A week is a long time in politics | Alex Perici Calascione

... and a political week is also a good way of judging politicians and their actions

The PL's announcement on Crane Currency was thrifty in detail
The PL's announcement on Crane Currency was thrifty in detail

Close to four years into this administration is enough time to assess and appraise. Both government and opposition should be subjected to scrutiny. Both are to be held to the same standards and both are to be held equally accountable to their pledges and undertakings.

Is Labour honouring its solemn pledges of transparency; meritocracy and a fresh style in politics where competence is judged on what it is – competence as opposed to political allegiance or, worse still, opportunistic expediency? Are we living in that fairer society with heightened democratic practices and enviable social justice?

Is the Nationalist Party really any more “vicin il-poplu” than it was? Is this insistence on honesty in politics for real? Does it risk sending the wrong message to an electorate which politicians have perhaps tended to subconsciously classify as totally treatable in Nineteen Eighty Four fashion for the entire legislature right up to the last anaesthetizing pre-electoral budget?

A week is a long time in politics and a political week is also a good way of judging politicians and their actions. There have been quite a few of these in the past weeks. Let’s take last week as an example.

One reality emerges from objective, politically dispassionate studies; poverty and poverty-risk are on the increase. Whilst this is certainly not a reality that was created today, it is indeed ironic and inexplicable that this should happen under a left-wing administration stressing economic growth. This aside however, the facts and numbers are there. More importantly, the pensioners, working-age men and women and the children behind those figures are there.

Last week the Nationalist Party announced fresh proposals, including measures to alleviate pensioners from the poverty-line risk through a complete range of free medicines; a reasoned increase in pensions and the removal of income tax on pensions. 

Subsidies for those finding real difficulty to cope with rent in private rentals are to be increased. At the same time the surprising and quite insensitive increase in rent on social housing will be reversed.

These measures indicate a renewed focus towards politics aimed at promoting once again fairness and equity in societal change as it did in the past with the opening of education to the masses and the provision of multiple social mobility ladders across the board. This is done with balance and sensibility. A government which is “pro-business” ensures wealth generation and tempers its side effects with real measures of social justice. A government which is simply “pro-businessman” forsakes the emphasis on social justice and increases the divide between the few haves and the have-nots, to whom is reserved the wait for stop-gapping handouts.  

On the PL side last week brought the announcement of what was described as the second most important recent foreign direct investment with a 100 million dollar set-up by Crane Currency in Malta. 

Good news indeed. The announcement was however somewhat thrifty in its detail. It subsequently emerged that the investment is to be largely spent on equipment purchased outside Malta. Then came the other news. Crane, who at the press conference in the US publicly praised the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and his team for having with admirable efficiency completed all arrangements and procedures within just six months, will be directing this major part of the investment in buying this machinery from none other than… the company whose local agent is the very same Chief of Staff’s private business.

It has now long since become clear what Dr Muscat’s pre-electoral “pro-business” pledge really meant. No surprise that the PM’s reaction to this glaring conflict of interest is yet again a version of “Different Strokes” Arnold’s “Whatcha talkin’ ’bout Willis??”, complete with a condescending stance.

If a minister rushing to set up a Panamanian company within 48 hours of taking the oath of office and pledging to deposit annually a minimum of $800,000 declaredly from commissions and consultancy is OK for the Prime Minister, then “Different Strokes” sadly for all of us, turns to “Anything Goes”.

If this happens once it would be a coincidence, if it happens almost always then it is a coincidence no longer. For how long will decent, law-abiding citizens, take this sheer brazenness?

This is where the comparative assessments and appraisals kick in. Is it really a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other? I for one sincerely think not.

Alex Perici Calascione is a Nationalist Party election candidate