A reform agenda

We will be judging any new government on the basis of the implementation of a reforming programme that includes important changes to the way our democracy functions.

Cartoon for MaltaToday on Sunday by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon for MaltaToday on Sunday by Mark Scicluna

In today's newspaper we have included simultaneously two interviews with the two main contenders to be Prime Minister within the next few days. In accordance with our editorial policy, we have given importance to the respective proposals of the parties, but our commitment goes far beyond an appraisal of the proposals and to seeing a reforming programme implemented in the country.

We presented an informed choice where the electorate's intelligence is respected and little worth is given to the mudslinging, dirty tricks and baseless attacks. Life is all about choices and never more so in an election where choice  decides the future of individuals and the direction of our society. As far as we are concerned, we favour a reforming project and will judge the PL and the PN project on the basis of its reform agenda.

We look at the proposals being offered and also at the proposals omitted but most especially on the commitment of either side to really reform the institutions and the way of doing politics in this country. This is the litmus test on which we shall be judging the new government. Eight weeks of campaigning have shown many similarities between both sides including the need to make private enterprise the motor of the economy, the need to carry on building a strong health sector and a commitment to guarantee a wide social network.

However beyond these similarities there are elements of divergence and differences, which are significant but still fall short of the far-reaching reforms we would like to see implemented. The Nationalist project is tied to the economy where it is placing growth as the very basis for financing all the social and economic projects to be carried out in the next five years. Its track record, certainly also if contrasted with economic situation in mainland Europe, is impressive as social benefits and no cuts in the educational and social fields were done in Malta unlike in the rest of Europe.

This is no mean feat and should be taken into account, but it is short of institutional reform.

The Labour project, on the other hand, calls for a change in direction whereby the emphasis is on a more open and transparent way of doing politics with a place for all irrespective of party affiliation. This too is a strong message which should be factored in when making ones choice. Yet again however, it does not go far enough in the institutional reform we would like to see implemented.

It is to be hoped that after the election the new government in its first speech in parliament commits itself to introduce in a reasonable time all the measures where there is bi-partisan support. This will immediately give a good feeling and help reunite the country after a long and gruelling campaign. The new government will be immediately put to the test with the first appointments it makes and in case of a Labour victory it needs to start concretising what it actually means by a change of direction, as to date this is still a nebulous area, beyond  vague promises of  transparency which needs to be beefed up.

The problems facing the new government are immense, with a looming European recession in countries which are our traditional export markets putting further pressure on our finances. It is in this context that one rightly asks whether the health sector and the social benefits with all promises being made is in fact sustainable?

We would have far preferred a more honest appraisal of the economic situation from both sides who, during this campaign, have avoided looking at the financial figures with cold logic and have offered a bonanza of giveaways while at the same time stating that no taxes will be introduced. This is hogwash. Indeed, more honesty in this regard has come from Alternattiva Demokratika the Green Party who also, to their merit, have put on the political agenda many issues which the two traditional parties have been reluctant to talk about including decriminalisation of marijuana, same-sex marriage, adoptions by gay couples, abusive boat houses and illegal hunting.

Our commitment is not to any of the three political parties but to our expectations that radical reforms take place, many of which are totally absent from the electoral programmes. It is fair to want a government which works in favour of economic growth but a lot of the malaise in our country stems from institutions that carry little national support and are often the extensions of the government of the day.

What is needed is a reforming agenda which tackles the very problems which are at the core of our divided society. What concrete improvements are to be done to have a truly national broadcasting service? Is the culture of meritocracy to govern public appointments? Can the country afford not to tackle electoral reform when in each election, there are numerous wasted votes?

Is party financing going to be regularised? Are the parties to be legally regulated and their accounts being put up for public scrutiny? Will a conflict of interest law be implemented? Will there be a reform of the judiciary starting from method of appointment to delays in the courts?

We will be judging the new government on the basis of the implementation of this reforming programme. We will look beyond what is included in their programmes. We believe a reforming programme will lead to a participatory democracy where people have a say and a stake in the system, beyond just voting every five years. Many of these reforms do not cost money and present an opportunity for our country to upgrade its standards of conduct in line with European democracies.

At MaltaToday we commit ourselves to continue to serve as an agenda setter as a sentinel for change.  We commit ourselves to oversee the political machinations and the failures of the system without fear or favour.  We believe our readers will continue to support us in this difficult endeavour.

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