Governance as seen through the employers

It is good to know that there are skilled people keen on entering politics, which is a ruthless arena as the current situation proves

Cartoon by Mikiel Galea
Cartoon by Mikiel Galea

It could have come as no surprise to see that yesterday the Malta Employers Association came up with an interesting range of proposals to tackle the topic of the moment – rising good governance and corruption concerns. The association said this was damaging business confidence and Malta’s international image.  

This was unsurprisingly a corresponding and identical message sent out by the Nationalist party. 

Concerns about good governance have been around under most administrations, and corruption has always featured in local elections. Both sides of the divide are tainted with it, and electorates tend to forget the sins of the past. Which is a pity, for that gives a skewed picture of how deep rooted our problems are.

The association also demanded at a press conference that public contracts should be published in full and within three months and for no public contracts to be signed with entities whose ultimate owners are unknown or hidden behind a trust.

It is also called for persons of trust to be subjected to periodic audits by an independent board, which would also include representatives from the Opposition benches. The board would report on time spent, activities and results achieved. 

The number of persons of trust must be subject to a ceiling and their employment contracts published in full, the association said.

The MEA’s document also proposed that key positions in public authorities should be approved by a two thirds majority in the House of Representatives, that direct orders be capped, and that local media must be represented on all state visits abroad. 

More importantly it called for a smaller Maltese Parliament with 41 full-time parliamentarians and for ministerial salaries to be incremented to the level of Maltese chief executives.

“It is evident that the current rates of remuneration will not attract the best persons to fill these posts – many skilled people are keen on entering politics but don’t want to start earning just €55,000 a year,” MEA director Joe Farrugia said. 

“Besides, when they aren’t paid well, ministers will be more tempted to increase their income on the sly.”

Farrugia described the current situation in Malta as a “paradox” – with rising governance concerns and declining faith in the country’s institutions occurring at a time of significant and positive economic performance. 

“Corruption, even if perceived, is not good for business. Malta’s international reputation will only be secured if we can ensure and demonstrate that our institutions have strong values and ethics.”

It is good to know that there are skilled people keen on entering politics, which is a ruthless arena as the current situation proves. And yes, parliamentary earnings are a disincentive, which is why, one presumes, some measures are taken by governments to improve those earnings. 

Different governments go different ways in doing this, and the one certainty is that the opposition of the day will do its best to cry foul.

In their much needed and welcome comments the MEA should also have commented on the responsibility of the media and social media in cultivating the real news versus fake news. About reporting, writing and presenting facts versus fiction and spin. And more importantly in encouraging that at the very end of the day the valid and crucial institutions and executive bodies should be allowed to work in serenity and be represented by individuals who are independent and are willing to function and deliver and decide without fear or favour.