A few days ago, during the first official meeting between the Malta Developers’ Association and the new prime minister, I wanted to pass on a clear message to Robert Abela on the need for radical changes to the way we do politics.
Despite the fact that some commentators, mostly due to unfounded prejudice, might think that we stand for some group of greedy businessmen, this is far from the reality.
Like the rest of the Malta’s economic operators, irrespective of the sector in which they work, the MDA and its members do business within a framework of policies that have been written, enacted and enforced by politicians and their state functionaries.
Thus, the need to have a modern, just and efficient political system, catering for today’s reality, is crucial for everyone, including our members.
The MDA told the prime minister in unequivocal terms that it is time to change our political system and the way it operates.
Despite joining the EU in 2004 and various politicians harping on about being among the best in Europe, our political system is surely not in sync with the requirements of a modern world.
Unfortunately, despite discussing for decades the need to change our Constitution, with reports and studies suggesting an overhaul, we are still lumped with a political system which is, at most, archaic.
As a country, we are simply running on the spot, firefighting incidents that crop up along the way, without putting in place any long-term solutions.
It is 2020 and we still have a part-time political system, with our parliament working only for a few hours a week and long inactive stretches in between.
Despite the efforts made by genuine politicians, most of them entailing massive personal sacrifice in giving up time for their families in favour of the common good, they are still paid miserably.
To add insult to injury, our political system is dominated by political parties which – while expected by all to be employing the best brains to devise their cutting-edge policies – still depend on the generosity of their followers and supporters to finance their costly operations.
If we really want to move forward, all this has to change.
Like the rest of the business community, our members, who are often unjustly accused of having politicians in their pockets, are seriously fed up of being continuously pestered by political parties, by both upcoming and experienced politicians, to contribute to their fundraising activities and telethons every few months.
We are fed up of being continuously pestered by political parties and politicians to contribute to fundraising activities
Ironically, while many of our members and other businessmen from all sectors help all parties, even in difficult circumstances, they are usually accused of giving in order to receive.
While I don’t exclude that this may be the case for some individuals, this is surely not the case for the majority of our members, who operate small businesses with very restricted profit margins.
The irony is that we are almost ‘forced’ to contribute as ‘all the others do’. That is why the current situation is turning us into victims of an unsustainable system.
It is time to change all this.
To be a real modern democracy, our parliament needs to work on a full-time basis.
Our legislators cannot remain in isolation. They need staff and resources to be able to do their research and come up with the best possible solutions for our country.
If we want to move forward, we need politicians to dedicate all their time to the common good and be paid decently.
We need to attract the best minds and talent to our political system. Only in this way can politics start becoming attractive to our best brains. If we believe that political parties are crucial for a functioning democracy, we can no longer tolerate those embarrassing televised marathons with the party faithful churning out cash from donations given by ‘friends’.
Public financing of our political parties is not something we should fear.
It is surely much better than having parties and politicians beg businessmen for funds. Our position is also clear on transparency.
The MDA welcomes the latest suggestions by Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia for a transparency register.
Our job is primarily to lobby in the interests of our members and we have no problem in being as transparent as possible.
We never shied away from saying what we wanted to say in public. For example, we are far from happy to see most of our urban areas turned into blocks of apartments.
Over the past few years, we have put forward tangible suggestions to mitigate this and conserve our typical and historic villages, including their traditional streetscapes. However, despite all our efforts, we can only suggest – it is up to politicians to decide.
Therefore, we consider a transparency register as another step forward towards having a level playing field among the business community.
Let us not continue to fear change. The MDA, like the rest of civil society, is all for change and it wants it now.
We no longer have an option.
Sandro Chetcuti is president of the Malta Developers Association.
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