Monday, October 30, 2017

Are they all wrong? Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta 30 October 2017

The Washington Post reported: “Daphne Caruana Galizia, journalist who assailed the powerful, dies in car bombing.”
“Malta’s most prominent investigative journalist has been killed in a car bombing, sending shockwaves across the European Union. She was well known for her work linked to the Panama Papers offshore banking revelations” (DW).
“Bomb kills journalist who exposed Malta’s ties to tax havens” (The Gazette).
“Her work targeted many powerful figures, including money-laundering banks, Mafia-linked gambling companies and politicians allegedly receiving covert payments” (The Guardian).
“Caruana Galizia was a fearless journalist and blogger who exposed numerous offshore dealings of prominent figures in Malta. She was also the mother of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) developer and data journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia” (Caribbean News Now).
“Caruana Galizia had been following up leads from information in the so-called Panama Papers, a large collection of documents from an offshore law firm in the Central American nation that were leaked in 2015. She was tracing alleged links between Maltese officials and offshore banks and companies used as tax havens” (Al Jazeera).
“The murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a grim reminder of the risk journalists and whistleblowers face, not just in places like Russia and Egypt but in European democracies as well” (France 24).
“Brutal Killing of Journalist Exposes ‘Something Darker’ in Malta” (The New York Times).
“Death of a blogger casts shadow over murky Malta” (Reuters).
“The brutal murder of Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia… casts an unwelcome light on a tiny Mediterranean island nation that many in Europe thought of as a holiday destination – if they thought of it at all. Now the EU’s smallest country, with a population of less than 450,000, will also be known as the place where a journalist gets killed by a car bomb in broad daylight, and a place where many point the finger of blame for this most unsubtle of crimes squarely at the government” (Politico).
“Top European Union officials have denounced Caruana Galizia’s slaying as an attack on journalistic freedom and insisted that rule of law prevail in the tiny member nation. Malta is widely considered a tax haven and a tempting venue for those looking to launder or hide ill-gotten gains” (Time).
“The island nation has a reputation as a tax haven in the European Union and has attracted companies and money from outside Europe” (US News).
“Malta, the EU’s smallest member, is fast becoming one of its most troubled. The Valletta courthouse is surrounded by signs of breakneck economic growth: the swanky facades of luxury boutiques and hotels; building sites bustling with immigrant construction workers, unencumbered by safety harnesses or helmets. For the past three years, under Joseph Muscat’s Maltese Labour Party (PL) government, GDP has soared at an annual average rate of almost seven per cent, against a background of unremitting corruption allegations” (The Economist).
“There are two things worth saying about Caruana Galizia’s brutal killing. One is that she’s a symbol who should make us all think of countries where reporters and editors die regularly, simply because they’re doing their job: say Mexico, 11 killed already this year.
“But Caruana Galizia has a greater demand for our attention. Like Guerin, slain in Dublin. Like Politkovskaya, murdered in Russia’s days of relative freedom, 11 years ago. Malta is part of our world, our European world and our colonial heritage” (Peter Preston, The Guardian).
“The slain journalist had no shortage of enemies, having penned stories critical of many prominent local politicians and businessmen, both local and foreign, and allegedly corrupt dealings… Whatever the motivations of the killers, the media, the justice system and the government all find themselves in the spotlight once more” (Euronews).
“Caruana Galizia’s killing has sent shock waves around the world, with the United States the latest country to condemn it” (The Daily Mail).
The above selection of quotes was taken from newspapers and press agencies around the world. At the same time, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has embarked on his passport-selling tour and has tried to convince the international press that people are ‘happy’, that Malta is ‘serene’, and that Daphne’s son Matthew’s response to the murder of his mother was ‘emotional’.
Further comments are not needed.

Il-kitba waqt inkubu - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument 29 ta' Ottubru 2017

Malta bhalissa qed tghix inkubu. BIl-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, pajjizna qabez kull limitu u ma nistghux nibqghu sejrin hekk. Qed nghixu krizi istituzzjonali, fejn l-istat qed jonqos milli jipprotegina mill-korruzzjoni, mill-vjolenza u mil-kriminalita’.

F’pajjizna rega’ hawn il-biza’. Biza’ mil-bulijiet li qed jaghmlu li jrdu. Biza li jkun hawn iktar karozzi bombi li jisplodu. Biza’ li l-hasil tal-flus u l-bejgh tal-passapori jkollhom riperkussjonijiet koroh fuq il-fibra socjali.

U hawn insaqsi lili nnifsi: Dwar xiex ghandi nikteb meta pajjizna ikun ghaddej minn din it-tip ta’ krizi?

Meta nikteb fil-gazzetti u fuq il-media socjali, generalment naghzel temi li jkunu topici u li ghandhom x’jaqsmu mal-politika socjali, l-ambjent, governanza, materji internazzjonali, kultura, ekonomija u temi ohrajn.

Fl-artikli nipprova nqajjem mistoqsjiet, nanalizza xi jkun ghaddej, u nevalwa possibilitajiet li jistghu itejbu dak li jkun ghaddej. Gieli s-suggetti ikunu topici – bhal nghidu ahna il-bagit, u gieli jkollhom iktar x’jaqsmu ma’ materji li jehtiegu dibattitu fuq medda itwal ta’ zmien, bhal nghidu ahna, l-ambjent marittimu u s-socjeta’.

Izda meta l-pajjiz ikun ghaddej minn krizijiet, donnu kollox jieqaf. Ikun difficli hafna li tahseb dwar materji li m’humiex konnessi direttament mal-krizi.

Meta faqqa’ l-iskandlu tal-Panama Papers, hekk kien gara. Ma’ kull jum bdew hergin iktar ahbarijiet li bdew juru kif persuni prominenti fil-Gvern Laburista kienu implikat f’dan l-iskandlu. U allura ma kellix ghazla hlief li nikkummenta dwar dan is-suggett.

Issa pajjizna esperjenza il-qtil makabru ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Dan sar f’kuntest fejn l-istituzzjonijiet ma tawx il-protezzjoni mehtiega. Qisna qeghdin go inkubu. Hafna minna ghadna taht xokk, u ma nistghux nikkoncentraw dwar affarijiet ohra. Irridu l-gustizzja.

U l-gustizzja m’hijiex biss li jinstab il-qattiel. B’gustizzja qed nifmhu li l-istituzzjonijiet jerghu igawu l-fiducja mic-cittadini. Qed nifmhu li jinhatru kummisarju tal-pulizija u avukat tal-gvern godda, b’approvazzjoni ta ‘zewg terzi tal-parlament.

Il-fatt li pajjizna qed jghix dan l-inkubu jfisser li ma nistghux nikkoncentraw fuq kwisjonijiet li normalment jigu diskussi fil-politika: il-prekarjat, il-pensjonijiet, is-sostenibilita’, il-kwalita’ ta’ l-arja, l-immigrazzjoni, ir-riforma elettorali, it-trasport, u elf haga ohra.

Dan kollu joffri dilemma kbira lil min bhali jikteb regolarment. Iktar ma nitkbu dwar il-krizi, inqas ma niktbu dwar il-materji l-ohra. U inqas ikun hemm  diskussjoni dwarhom.

Ghalhekk, l-inkubu li qed nghixu fih qieghed jissofoka n-normalita’ demokratika : dik in-normalita’ li tinkudi djalogu miftuh, serhan tal-mohh, u fiducja fl-istituzzjonijiet.

Monday, October 23, 2017

My Activism

I have been active in civil society since 1994.

I was active in succesful campaigns such as Stipends, Front Kontra l-Golf Kors, EU membership and Divorce. I also co-organized the Save Zonqor protest and co-organized yeterday's #gustizzja protest and the civil society #panamapapers protest last year.

When I led (2009-13) and was active in AD (1998-2017) I campaigned in civil society, too.

I joined PN as I believed in Simon Busuttil's coalition for good governance which AD did not support.
As a civil society activist and local councillor (since 2003) I was always ready to work with others who believe in the cause, whatever their background. And I will keep doing the same.

No troll, apparatchik, cynic, armchair critic or sectarian will shut me up.

My loyalty is to truth and change for the better. And no, I have no interest in leadership or other positions.

Daphne and Democracy - Michael Briguglio

This year, seven journalists were murdered in Iraq, four each in Mexico and Syria, and two each in Yemen and Russia. Other countries include South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Apart from Malta, the only other liberal democracy in which a journalist was murdered this year was Denmark. But Denmark happens to have a robust system of good governance, and police investigation is in progress.
To the contrary, Malta’s governance is in crisis. The Police Force lacks legitimacy, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat himself unconsciously confirmed this when he emphasised that foreign police would be investigating the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Let us keep in mind that in his latest annual address, Malta’s Chief Justice remarked that the country’s police force and attorney general should fulfill their duties. He must have been referring to the position taken by both these institutions in corruption controversies such as Panama Papers, which involves key members of Muscat’s government.
When the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner act to protect those involved in factual corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, this is metaphorical violence towards journalists who unearth facts involving untouchable people. This is institutional breakdown.
The murder of Caruana Galizia is the terrible climax of the government’s suppression of truth. The fact that she wasn’t protected by the State is worthy of resignations. Especially when police are present in numbers for so many relatively minor events ranging from village festas to Michelle Muscat’s charity swims.  This is a breakdown of democracy.
Liberal democracy isn’t just about electing a government. It is about basic civil rights. It is about checks and balances. It is useless boasting about a financial surplus and the liberalisation of everything when Malta’s institutions are burning. It is useless having glitzy PR campaigns when journalists, civil society and opposition politicians are in fear that they may be next.
Malta’s recent liberal reforms do not interfere with the interests of oligarchs. Our freedom is limited. And we are governed by a party that’s basing its power on the transformation of citizens to beggars to ministers’ incumbency. Beggars for favours, positions and permits, as long as the vote goes Labour’s way and oligarchs’ interests are served.
In the meantime our country has hit the world’s news headlines for the wrong reasons. We are being associated with drug trafficking, car bombs, money laundering, sale of passports to dubious clients, Panama Papers and the like. And reflective citizens in Malta are highly concerned with the breakdown of meritocracy, the poor quality of air, and the malaise associated with lack of enforcement on so many matters. Malta has become a bully’s paradise.
Many people, myself included, are still in a state of shock following Daphne’s murder. We are robbed of peace of mind. To make matters worse, we know that her death is irreversible. We feel that there is no one to protect us. We feel colonised by gangs of crooks who are above the law.
Sunny ‘welcoming’ Malta is becoming an eerie dystopia. What makes matters worse is the narrative of relativistic cynicism, the narrative that fails to see the bigger picture, a narrative that chose to diminish the mammoth significance of Panama Papers.
I can only repeat the same appeal I made some days ago. I appeal to those who as yet fail to condemn the most corrupt Maltese government of all time: Malta’s institutions have collapsed, rule of law is out, everything is for sale, some people are untouchable, organised crime is flourishing. The oligarchy is usurping everything. 
Let us for once put partisan tribalism, obstinate pride, ideological paralysis and sectarianism aside: let us call for justice for Daphne. Let us call for a proper system of checks and balances, rule of law, and good governance.

Daphne u t-Tiranijja - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument 22 ta' Ottubru 2017

Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia kien qtil politiku.

Dan ghaliex Daphne kienet f’periklu u ma kienx hemm l-iskrutinju mehtieg biex tkun protetta mill-istituzzjonijiet ta’ l-istat. Dan l-iskrutinju kien dovut minhabba li Daphne kienet involuta f’kwistjonijiet legali ta’ importanza nazzjonali.

Daphne kienet fost l-iprem gurnalisti li jinvestigaw il-kollass ta’ l-istituzzjonijiet f’pajjizna. Issa li giet assassinata, pajjizna tilef vuci essenzjali ghad-demokrazija.

Izda pajjizna ma jistax jibqa jittolera l-kollass ta’  l-istituzzjonijiet. Il-Gvern Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat huwa bbazat fuq politika ekonomika li tiddependi mill-bejgh tal-passaporti u minn interessi ekonomici dubjuzi li qed jahtfu setturi bhall-energija, is-sahha u l-kostruzzjoni. Pajjizna gie elenkat f’rapporti internazzjonali bhala centru ta’ traffikar tan-nies, u huwa nvolut fl-iskandlu internazzjonali tall-Panama Papers. Il-hasil tal-flus, il-kriminalita’ organizzata u l-konnessjonijiet ma Gvernijiet korrotti xejn ma jaghtu gieh lil pajjizna.

Fl-istess hin, il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat hataf istituzzjonijiet li suppost huma indipendent u melihom b’nies li l-iskop ewlieni taghhom hu li jaqdu l-interessi tal-oligarkja li tmexxi l-Partit Laburista. Sa dan it-tant il-Gvern Laburista addatta politika li tisseduci lil bosta votanti permezz ta’ korruzzjoni u pjaciri anke jekk dan ikun ta’ dannu socjali jew ambjentali.

Il-Gvern jippreferi jara nies jittalbu ghand Ministri milli cittadini edukati li m’ghandhomx bzonn lill-politiku biex jimxu l-quddiem. Ghalhekk, dan hu gvern bla ruh socjali, gvern minghajr legittimita morali, u gvern li jpoggi l-alla tal-flus qabel id-dinjieta’ umana.

U dan kollu ifakkarni fil-ktieb ricenti ta’ l-istoriku Timoghy Snyder, ‘On Tyranny: Twenty lessons from the twentieth century’.

F’dan il-ktieb Snyder iwissi li meta Gvern jibda jahtaf l-istituzzjonijiet dan jista’ jwassal ghall-kollas tad-demokrazija. 

Snyder jinnota li tiranni japprofittaw min-nuqqas ta’ ‘checks and balances’ u ta’ procedura, u minn nuqqas ta’ etika professjonali. Japprofittaw ukoll minn dik li illum tissejjah ‘post-truth’, jigifieri minn slogans politici li mhux bilfors jirriflettu l-verita’, kif ukoll minn ibbulijar fil-media permezz ta’ assassinju tal-karattru u tikketti qarrieqa ta’ dawk li qed jopponu l-poter.

Snyder jappella biex ma nharsux lejn in-naha l-ohra meta naraw sinjali ta’ mibghieda u diskriminazzjoni. Jghid li l-apatija u x-xetticizmu tac-cittadini jistghu isahhu lil dawk fil-poter.

Snyder jappella biex kull wiehed u wahda minna nkunu attivi fil-politika. Mhux neccessarjament dik partiggjana, izda anke permezz tas-socjeta’ civili, kitba , partecpazzjoni f’attivitajiet, qari dwar grajjiet kurrenti, abbonar f’rivisti u gazzetti ta’ kwalita’.

L-ahhar u mhux l-inqas, Snyder jappella lill-qarrejja tieghu biex ikunu patriotti u kuraggizi. Patriotti mhux lejn xi oligarkiji jew Prim Ministri li jqimu dittaturi barranin. Izda patriotti lejn l-ideali demokratici tal-pajjiz, permezz ta’ imhabba lejn is-socjeta’ u l-gid komuni.

Ejja nzommu l-memorja ta’ Daphne hajja billi ma ncedux ghal dawk li qed jipperikolaw id-demokrazija.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#DaphneCaruanaGalizia - A message for unity

To those who as yet fail to condemn the most corrupt Maltese government of all time: Malta's institutions have collapsed, rule of law is out, everything is for sale, some people are untouchable, organized crime is flourishing. 
Why relativize the obvious? The oligarchs love it. 
We are living in dangerous times, much more dangerous than anything I have ever experienced since commencing my political activism in 1994. The oligarchy is usurping everything. 

Only a national united force can remove this corrupt gang of crooks. This comes before sectarianism, ideological paralysis and obstinate pride.

You may also wish to read: How is a tyrant identified? Click here


Monday, October 16, 2017

Is the budget sustainable? Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta 16 October 2017

Malta’s Budget for 2018 has some good proposals, but these are not enough to counter the growing precariousness and the selling of the country’s common good. The Budget also does not offer an alternative vision to Malta’s growing dependency on economic sectors which may be unsustainable.
The Budget offers some adjustments to workers and pensioners. Apart from the €1.75 weekly cost of living adjustment and €2 weekly increase in pensions, there will be some other refunds and increases and initiatives. The government will also retain its welfare-to-work scheme which encourages people to seek employment rather than being dependent on welfare benefits. I agree with the philosophy behind this scheme, but I also believe that it should be accompanied by more determination to combat precariousness.
Indeed, various work sectors are being characterised by not so good working conditions that affect workers’ quality of life. Besides, the influx of foreign workers is depressing wages and conditions in various sectors.
The influx of foreigners is also resulting in increased demand for rented property, thus pushing prices upwards. The government will be publishing a white paper to tackle the rent market challenges, and it is also offering initiatives and responsibilities to property owners. The government is also extending investment in social housing as well as the first-time property buyer scheme and complement it with a similar scheme for second-time buyers.
A question that immediately comes to mind in this regard is whether the government is willing to introduce measures to ease the pressure on persons living in rented property. Rather than the new middle class promised by Joseph Muscat, Malta is experiencing the expansion of a new precarious class of persons who have to make huge sacrifices to make up for the increase in the price of rent. Why didn’t the government increase assistance to such persons?
As regards traffic, the government is committed to improve Malta’s infrastructure, building new roads and extend initiatives for alternative modes of transport. So far so good. But judging by road construction currently in place, it seems to be the case that pedestrians and cyclists are being treated as inferior species. One would also have expected more ambitious proposals such as putting a metro and new pedestrian/bicycle links on the national agenda.
As regards the environment, there are no proposals to safeguard residents and communities from the negative impacts of overdevelopment. Water management has been politely sidelined from the script.
On the other hand, the government is committing itself to extend waste separation and to revert to the incineration of waste – without hinting which sites are being considered for this. It will also step up fines for littering and dumping. The latter proposal can only be taken seriously if the government steps up enforcement.
The various measures proposed by the government should be analysed within its own financial situation.
In the first eight months of 2017, revenue from taxes increased by €180.7 million and reached €2.3 billion, courtesy of Malta’s economic growth. Non-tax revenue increased by €80.4 million and reached €284.1 million.
On the other hand, total government expenditure increased by €150.9 million and reached €2.553 billion.
Recurrent expenditure increased by  €157.9 million, but this was, in part offset by lower interest on public debt (€5.3 million) and a €1.6 million decrease in capital expenditure. Is this sustainable, particularly when the government’s recruitment of staff also includes the employment of people in return votes rather than real need? The government’s lack of transparency in this regard does not help things.
Of particular interest during the first eight months of 2017 was the €33.6 million increase from ‘Fees of Office’, which mainly refer to Malta’s sale of passports, the Individual Investment Programme. This programme is shrouded in secrecy, with the government doing its best to dodge questions being made by the Opposition, the press and civil society. Will the government explain in detail the revenue expenditure streams related to it?
Last but not least, Budget 2018 does not seem to offer an economic vision away from Malta’s dependency on construction, financial services and the sale of passports. This is a far cry from Joseph Muscat’s talk of putting the economic cycle before the political one.

Il-Housing Socjali fis-Siggiewi: Tajjeb Nistaqsu - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument 15 ta' Ottubru 2017

Il-Gvern Laburista iddecieda li jizvilppa progett ta’ housing socjali ta’ 84 appartament fis-Siggiewi. Dan l-izvilupp qed iqajjem bosta mistoqsijiet.

Il-mistoqsijiet m’ghandhomx x’jaqsmu ma jekk pajjizna ghandux bzonn housing socjali. Nahseb li kulhadd jaqbel li f’socjeta’ solidali dawk l-iktar batuti ghandhom jinghataw ghajnuna mill-Gvern sabiex ikollhom post dicenti fejn jghixu.

Il-mistoqsijiet li jqajjem il-progrett tas-Siggiewi iktar ghandhom x’jaqmsu mal-metodu li qed juza l-Gvern biex iwettaq il-politika tieghu.

Per ezempju, hem thassib li dan l-izvilupp jista’ jwassal ghal ‘ghetto’ f’nofs komunita’ ezistenti fis-Siggiewi. Zvilupp ta’ dan il-kobor u l-influss ta’ numru kbir ta’ nies f’temp qasir jista’ jkollu numru ta’ konsegwenzi. Dawn jinkludu zieda ta’ traffiku u kongestjoni, izda jistghu jinkludu wkoll zieda ta’ problemi socjali.

Jista’ jkun hemm qasma u stigma bejn residenti godda u antiki, specjalment meta dawn ta’ l-ahhar ma gewx ikkonsultati kif suppost mil-Gvern. Jista’ jkun hemm qasmiet ukoll bejn residenti godda, specjalment jekk dawn ma jkunux jafu lil xulxin u f’daqqa wahda jridu jaddattaw ghal sitwazzjonijiet godda.

Ghalhekk, wiehed isaqsi jekk il-Gvern ikkunsidrax li jizviluppa progetti izghar u alternattivi, li jferrxu lil dawk intitolati ghal dan id-dritt madwar il-pajjiz kollu. Dan jista’ jiffacilita’ il-processi ta’ integrazzjoni u l-impatti fuq residenti ezistenti.

Wiehed isaqsi ukoll jekk il-gvern ghamilx studju ta’ impatt socjali. Dan it-tip ta’ studju jista’ jipprovdi evidenza importanti hafna ghal politika iktar sostenibbli.

Dan l-istudju ikun jista jivverifika l-impatt ta’ l-izvilupp fuq resident ezistenti u prospettivi. Ikun jista’ jistabilixxi profil tal-komunita, jipprovdi djalogu mar-residenti u jevalwa l-impatti ta’  progetti simili ohrajn.

Studju ta’ impatt socjali ikun jista’ ukoll jivverifika alternattivi ghal dan l-izvilupp, impatti varji, u mizuri li jtaffu ghall-izvilupp prospettiv.

Sabiex studju ta’ impatt socjali ikun validu u serju, jehtieg li jsir minn esperti bhal socjologi, ekonomisti u antropologi. Importanti li juza metodi varji sabiex jjgbor u janalizza l-evidenza migbura.

F’dan ir-rigward hemm numru ta’ mistoqsijiet ohra li tajjeb wiehed isaqsi :

Il-Gvern ikkunsidra l-impatt ta’ dan l-izvilupp f’staguni differenti ? Per ezempju ta importanza lis-sena skolastika ?
Il-Gvern ikkunsidra l-impatt fuq residenti minn toroq differenti fil-vicin tal-progett ? Sar xi forma ta’ kuntatt maghhom?

Il-Gvern ikkunsidra l-impatt ta’ zvilupp iehor li qed isir fil-lokalita?

Min huma l-esperti li uza il-Gvern sabiex jippjana u jwettaq dan il-progett ?

Gew stabiliti indikaturi socjali sabiex il-Gvern jevalwa l-impatti tal-progett ?

Il-Gvern ikkunsidra l-impatt ekonomiku fuq residenzi u negozji fil-madwar ?

Il-Gvern ikkunsidra l-impatt fuq l-immanigjar ta’ l-iskart, fuq il-parkegg u fuq is-sahha tar-residenti ?

Il-Gvern ser jikkumpensa lir-residenti tal-madwar jekk isir dan l-izvilupp?

Il-Gvern jeskludi ghal kollox li jikkunsidra alternattivi izghar u iktar imferxin ghal dan il-progett massiv ?

X’konttibut ser jaghti lill-lokalita’ dan l-izvilupp? U x’qed jaghmel il-Gvern biex jiddjaloga b’mod genwin ma dawk affetwati minnu?

Nawgura li l-Kunsill Lokali tas-Siggiewi li qieghed jaghmel hiltu biex jiddefendi l-kwalita’ tal-hajja tar-residenti tas-Siggiewi. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

Malta’s governance index - Michael Briguglio

Governance has become a main feature of political discourse in Malta. Power of incumbency, Panama Papers, rule of law and government reforms frequently feature in political commentary. Social scientific analyses of governance are less publicly visible, even though a good number of academics and students in our country are researching this.
Journalists have a wealth of data and analysis that can be obtained from the University of Malta, both online and physically from the Melitensia section. These can enrich the quality of journalistic reports on governance.
Malta’s governance is also periodically reviewed by international think-tanks, including the German Bertelsmann Stiftung. It has just released the sixth edition of its ‘Sustainable governance indicator’ (SGI 2017). This is a cross-national survey of 41 OECD and EU countries that analyses each country’s future viability based on 136 quantitative and qualitative indicators.
Over 100 experts are involved in this study, which is available online. SGI proceeds to publish a global classification of the 41 countries in question. The classification is divided in three parts, based on each country’s policy performance, democracy and governance capacities.
On a global level, SGI refers to major concerns of governments. These include social inequality, climate change, migration, terrorism and the consequences of the economic and financial crisis.
The rise of nationalistic populism and threats to democracy and rule of law are also highlighted.
But let us look at each classification.
The policy performance index is based on economic, social and environmental policies. Sweden, Norway and Switzerland occupy the first three places respectively. Greece is ranked last, just below Turkey and Mexico. Malta stands 25th out of 41 countries.
The democracy index is based on the thorough analysis of each country’s democratic order and the rule of law on which it is based. Sweden, Finland and Norway top the list while Turkey, Hungary and Mexico come last, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey hitting rock bottom.
Malta is in a low 36th position. Only South Korea and Romania divide Malta from the bottom three places. This is worrying indeed and only confirms the need to have strong political pressure on matters such as corruption, appointment of the judiciary and efficiency of the law courts.
The governance index assesses a government’s capacity to steer and implement policies as well as its capacity for institutional learning. Sweden tops the list, followed by Denmark and Norway. Malta occupies a low 29th position. Cyprus comes last, preceded by Romania and Croatia.
SGI states that Malta is making steady but slow progress towards good governance and it highlights positives and negatives in this regard. For example, it refers to the increased scrutiny of the government, the positive role played by the National Audit Office and to social reforms, such as childcare and LGBTIQ rights. It also refers to low unemployment and a decrease in the national debt-to-GDP ratio, as well as Enemalta’s improved financial situation.
On a negative note, SGI refers to challenges in the implementation of good governance such as the Panama Papers scandal and electoral patronage.
It also highlights rampant tax evasion, the financial sustainability of the healthcare system, threats to environmental sustainability and higher rents caused by an increase in the number of foreign workers and passport buyers.
The document also highlights key challenges facing our country. Among others, these include reforming an electoral system that encourages patronage and clientelism, lack of adequate representation of small parties, the need for a strong anti-corruption body and the need to accelerate the country’s integration policy, and the need to professionalise a part-time Parliament that lacks expertise.
The latter challenge is of particular interest. I believe it is high time that Parliament is professionalised. To begin with, parliamentary sessions are held at hours that are not family friendly.
It also does not equip parliamentarians with the necessary professional assistance to research policies and it encourages them to remain dependent on income obtained elsewhere.
A more professional political system can ensure that parliamentarians are equipped to engage better with evidence that benefits policymaking. Perhaps this is an issue that can win cross-party support and which can be fine-tuned to the realities and challenges of Malta as a small-island EU member state.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Gvern li jbigh kollox - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument 8 ta' Ottubru 2017

Hemm bosta ragunijiet li jistghu jispjegaw ir-rebha tal-Partit Laburista fl-ahhar elezzjoni generali.

Wiehed jista’ jsemmi s-sitwazzjoni ekonomika, il-karizma ta’ Joseph Muscat, kif ukoll politika li laqghet it-talbiet ta’ bosta gruppi socjali. Wiehed jista’ jghid ukoll li ghal numru mdaqqas ta’ votanti, il-korruzzjoni m’hijiex l-iktar kwistjoni importanti, sa kemm il-hajja ta’ kuljum taghhom tibqa’ ghaddejja.  Hemm ukoll ragunijiet assocjati ma’ l-istrategija tal-Partit Nazzjonalista. Jista’ jkun li l-emfasi fuq il-korruzzjoni, u specjalment fuq il-kwistjoni egrant, poggiet fil-genb kwistjonijiet ohra li jolqtu direttament votanti differenti.

Izda wara kulhadd huwa gharef, u jien l-ewwel wiehed li naqbel li l-Partit Nazzjonalista kellu jaghmel emfasi fuq il-fatt li pajjizna ghandu l-iktar gvern korrot fl-istorja politika tieghu. Nemmen li l-Partit ghandu jibqa jiggieled il-korruzzjoni waqt li fl-istess hin jemfasizza kwistjonijiet ohrajn u jkun iktar vicin in-nies, per ezempju permezz ta’ politika lokalizzata.

Il-korruzzjoni tal-Gvern Laburista m’ghandiex x’taqsam biss mal-fatt li Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri huma involuti fl-iskandlu globali ta’  korruzzjoni tal-Panama Papers. L-anqas m’ghandu x’jaqsam biss ma’ kwistjonijiet bhall-Kafe’ Premier, Gaffarena jew decizzjonijiet tal-Gvern li qed jirregalaw il-flus lill-Partit Laburista.

Il-korruzzjoni hija sintomu ta’ Gvern li jpoggi l-allat tal-flus u l-konvenjenza l-ewwel u qabel kollox, fejn kollox hu ghal bejgh.  Jidher li t-tajjeb u l-hazin qed jigu relativizzati skont il-konvenjenza politika. Il-kuncett ta’ cittadini informati li ghandhom drittijiet u dmirijiet qed jigi mwarrab favur kuncett fejn kollox hu permissibli sakemm jaqbel lill-Gvern Laburista.

Hawnhekk tajjeb li nsaqsu mistoqsijiet essenzjali ghal politika f’pajjizna llum. Fejn ghandna naqtghu linja bejn it-tajjeb u l-hazin? Il-liberta’ ta’ l-individwi ghandha tkun assoluta, jew ghandha tintizen mal-liberta’ ta’ individwi ohra? Ahna sempliciment konsumaturi li rridu kollox fl-immedjat, jew cittadini b’responsabilitajiet lejn haddiehor ?

Nemmen li l-Gvern Laburista qieghed juza strategija ta’ seduzzjoni politika li permezz taghha jwieghed certi libertajiet minghajr ma jqis il-kuntest kollu. Kemm il-darba qieghed ibaxxi standards etici, socjali u ambjentali u jappella ghall-egoizmu qabel il-gid komuni.

Per ezempju, dan il-Gvern qieghed jiffavorixxi l-kummercjalizazzjoni tal-gid komuni. Qed johorgu permessi ta’ mwejjed u siggijiet fuq art pubblika minghajr ma jikkonsidra kwistjonijiet bhas-sigurta’, l-access u l-parkegg. Qieghed johrog permessi fuq art ODZ li qed inaqqru il-pajsagg Malti. Qed ikun kajman hafna fuq kwistjonijiet bhall-immanigjar ta’ l-iskart u ta’ l-ilma.

Il-Gvern Laburista qieghed ukoll jipproponi diskors li jikkummercjalizza il-gisem uman. Fil-media Laburista donnha qed tinbiegh l-idea li tajjeb ikun hemm suq liberalizzat tal-prostituzzjoni. Dan fl-istess hin li pajjizna diga qieghed jissemma min agenziji internazzjonali li huwa centru ta’ traffikar tan-nies. Bil-‘feminizmu’ kollu tieghu, dan il-gvern qed jaghlaq ghajnejh ghal dan. Ikun ahjar li pajjizna jadotta politika li xxekkel - u mhux li tinkoragixxi -  il-prostituzzjoni.

Politika ohra, bhal dik tas-surrogacy, qed tigi mlahhma biss fuq diskors li mhux neccessarjament qed taghti kas id-drittijiet tat-tfal u kwistjonijiet etici. Huwa tajjeb li l-guf tal-mara jinkera ghal haddiehor? Fl-opinjoni tieghi, le.

Tajjeb niftakru wkoll li l-Gvern Laburista qieghed ibiegh ic-cittadinanza Maltija, u dan b’mod xejn trasparenti. Ma nafux x’qed isir mil-flus, izda hemm suspett qawwi li hemm min qed jigwadanja gmielu minnhom filwaqt li l-Gvern kiseb mezz xejn nadif biex jisseduci votanti. Din l-industrija qieghda wkoll tikkontribwixxi biex joghlew il-kirjiet tal-propjeta’ f’pajjizna.

Il-mentalita’ kummercjalista tal-Gvern Laburista hija bbazata fuq politika ekonomika li ma tharisx fit-tul. Qeghdin inkunu dipendenti wisq fuq setturi bhall-kostruzzjoni minghajr ma nharsu lejn alternattivi iktar sostenibbli. Ekonomija diversifikata taghti importantza lill-kostruzzjoni, izda tara ukoll li tohloq setturi godda f’dinja iktar kompettitiva.

It-tip ta’ liberta’ li qed  jippremja l-gvern Laburista hi ukoll wahda fejn bosta jaghmlu dak li jridu, anke jekk dan ikun ta’ dannu ghal haddiehor. L-enfurzar huwa fjakk f’oqsma varji, u s-suspett tieghi hu li kemm il-darba jkun hemm indhil politiku biex dan ma jsirx.

L-importanti ghall-Gvern Laburista hu li jikseb il-vot ta’ dawk li jkunu inghataw pjacir anke jekk dan hu ta’ dannu socjali jew ambjentali. Il-Gvern jippreferi jara nies jittalbu ghand Ministri milli cittadini edukati li m’ghandhomx bzonn lill-politiku biex jimxu l-quddiem.

Ghal kuntrarju ta’ dan kollu, il-Partit Nazzjonalista ghandu joffri alternattiva cara Ghandu jkun vicin il-problemi u l-aspirazzjonijiet tac-cittadini. Izda minflok ma jipproponi politika ta’ Gvern kbir u prezenza partiggjana kullimkien, ghandu jipproponi politika ta’ socjeta’ kbira u Gvern zghir. Socjeta’ b’ruh socjali fejn l-individwu jkollu l-ghodda u l-edukazzjoni li javvanza l-quddiem u jgawdi kwalita’ ta’ hajja tajba. Liberta’ f’socjeta’, u mhux liberta’ li xxekkel dik ta’ haddiehor.

Monday, October 02, 2017

The soulless state - Michael Briguglio

Image result for desert of the real
Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia is suggesting that Malta has a ‘soulless State’.  Judging by reactions in the social media, there have been different positive and negative interpretations to this imagery. I, for one, propose to apply it to Malta’s turbo commercialisation of society.
Before I delve further on my interpretation, I invite readers to consult three related ideas proposed by influential social theorists.
The first is sociologist Max Weber. Early in the 20th century he lamented that humankind’s soul was being parcelled out by a dehumanising and bureaucratic way of life in an increasingly rational society.
Transposed to our times, some authors note that we are moving towards an ‘anything goes’ society of procedure: one devoid of character, one that relativises everything and that avoids discussing ‘good’ and ‘bad’. As long as you fill in a form, you are eligible. And as long as science permits it, it must be good. Are we sure?
In the 1970s, philosopher Erich Fromm warned of the dangers of ‘having’ over ‘being’. He related the former to the attempted domination of nature, the promise of unlimited abundance and unlimited fulfilment.
The cost of this is the loss of our inner selves. Quantity over quality.
Closer to our times, sociologist Jean Baudrillard theorised how we are trapped in a society that resembles a theme park, where we are seduced by symbols irrespective of how ‘true’ or ‘false’ they are. A sort of junk-food society – only that everything becomes junk. This results in a ‘desert of the real’, far beyond creative self-expression, authenticity and character.
Despite their differences, such social theorists make us aware of the contradictions revolving around an individual’s freedom in society. Where should lines be drawn? Is it fair to encourage one’s freedom at the expense of the freedom of others? Should everything be commercialised in the name of freedom? Can we create ourselves beyond consumption? What is good or bad? What is value?
Today’s Malta is led by a Labour government that feeds upon the commercialisation narrative. It promises unlimited freedom but gives little consideration to the other side of the coin. It is soulless in the sense that it fails to sense deep impacts and holistic aspects with regard to its policymaking.
Hence, the government is pushing for proposals related to the commercialisation of the body, the common good, and different services. The freedom being proposed is ultimately a freedom for capital. Freedom for the moneyed and ruin for the rest.
Once Parliament and civil society start discussing matters such as surrogacy and prostitution, I augur that ethical concerns are not sidelined from the debate. To the contrary, I hope that a government that considers itself to be ‘feminist’ recognises that liberalised prostitution can actually encourage more trafficking and the exploitation of women. That surrogacy is not merely a procedure, but also a complex matter with deep ethical dimensions.
As things stand, Labour does not seem to mind about the negative impacts of certain decisions so long as voters and other supporters are seduced into support. Never mind that the passports industry is pushing up rent prices, or that the free-for-all development policies are robbing our children of open spaces. Never mind that lack of enforcement encourages precariousness, and that short-termist economic policies can lead us to an unsustainable bubble.
The current Labour government is also resorting to attract support through the least common denominator. It may be cheaper to buy votes through patronage and ignorance rather than to equip people to free themselves from dependence on politicians.
This is not real freedom. This is making people beggars to ministers’ incumbency. Give your supporters cake as long as they close their eyes to the abuse of power.
In my reading, therefore, the soulless State is driven towards commercialisation and patronage, disinterested in longer-term impacts, and impatient to discuss the good and the bad.  Against such short-term seduction, it is imperative to equip people to engage in deliberation and reflexivity.
Malta needs a bigger society and a smaller government. Society with a soul.