Tak­ing stock of the lo­cal so­cio-eco­nomic sce­nario

To­day we have got ac­cus­tomed to a mul­ti­tude of voices, faces and opin­ions on ev­ery sub­ject un­der the sun. This is pos­i­tive.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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What may be the cause of po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion and di­vi­sion is not the high level of po­lit­i­cal con­tent, but the high level of de­ceit.

It is not my in­ten­tion to re­vive what hope­fully is dead and buried, but one can­not ig­nore the con­se­quences of the na­tional tele­vi­sion sta­tion seized dur­ing the spell of so­cial­ist regime of the 1980s, and which still linger in the shad­ows. The in­tro­duc­tion of plu­ral­ism in the me­dia was partly the re­sult of the abuse of power which our so­ci­ety had to en­dure back then. How­ever, I very much doubt whether the po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ tele­vi­sion and ra­dio sta­tions are help­ing their re­spec­tive au­di­ences draw con­struc­tive con­clu­sions. In­doc­tri­na­tion, of what­ever sort, I re­sist.

Some of the ills that our so­ci­ety is fac­ing to­day, I sus­pect, are the re­sult of plu­ral­ism in the me­dia. Our so­ci­ety is im­peded from ad­vanc­ing be­cause thou­sands are blind­folded by par­ti­san pol­i­tics, flamed by po­lit­i­cal party pro­pa­ganda.

This emerges clearly from the 2017 Bud­get mea­sures.

The Bud­get is a pre­dictable yearly event which sparks con­trast­ing views, oc­ca­sion­ally heated. The po­lit­i­cally owned me­dia houses had, and still have to­day, a field day. Last week, the two party me­dia houses, as ex­pected, went into top gear to drive home their mes­sage about the 2017 Bud­get mea­sures to their faith­ful au­di­ences.

The PL me­dia house force­fully drummed the fact that the 2017 Bud­get mea­sures will al­le­vi­ate the vul­ner­a­ble from mone­tary hard­ship. On the other end of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, the PN me­dia house worked hard to rub­bish these mea­sures and high­light where these will fall short.

I am not re­ally im­pressed with the po­lit­i­cal jar­gon. I elect to rest on the re­ac­tions of the so­cial part­ners. In do­ing so, I re­vis­ited the re­ac­tions of the so­cial part­ners to the 2010 Bud­get. Back in 2010, the bud­get speech co­in­cided with the 20th an­niver­sary of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall, an event which trans­formed the Euro­pean Union. To­day, we are on the eve of Brexit, a di­vorce the im­pact of which is un­known to both the Euro­pean Union and Bri­tain.

Com­par­isons are odi­ous, but one can draw some con­clu­sions.

All of the so­cial part­ners gave guarded re­ac­tions for the 2010 Bud­get. GDP growth was ex­pected to reach 3.4 per cent. To­day, it is fore­cast that Malta’s GDP will re­main mod­er­ate but ro­bust for 2017, with 3.5 per cent growth. The cost of liv­ing ad­just­ment, cal­cu­lated on the in­fla­tion which re­sulted from the Re­tail Price In­dex and ac­cord­ing to the method­ol­ogy agreed upon by the so­cial part­ners, was €5.82 a week for 2010. The cost of liv­ing ad­just­ment for 2017 is €1.16, but gov­ern­ment re­vised this to €1.75 as from 1 Jan­uary 2017.

The Bud­get for 2010 was given a cau­tious but pos­i­tive wel­come by the so­cial part­ners. This year, the same or­gan­i­sa­tions - with one ex­cep­tion - is­sued the red card to the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Malta Em­ploy­ers As­so­ci­a­tion qual­i­fied the 2010 Bud­get as gen­er­ally “pos­i­tive and cre­ative”, and in­di­cated that the main prob­lem in the ex­er­cise was the COLA. The GWU con­sid­ered the mea­sures a “mod­er­ate Bud­get.” The GWU wel­comed the in­cen­tives to in­dus­try and the fact that the COLA had been given in full, but was dis­ap­pointed that the tax bands were not widened.

The Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try said the gov­ern­ment had, through the Bud­get, given en­cour­ag­ing signs to the econ­omy. The Cham­ber wel­comed the pro­vi­sions on mi­cro-fi­nanc­ing, the as­sis­tance to SMEs and the in­creased in­vest­ment in job train­ing schemes by the ETC, but ad­mit­ted that COLA was a wor­ry­ing fac­tor as there were no mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors such as flex­i­bil­ity.

The MHRA said that the 2010 Bud­get was pos­i­tive with re­gard to the in­vest­ment in tourism and the em­bel­lish­ment of Malta, par­tic­u­larly the in­vest­ment in roads. None­the­less, the MHRA too ex­pressed con­cern over COLA, not­ing that tourism was a labour-in­ten­sive in­dus­try.

The UĦM qual­i­fied the 2010 Bud­get as one of sol­i­dar­ity and eco­nomic stim­u­lus which up­held sta­bil­ity, job creation, fis­cal mo­ral­ity, in­fla­tion con­trol, and in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion and health. The GRTU praised gov­ern­ment for the as­sis­tance be­ing given to SMEs and the self-em­ployed, and wel­comed the in­vest­ment in em­ployee train­ing.

The re­ac­tion for the 2017 Bud­get mea­sures from the same so­cial part­ners is quite dif­fer­ent and should be an eye-opener to the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion. Their re­ac­tions may seem in­con­gru­ent when one con­sid­ers that the econ­omy is do­ing well, and is ex­pected to con­tinue do­ing so. But their re­ac­tions are in­dica­tive that some­thing is not quite right.

Per­haps it pays Gov­ern­ment to lis­ten!

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