delia’s position that simply repeating that the current administration is corrupt will not lead anywhere: it revealed that the top three concerns for the Maltese remain immigration, housing and the environment.

Last year, immigration had topped the list with 50%, followed by housing at 29%, and the environment at 28%. This year, immigration and environment remained stable, while housing shot up to a staggering 43%. This increase is the result of exorbitant rise in property and rent prices that many Maltese cannot afford.

The truth is that while Malta continues to decrease its score in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published annually by Transparency International, this is just water on a duck’s back as far as Muscat’s majority is concerned.

Yet Delia’s policy of concentrating on issues that worry the Maltese voter led to some depicting him as refusing to fight corruption – a spin that several genuine PN supporters swallowed hook, line and sinker.

This situation continued to exacerbate the internal struggle within the PN – a struggle that was neither a struggle for ‘truth’, nor in defence of the party’s principles, as those who launched it tried to portray it. This was just an internal party power struggle – pure and simple – launched by those who felt that Delia had stolen their march.

The personal attacks on Delia and his family in the social media only served to confirm that Delia’s detractors were out savagely on the attack, adopting a ‘no holds barred’ stance, come what may – something that even provoked a reaction in favour of Delia. It is incredible how these detractors did not realise that the dirt they were throwing at Delia dirtied their own hands and the PN itself.

The astounding thing about this situation was that those who used all sorts of tactics – unethical, surreptitious, or worse – did not comprehend the truth that the harm they were causing to the PN was enormous; much more serious than Delia’s election as party leader could have ever been.

In his interview, Louis Galea also warned those who misuse the media and use fake accounts to damage the party – which I translate as the party leadership. As Louis Galea put it: loose lips on newspapers, social media and phone-ins, and inside party corridors had brought nothing but losses for the party.

Even so, I still cannot understand why it had to be Louis Galea to say as much and to insist that party discipline will be resorted to if such tactics do not stop.

This is not enough. To succeed, Louis must go back to square one and find the root causes of the PN’s two big electoral defeats in 2013 and 2017. These happened much before Delia appeared in the political scene and before Delia’s leadership was used as a convenient subterfuge to make people forget the PN’s haemorrhage of votes under Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil.

US - China trade war

US stocks fell in the worst trading day of the year last Monday after China allowed the value of the yuan to sink to an 11-year low. The devaluation of the yuan was one of the latest steps in the United States-China trade war and led the US to designate China as a currency manipulator.

It followed a threat by US President Donald Trump that the US would impose another $300bn in tariffs on Chinese imports.

Last Monday China also retaliated by taking the severe step of cancelling all purchases of US agriculture products, trying to hit Trump where it hurts most: US farmers are one of the most visible casualties of the US-China trade war. Yet farmers seem to be sticking by Trump who intends to subsidise them to make up for their losses. One should not forget that farmers could prove to be a crucial voting bloc in the 2020 election, which explains China’s move and Trump’s reassurance on subsidies.

Chinese buyers imported $19.5 billion in US farm goods in 2017, a figure that was more than halved the following year as Chinese tariffs made US agriculture products more expensive.

But farmers are not the only ones affected. Trump’s battle with China over trade deficits, alleged intellectual property theft and forced tech transfers has repeatedly put off investors around the world. Moreover, Trump’s biggest moves in the trade war – the slapping of tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods – are not popular moves in the US.

When and how will this trade war end? Can Trump’s tough ‘estate negotiator’ tactics succeed in international relations, and can he bluff his way to beat China on trade? I very much doubt it.

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