When the Nationalist Party published its proposals for good governance, Labour resorted to defensive tactics in an attempt to tarnish the credibility of Simon Busuttil.
These tactics backfired badly as they opened up a Pandora’s box of examples of bad governance on the government’s side. The subsequent report of the Auditor General confirmed the government’s mismanagement of public finance.
On the other hand, Alternattiva Demokratika asked whether the PN leader will withdraw the party’s agreement with the owners of illegal boathouses at Armier. Would the PN put words into action?
The usual style of mainstream politics would have been to ignore AD or to fudge some vague reply. This is what the Labour government is doing when it speaks about legality yet attempts to hold on to the votes of boathouse owners, who now need formal electricity supply on illegal development.
Busuttil, however, acted in line with his party’s governance proposals. He made it clear he was not bound by previous agreements and that, from the last election, the PN has no deal with the boathouse owners.
To me, this statement represents a positive tectonic shift in the way of doing things. If the PN consistently applies the good governance logic which it proposed in these past days then it will be offering a very clear alternative to Labour’s terrible governance.
A terribly disappointing example of the latter was Labour’s approval of the cheap sale of outside development zone land of ecological value in the public domain to Jordanian investor Sadeen. The government did its utmost to rush the process and clearly put the cart before the horse when it approved the selling of land though there was no university accreditation.
The construction magnate has applied for an institution of higher education, and not for a university, though he has been advertising the so-called ‘American University of Malta’ in official events, such as CHOGM, with the government’s blessing.
The time has come to see whether a new rainbow movement, committed to basic values, can or should be born
So, basically, the Labour government and the 33 MPs who supported its proposal decided to sabotage the parliamentary environmental committee, which was discussing alternatives to Żonqor, decided to ignore advice from Mepa on viable alternatives, decided to ignore the government’s SPED policy, which emphasises that ODZ should only be used as a last resort, and decided to give land to a non-‘university’ which, so far, will include sea-view guestrooms, entertainment facilities, a clinic, restaurants, project-related outlets and berthing rights.
Added to other examples of bad governance in lands issues, environmental enforcement, pollution control, partisan appointments, lax standards, non-accessible public documents and disregard of non-government State institutions, it is clear that, after two and half years in government, Labour has lost all moral authority in terms of good governance.
The talk of the town in many social spheres is whether Labour will win the next general election with such a cynical style, which basically puts a price on everything in an attempt to buy support and generate revenue to feed the inner circles, or what are now know as the ‘Tagħna Lkollers’.
I insist that pre-electoral goodies, including those financed by the discriminatory cash-for-citizenship schemes, do not guarantee electoral success and can actually make reflexive voters even less distrustful of a government which resorts to electoral spending sprees.
Against this crass populism, which is commodifying Malta into a national supermarket, our country deserves an alternative against such terrible governance. It is clear that Joseph Muscat’s leadership style cannot fit in this equation as he promised better but delivered even worse than what many – including myself – could even imagine.
I believe that the time has come to see whether a new rainbow movement can or should be born, comprising parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties, groups and activists who are committed to basic values such as good governance, sustainable development and fair social policy.
Such protagonists should be ready to put petty partisan squabbles and antipathies aside and, instead, dialogue and act towards the common good, namely towards a modern, transparent and democratic government.
Michael Briguglio is a sociologist.
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