Governments' habit of hiring private sector workers before an election shows no sign of subsiding, with the employers’ lobby warning that it is in full swing.
In its proposals for Budget 2021, published on Monday, the Malta Employers Association said that it was essential “to reverse the talent drain from the private sector prior to an election.”
“Many companies report that this migration is already occurring,” the MEA warned, saying that brain drain was a waste of human resources.
“There are productive jobs available in public transport, tourism, construction, care working, enforcement structures and many other areas which could be taken up by people who are currently underemployed and with a relatively low standard of education if they undergo some training,” it said.
Public sector employment increased by almost 500 jobs during the three-month electoral campaign in 2017. The government has yet to announce a date for the next general election, which must take place by next year.
The MEA has previously proposed introducing a moratorium on public sector jobs in the six months leading to a general election.
In its proposals to reduce labour supply shortages, the MEA argued that automated systems should free up some workers from their existing tasks.
“Why do we still have meter readers when we are supposed to have automated smart meters?” it asked by way of example.
The MEA urged the government to encourage students into STEM areas of study and to involve industry players more directly in shaping academic courses.
The government’s focus should also be on encouraging growth in economic sectors that are less labour intensive, it said.
Budget must be focused on Maltese values
The MEA’s budget proposals made it clear that next year’s budget had to be focused less on specific fiscal measures and more on setting out what Malta stands for and believes in.
“This is not the time to have a three-hour speech about football pitches and pavements,” it said, noting how Malta was facing economic threats from multiple directions: from rising public deficits to sluggish tourism, the FATF greylisting, labour shortages and infrastructural bottlenecks as well as global tax reform.
The MEA said that government forecasts for the first six months of 2021 had proven to be overly optimistic, with COVID still a reality and the country now greylisted by the FATF.
It described the government’s push to encourage English language tourism as a “strategic error” which had derailed the country’s pandemic recovery efforts.
“The increase in the fiscal deficit to a staggering 12% of GDP in 2021 may imply painful actions to recover, unless the economy manages to make an impressive comeback in the coming two years,” it warned.
The MEA expressed deep concern about Malta being added to an anti-money laundering greylist by the FATF, noting how 88 per cent of its members believed the greylisting would have a negative impact on the Maltese economy.
It said the vast majority of investors resented the link between business and politics, adding that a reform was necessary to break ties between business interests and the financing of political parties.
The MEA argued that Malta needed a concerted effort to clean up its image, not more laws or compliance systems.
“We have laws in abundance,” it said. “This is no longer about ticking boxes.”
Modern ways of working
The MEA proposals also touch on the gradual shift to remote- or hybrid working models, saying that flexible working arrangements would require a shift in mentality but could lead to benefits by making better use of working talent while also promoting community wellbeing.
Workplaces needed support to introduce such flexible arrangements, it said.