The present government’s ability to sway elections due to its power of incumbency is “much less potent” than it used to be, according to former prime minister Alfred Sant.
Sant, an ardent critic of the power of incumbency during the 1990s and 2000s, shied away from criticising the Labour government’s parachuting of money into people’s letterboxes a few days before a general election.
Replying to questions by Times of Malta, Sant expressed his surprise that the power of incumbency is being raised now.
“When I first spoke about it in the wake of the 2008 elections, I was ridiculed and ignored. Yet, there quite clearly, the power of incumbency had a direct and determining impact on the election result.
“What has changed to make the issue so interesting, when it is much less potent... I wonder,” Sant questioned.
He said in so far as a power of incumbency tactic, the current tax refund and cost of living “exercise” seems rather pointless, given that the opinion polls have been consistently giving Labour the lead with very significant margins.
Sant, a Labour MEP, says from an economic perspective, if “helicopter money” is going to be used to keep the economy on an even keel, now would be the right moment.
He said the economic reboot following the COVID-19 has been fragile, no matter what the data about Europe-wide employment might suggest.
He said global supply chains also remain fragile, inflation is getting to be much deeper than central banks were predicating and Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is going to exacerbate economic stresses.
The former prime minister said all this could likely threaten the stability of the economy.
“Whether helicopter money is the right tool at this stage to bolster economic growth is a moot point,” he said.
“I am one of the sceptics, though it will certainly boost consumer confidence into the late spring when hopefully tourism inputs start to pick up,”.
Despite the spending, Sant says the government will still remain within eurozone national debt limits, though budget deficits this year will be allowed to stay well outside set limits known as the Maastricht criteria.