MediaToday Victor Axiak
OPINION | Sunday, 05 August 2007

Signs of the times

michael falzon

A report on Malta’s entry unto the Eurozone next January, carried in a recent edition of the influential publication The Economist (July 14-20), describes Malta’s efforts to qualify for euro adoption as “a textbook case of the beneficial effects of meeting the entry criteria”. Although the report had a by-line saying ‘Malta, Cyprus and the euro’, it originated from Valletta and dealt only with Malta. Yet this report was practically ignored by the local media.

The lure of euro membership was explained by The Economist in these terms: “Malta does three-quarters of its trade with the EU. Membership of the euro eliminates the cost of swapping into and out of a currency used nowhere but a small Mediterranean island. It will help tourists from the euro area and the growing number of overseas firms drawn by Malta's sunny climate and well-educated, English-speaking workforce.”

The Maltese economy is on target to meet the qualifications for the currency switch to the euro. Not just that. GDP growth in the first quarter of this year was 3.5 per cent; unemployment is the lowest in 12 years; the tourism industry is enjoying the best year in six years; new niches in the manufacturing sector have successfully established themselves; and the banks are making record profits. All these statistics bear out the outstanding performance of the Maltese economy in the last 12 months. This week’s publication of the interim financial results of HSBC Malta continues to confirm the dynamism of our economy.

The Labour press and the covert, closet Labour sympathisers in the media are, however, refusing to acknowledge these facts. Not reporting the report on The Economist is a symptom of a much deeper malaise. This is no conspiracy theory, but it is obvious that there are many who have decided that the PN is going to lose the next election and have therefore joined the MLP bandwagon in ignoring or systematically denigrating the present government’s outstanding economic success.

The government’s economic policies are bearing fruit, after a long, hard slog. To be sure, the government is somewhat lucky as the recovery of the Maltese economy has coincided with a situation wherein the world economic growth has taken a very positive turn, notwithstanding oil price increases.

The most recent edition of Time magazine (August 6) carried a cover story on the resurgence of the German economy. Earlier this week, The Financial Times (July 31) quoted Stephen Green, Chairman of HSBC, as asserting: “The real economy continues to remain remarkably robust. This is considerable distance from recession territory.” Malta can only benefit from this trend. Perhaps this is a case of fortune favouring the brave!

Malta’s prosperity depends both on ensuring that our economy is in order as well as on the prosperity of the countries with whom we trade, selling them our products or services. Lawrence Gonzi’s austerity measures in the past three years have undoubtedly put our house in order, unpopular though they were. Now the positive economic advances in the developed countries of the EU have helped – to no small extent – to continue to bolster this positive trend also in Malta.

As happens when a country is enjoying economic prosperity, it can afford a lot of time to discuss peccadilloes of whatever nature and groans and moans on petty things assume an importance that is out of proportion with their negative influence – more so when an election is nearing.

Labour won the 1971 election when the economy was picking up after the independence trauma. The fact that the country is doing well puts people’s mind at rest… and so they dare experiment!

Labour knows this and is concentrating on trivia. Considering also that the PN has been in office for so many years, many are expecting Labour to win. So the media are concentrating on the trivial and ignoring the current economic success that Malta is enjoying. These are the signs of the times!

Yet in a few months time, the people of Malta will be called to choose their government for the next five years. Whether they opt to ensure that they continue to enjoy prosperity and peace, riding on the back of an expanding economy, or risk all this by giving a blank cheque to someone who has already been tried and found lacking, is the real decision that they have to take.

This is what really matters, not the trivialities that certain sections of the media continually dish up. But these are circumstances in which voters are prone to forget the harsh realities and get flustered – and blinded - with trivia.

Talking of trivialities, groans and moans, consider the following newspaper headlines:

Funeral pospost kawża ta’ traskuraġni fl-Isptar (Hospital negligence causes postponement of funeral)

Htieġa ta’ deċiżjonijiet effiċjenti u trasparenti (Efficient and transparent decisions needed)Il-Knisja b’solidarjeta’ mal-ħaddiema ssensjati (The Church’s solidarity with discharged workers)

It-Tnejn protesta nazzjonali dwar Għawdex (National protest about Gozo on Monday)

Il-Fairmount fit-Tarzna: bi profitt jew telf (Fairmount at the shipyards: profit or loss?)

Il-ħtieġa ta’ aktar spezjonijiet u bidla fil-liġijiet ta’ Malta (The need for more inspections and change in Maltese laws)

Mugliett u Dalli:’Ebda paralelliżmu’ (Mugliett and Dalli: ’no parallelism’)

Il-Kummissjoni Permanenti kontra l-Korruzzjoni – ’Korp bla snien’ (the Permanent Commission against Corruption – ‘a toothless body’)

Il-kuncert Isle of MTV Malta Special- Id-Direttur tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili aggredit (The isle of MTV Malta special concert – Director of Civil Protection attacked.)

‘Ħennu għalina: agħtuna d-dawl’ (Have pity on us: give us electricity.)

These headlines appeared in the last seven weeks – not in the MLP Sunday paper or in some GWU newspaper that overtly supports the MLP, but in the Maltese Church’s own weekly, Il-Ġens Illum.

They are, indeed, the signs of the times! It seems that even the Church is playing safe before the elections, and its newspaper has joined the doom and gloom bandwagon so ably orchestrated by the MLP!


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