Not the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion

The Malta Business Weekly - - LEADER / OPINION -

We would like to go for a less im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion, if for no other rea­son be­cause the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions are all pi­loted by spin. The gov­ern­ment, and to a lesser ex­tent the Op­po­si­tion, go for their re­spec­tive spins be­cause their aim is to get the peo­ple to sub­scribe to their spin.

The an­nual rit­ual of Bud­get Day fol­lows a very pre­dictable path. First, the min­is­ter’s speech, which fol­lows the min­is­ter’s pre­sen­ta­tion to the me­dia. Then the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions from the prime min­is­ter and the Op­po­si­tion coun­ter­part, then the series of state­ments from the con­sti­tuted bod­ies and next day the re­ac­tions on the pa­pers.

It will only be in due time that the real as­sess­ment of the Bud­get and all it means be­comes clearer and clearer. Be­fore that, there will be the now also tra­di­tional speeches by the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in re­ac­tion to the Bud­get Speech and the speech by the prime min­is­ter in re­ac­tion to the re­ac­tion. Then par­lia­ment goes into over­drive with de­bates on each min­is­ter’s port­fo­lio.

And we are not there yet. For now we also have to wait for the re­ac­tion by Brus­sels (which in our case will not be neg­a­tive, as op­posed to that by the new Ital­ian gov­ern­ment).

Only then will our House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives be ready to con­firm the Bud­get. Af­ter which, there will be the also usual long dis­cus­sion by the House on the Bill to im­ple­ment the Bud­get, a long de­bate in which all MPs like to take part.

We would like to go for a less im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion, if for no other rea­son be­cause the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tions are all pi­loted by spin. The gov­ern­ment, and to a lesser ex­tent the Op­po­si­tion, go for their re­spec­tive spins be­cause their aim is to get the peo­ple to sub­scribe to their spin.

Be­sides, many times the im­pact of the fi­nan­cial pro­gramme can only be seen in long-term. Un­for­tu­nately, the re­ac­tion by most of us to the Bud­get Speech is more on the lines of “What’s in it for me?” or “What will I get?”

On the con­trary, the real ques­tion to ask is “What will this Bud­get do to our coun­try?” That is why it is so fu­tile to hear politi­cians com­pet­ing on who gave more: there are times when the econ­omy is on a down­swing and times when it is on the up­swing and the eco­nomic ma­neu­ver is dif­fer­ent in each case.

In our case, with re­gards to the Bud­get Speech, this has to be seen within the con­text of an econ­omy that, as ad­mit­ted by ev­ery­one in­clud­ing rat­ing agen­cies is go­ing very well and a growth that has out­paced that of other EU Mem­ber States.

It is when one delves fur­ther and tries to see how this growth was brought about that one can judge the va­lid­ity or oth­er­wise of the Bud­get Speech. The most one can say about the growth there has been is that it was brought about by the sale of pass­ports and by the ad­di­tion of so many peo­ple to the work­force, both women re­turn­ing to the work­force and peo­ple from abroad.

That has in­deed worked. But now we must move on to a higher level. As the EY sur­vey we re­port on in this is­sue says, em­ploy­ers are not find­ing the re­sources they re­quire to in­crease their pro­duc­tion. Our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, in which we each year pour in so much money, is still reg­is­ter­ing the same waste­ful amount of school­child­ren who leave school with­out any skill or ed­u­ca­tional cer­tifi­cate and who choose not to go on to the ter­tiary level.

Like­wise, our man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor has its achiev­ers and its lag­gards and the ef­fi­ciency of the sec­tor as a whole is still far from where it could be and cer­tainly far from that found in our com­pet­ing coun­tries.

We cer­tainly need to have our cham­pi­ons but all we seem to get is the also-rans, the sec­ond-bests if not the dis­cards.

And, of course, we have a huge in­flated gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy which is mostly sur­plus to re­quire­ments – but we do not think the Bud­get Speech ad­dressed this is­sue or promised a slimmed­down gov­ern­ment.

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