Saviour Balzan | Sunday, 01 February 2009

Bitter & Sweet

The other day a particularly well-educated woman asked me what I thought of Joseph Muscat. It was, of course, a typical question put to me by someone who believes that Muscat is after all the reincarnation of the Beelzebub.
To her, George Abela – one of the masterminds of the 1987 gerrymandered electoral districts – is a hero. Never mind what we said about the electoral commission in 1987 and Abela’s role in representing KMB’s diktat...
I have to admit that when faced with these kind people, who expect me to answer according to predetermined preconceptions, I start getting very agitated.
If I were to even suggest that perhaps things could be better under a new man, I would have been accused of all kinds of mental conditions.
And no sooner had I opened my gob (as my merchant navy acquaintance would say) than I was presented with innumerable good reasons why Lawrence Gonzi is the man of the century.
“He is honest, not interested in power and is of course not interested in money,” I was told.
It is of course up to everyone to believe that Gonzi is a saint and that the rest of us are in fact mortal sinners who cannot understand the greatness of this man.
The point is that as things stand, we cannot go on pretending that things are fine and that Gonzi has the answers to everything.
To illustrate my point I have listed a number of things that Gonzi would have to implement before we truly start believing that he is the superman who should be our perpetual political mentor and leader for the rest of our lives.

1) Meritocracy: Okay, with the exception of classmate and friend George Abela, Gonzi’s list of non-partisan, non-PN acolytes in top jobs is literally non-existent. And what is even more astonishing is his unbelievable choice of friends and former colleagues to controversial jobs, such as was the case with MEPA chairman.

2) Controlling the news: If Gonzi wants people to start thinking with their heads he must ensure that State TV gives a truthful and unbiased view. As things stand this is not the perception. A fairer spectrum of news junkies will do the job. And more importantly, the Broadcasting Authority should not remain a fiefdom of the political parties.

3) Nepotism: If Gonzi want to change Malta he must eradicate nepotism and rule number one is the introduction of a party financing bill that ensures that donations to political parties is strictly regulated.

4) Judiciary: There is a need for the judiciary to be truly independent. As things stand the majority of people appointed to the judiciary lean towards the Nationalist party. The choice of the judiciary remain be at arm’s length from the political party in government. Greater consensus should be sought in the appointment of the judiciary.

5) Regulatory authorities: The authorities set up in the last years of Fenech Adami should be reformed and if need be abolished or merged, to provide for more efficiency and independent and fair decision making.

6) Privatisation: In privatising State-owned companies two considerations must be borne in mind: efficiency and lower costs. The case of the self-employed monopolies at the port and the port reform is a case in point, since this reform led to no apparent benefits to the import and export community.

7) Electoral reform, that will do away with the innumerable clauses introduced over the years to abet the PL and PN at the expense of authentic pluralism.

8) A serious and concerted attempt to upgrade our road systems and take us into the 21st century.

9) The abolition of direct orders, as we have seen in the months prior to the last election, and perfected no doubt by the Ministry of Finance and other top government officials.

10) Cutting the umbilical cord... first and foremost, by calling The Cardinal (RCC) and asking him to call it a day and retire from politics. He has done enough damage to this government anyhow.

11) Smaller government: Making government smaller and allowing private industry and commerce take responsibility in areas where this is possible and convenient.

12) MEPA: Development outside a development zone can only considered for State sponsored projects supported by 2/3 majority in the House.

13) Taxes: Bring up the lower income tax bracket dramatically to give the middle classes a new lease of life. A review of government revenue from fines and penalties would not be amiss; nor would reducing company tax.

14) More Taxes: Apply a windfall tax on the bank’s profits and siphon that money into creating new jobs.

15) Tourism: Marketing a drive on the Continent to diminish our dependence on British tourism. And while you’re at it, aim also for the pensioner tourist.

16) Subsidies: Transferring the subsidies passed onto Ryanair and other low cost carriers to Air Malta, to ensure that our airline makes profits and provides cheaper air flights from crucial destinations.

17) Go: Tell Giovanna Debono and George Pullicino to call it a day.

19) Migrants: To bring the detention centres to a level which befits a country that continually talks of the “high moral ground” and “solidarity”.

20) Divorce: Stop waffling and set a target date for the introduction of divorce.

21) Funds: Set up a task force to ensure that funding applications for EU funds are carried out in time and appropriately.

22) A must: clip Austin Gatt’s wings and tell him to stop making a mess of things.

23) Reform Malta Enterprise and the Malta Tourism Authority and make them smaller agencies with specific tasks related to marketing and funding.

24) Local councils: Give more autonomy to the local councils and to provide them with a greater share of the profits.

25) Wardens: Remove the warden system from private firms and reorganise it under the local councils, ensuring that all monies collected are redirected to the local community.

26) VAT: Encourage small business by introducing lower VAT rates for service provision such as in the electrical, plumbing, renovation and construction businesses.

27) Moratorium: To implement a moratorium on new development and redirect the construction industry on renovation and regeneration of our town and village centres.

28) Parliament: Transfer Parliament to the Main Guard and to do away with the Renzo Piano extravaganza.

29) Tapestries: To change the present Parliament into a hall for viewing the tapestries at St John’s Co-Cathderal.

30) Zero tolerance: To have zero tolerance for dumping and littering.

Two weights and two measures

I have not even tried to look. I have not even tried to investigate how many articles have appeared in the press promoting, mentioning or even referring to gambling possibilities. Well, bottom right is a scan of an article that appeared in The Malta Independent on Sunday on 28 December on page 6.
The Attorney General, and of course the Chairman of the Gaming Authority, and of course the Minister of Finance Tonio Fenech, and of course all the political animals at Pieta' who love to see a vibrant free press, have of course not asked the police to prosecute on this occasion.
I hope they will, not and just in case they do, please note that the scan reproduced hereunder this article is not an advert. It is a scan: and to hammer the point home, it has deliberately been reproduced... UPSIDE DOWN.
And just in case even this is not enough, and the police want a disclaimer to prove that no money has changed hands in its publication, well, here it is:
"I, Saviour Balzan, am contrary to any form of gambling and unlike the Prime Minister I do not gloat if the country I happen to live in makes 5% tax from all the Internet gambling companies.
And I, Saviour Balzan do not understand why a small snippet in an insignificant newspaper as The Independent on Sunday corrupts our youths and entices common folk to gamble, when this very government has allowed the proliferation of gambling houses in all our towns and villages and has given a free reign to Greek company Maltco to promote its gambling in every nook and cranny of Malta and Gozo."

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