The Nationalist Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi, frequently boasts about the substantial sums of public money his government is investing in such important areas as, for example, education, research, innovation, roads, tourism and the development of Gozo. The Prime Minister has the habit of quoting such examples as being a feather in the cap of the Nationalist government. This is not the case unless such public funds are used efficiently and produce tangible results for progress in the country.

Borrowing an expression from American political jargon, the Nationalist government's policy boils down to "throwing money at problems" which in itself does not guarantee the successful implementation of government policy and reaching the goals set for improving crucial areas of national importance for further development.

Unless funds are used wisely, an increase in the sums invested in various areas of public administration could lead to a situation of more wasted public expenditure, the burden of which will have to be borne by taxpayers.

We have to start by reducing unnecessary and avoidable expenses in all public projects. We have to make sure that if a project is estimated to cost a certain amount of public funds, then it will not be completed with much more being spent over and above what was originally envisaged and, later, expect the taxpayer to make good for government incompetence. The Mater Dei Hospital is a glaring example of this but one can also mention road construction where substantial amounts have been spent in correcting defects in the original construction process.

Then there is the problem of unnecessary duplication of work. Several foundations, agencies and other entities have been created where there was already a government entity carrying out useful and productive work in such areas. For example, I have never understood why the Foundation for Educational Services was created in the first place when the Education Division has always had its own structures and personnel ready to carry out much of the work allocated to the FES. Let me make it clear that I am not criticising the work of the FES personnel whom I hold in high regard for their professional endeavours. What I am criticising is the unnecessary duplication of work over the past few years. If there is any need to stress that investing sums of money in a particular sector does not necessarily guarantee results, one can also mention the implementation of the national minimum curriculum in Malta's education system. Despite the huge sums invested by the government in education, all educators know that most of the recommendations regarding the implementation of the national minimum curriculum remain simply on paper, despite the Nationalist government's statements to the contrary.

Finally, there is the question of political appointments in sensitive posts where the appointee will have to direct sectors of the economy crucial for national progress and development. Unless we establish once and for all that meritocracy should form the basis of such appointments and not one's allegiance and contribution to the political party in government what hope can we have for the efficient and wise use of public funds? The criteria used for such appointments should be strictly professional ones and not whether the person to be appointed is blue, red or green where his/her political beliefs are concerned.

To conclude, I believe the Nationalist government's policy of investing money in problem areas of the administration of the country is not yielding satisfactory results. "Throwing money at problems" is not the solution to the country's problems. Efficiency, cutting down expenditure, avoiding duplication of human and material resources, not exceeding one's budget for public projects, appointing real experts to sensitive posts instead of politically-motivated appointments, these are areas where the PN in government has failed and it is you, the taxpayer, who is paying the price for all this.

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