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Editorial • August 8 2004

The Vision Thing

Government and most particularly the Prime Minister has quite rightly placed the control of the deficit as its topmost priority. This is the correct strategy in today’s economic climate. Only once the finances are in order can the people hope to improve their living standards However there is the growing feeling that Government is all too exclusively focused on this problem,it is harping on the same string and is losing sight of the big picture of Government. The vision thing. Too much time being spent on controlling the hemorrhage and too little on the vision thing.By focusing exclusively on the precarious finances of the Government there is a risk that Government, itself no differently to the administaration of Alfred Sant, risks throwing the country into a worsening situation. The hofra mentality is ruling the day,it is disheartening people and as a consequence people are spending less.This will lead to a further deflated economy. Government must start focusing on the tangible visible deliverables to turn round the mood in the country . This difficult situation calls for men and women of character with a clear vision on how to overcome the difficult situation the country is in as a result also of uncontrollable government expenditure.
Vision is the hallmark of leadership. The finest characteristic any leader can have is to see clearly from afar where he wants to go and to surround himself with professional people that can get him there within established time frames. In short, government is also about having a dream. Martin Luther King clearly envisaged a society where all people irrespective of their colour would be treated equally. Mahatma Gandhi without tools of any sort but the strongest weapon being on the right side of the truth fought the might of the British Empire to achieve independence for his people. These are but two examples of leaders who with their moral persuasion moved masses, raised their hopes and fulfilled a dream. They both highlighted the bad situation while offering a way forward. They explained their actions and most of all they led by example.
It is becoming rather difficult to identify the dream of the present Government, of the opposition leader or of the leaders among the social partners. The key protagonists appear overwhelmed by the difficult financial situation.They speak alot about cutting expenditure and very little about how to achieve growth. Where are the men of vision? There is clearly a leadership crisis in the country.The institutions seem unable to think out of the box and present the way forward. In fairness, this administration follows a previous administration captained by a person with a European dream fulfilled. This achievement has however left a puzzling aftermath whereby people are equating their present difficulties with the realisation of the European dream they endorsed. Herein lays the cause of the feeling of malaise prevailing in the country. There is european blues in the air. This is perfectly understandable, all countries on accession underwent painful restructuring and growing unemployment yet in time they turned the tables.This was also achieved because their leaders explained the difficulties and showed the way forward emphasising the no gain without pain reality. Government is in dire need of a proper communications strategy explaining step by step its actions within the ambit of a quality of life vision.
It was encouraging hearing the Prime Minister soon after concluding his full day with his ministerial colleagues announcing that the final goal of all the sacrifices necessary to get the finances in order is the achievement of a better quality of life for our citizens.In so doing he is setting a target but the visible deliverables need to start being experienced as soon as possible if he is to carry the country. This cannot be achieved so long as many of the sacred cows remain untouched. It is clear that overcoming our financial difficulties successfully involves also reducing manning levels in the public sector,yet there seems to be consensus among all the social partners that the sacred cow of public sector job security cannot be touched.
Prior to achieving any amelioration in living standards it is clear that sacrifices must become the order of the day. No differently than in other countries good leaders can carry their people even in times of sacrifice. This can be achieved if the sacrifices are explained as the necessary medicine to cure the patient. A clear time frame must be made known. A further confidence building exercise involves leading by example. People must clearly also see their own leaders setting an example. In this respect the extravagant purchase of the Brusselles embassy was the very antithesis of leading by example. Guarding the names of the persons working in our embassy as a state secret is equally absurd. It all leaves a bitter taste in people's mouth. We remain surprised how the Prime Minister who is putting his shoulder to the wheel does not think fit to reverse this decision, recognising it as a mistake,not aware of the inevitable political flack that the decision would cause. It would immediately win him much support and will show his commitment to look after the public purse prudently. It will crown his committment to prudent spending. It will most of all show he is his own man.
Getting the finances in order also involves good simple housekeeping, stopping to think that we are a big state and coming down to earth understanding that we are the size of a village in Europe, our spending should clearly start reflecting this reality.
This lack of leadership permeates throughout the leadership class. It is clear that many of the leaders are simply stating how cuts can be made and fail to make known their vision of how growth can be achieved. These leaders must start thinking out of the box, start thinking the unthinkable in order to get the finances in order and as a consequence retaining living standards. It is clear that too many of the leaders simply want to defend their patch. All too many sacred cows, numerous holidays cannot be lessened, over manning in the public sector cannot be touched, rigid restricted practices are defended.
It appears that all are aware what needs to be done yet no one seems prepared to bite the bullet. As a consequence getting the deficit down will prove a very long process and unless there is a growth people will inevitably be asked to pay more taxes.
With vision growth can be achieved and sacrifices minimised.




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