Published on March 6th, 2013 | by Matthew Mizzi0
I’m Not Voting. It’s become a Circus.
One, Malta has, for the past three months, been falling down a fiscal cliff. The budget for fiscal year 2013 was not approved. As a result, expenditure on work, health, and education has been frozen at 2012 levels. Malta has already spent Q1 2013 in this situation. No one seems to bother. It wasn’t mentioned even once by the press this campaign. The politicians glossed over the fact that come next Monday 11th March 2013, they will have a tough time fixing the problem that was created in December 2012. I care.Two, while the parties were happily promising tablets to everyone; money to the dead; money to newborns; pills to everyone; and money to travel just to name a few sweet deals on offer, Standard & Poors, a credit rating agency, downgraded Malta’s credit rating on 17th January 2013. A couple of days later, Fitch, another credit rating agency beamed a statement across all the international press saying that the finances of Malta, alongside Luxembourg, Belgium, and Slovenia face the most severe impact if no reforms to the pension system and (not or) the labour market are made over the next years.
Three, look at the league tables. Malta ranks 102 on the World Bank Doing Business Index, a compilation by a pre-eminent insitution referred to by international investors. This places Malta behind the likes of Vietnam, Botswana, Zambia and Kosovo. If we were to benchmark Malta against Ireland and Luxembourg – two European small states very welcoming to international investment like ours – the results are as follows: The World Economic Forum ranks Malta 47 on the Competitiveness League. Ireland ranks 27. Luxembourg ranks 22. A table compiled by Berlin-based organisation called Transparency International that measures perceptions of corruption ranks Malta 43. Ireland ranks 12 and Luxembourg ranks 25.
These facts point to a situation of mediocrity at the very best, if not one that needs immediate attention and resolve. But they don’t. These facts were given little media attention and zero comment in the press. We focused on the size of gas tanks, the look and feel of logos, the colours of faces, and the right number of iPads to be dished out. In short: News that would prompt a crisis in Germany, Britain or the Netherlands, seem to be just little detail for Malta.
When I raised these arguments with my friends over the past days, I was told I was right but my decision not to vote is still wrong because I have to vote. I have to choose. It’s the rule. If I don’t, someone else will choose for me.
To that, I say this: Sadly, I occupy that little compartment of society where others will always choose on my behalf. – It’s democracy. The beauty of democracy is that if you approach it intelligently, it sometimes stops making sense. The worst part is that it has a habit of stopping to make sense when you need it to work at its best the most. This fact now has a name: Mario Monti. He tried to reform a country, made a couple of mistakes along the way but most importantly regained international credibility but still polled way below Berlusconi, that seventy-year-old plus Lombard Latin lover. In a democracy, who matters is the demos. Whoever wins is whoever pleases the people best. At the same time, rumour has it that you cannot fool the people too many times because at some point they notice your trick. As shown by our friends in the Bel Paese, sometimes that rumour does not hold water.
Some have told me: Matt, if you don’t vote, someone else will vote Labour, they (that is Labour or whatever they’re called now) will come to power, they will cause a mess, you will have to deal with the mess anyway. So better vote.
This argument made me think. It is posited on the assumption that Labour are messy and the Nationalist Party is somewhat stable. Yes, there will be problems, they tell me, but the Nationalist Party is better at dealing with them.
That argument is untrue it is somewhat posited on the assumption that an impending crisis can be averted. But, if the Nationalists are elected, the day will be saved and the party will go on. If you are intent on voting Labour probably you seriously think there will be some sort of Liberation, just like in France in 1789 so me not voting is actually ‘Wow, it’s even closer, I’m getting so excited, can’t wait for Joseph, I had the courage to change!’ (For you intent on voting Labour, the comparison between Marie Antoinette who told the French to eat cake and Gonzi’s zieda-ta-hames-mitt-ewro-fil-gimgha [for the non Maltese: a pay increase to cabinet ministers that was decided in 2008 but only leaked to the press two years later] is probably a case of history repeats itself).
Well, as the now historic brave utterance of that nail technician turned actress for a vidjow aimed at inspiring debate like in an English-as-a-foreign-language class discussion goes: ‘Ekcweli, ded’ [Actually Dad - Can anyone tell that girl she desperatly needs a better hair-do and a TEFL teacher too?]
We are the crisis. We are the mess. We have a heavily indebted state, a heavily indebted society, expect everything to come for free, expect politicians to give us jobs, forgot about the rule of law and instead speak about contravention of the law in a carefree manner as though it became a national hobby just like football.
Economic crisis is a symptom of a deeper moral crisis. Those closer to the crises in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland know what I’m saying. Of course you get a crisis in Greece when so few people declare their actual income. Of course Spanish and Irish banks are in deep trouble: They sold loans as though they they were easy routes to making a dream come true. Are we any different? Do we work day and night, save our pennies and spend wisely, pay our taxes and observe the law? No. If we do so, we’d be seen as fools.
It is in inbuilt in our mental and social systems to enjoy today like there’s no tomorrow. Party hard now, then tomorrow we’ll deal with it. Fancy a new car? Take a loan. Want that DeLonghi appliance? Buy it on credit. Politicians even speak about people who have no money to buy steak instead they buy pizza as though that’s a symptom of poverty.
The truth is, next legislature, whoever is in power, will be a dififcult one. Next legislature will be messy whoever will be Prime Minister. The moment of reckoning with our massive private and public debt is round has come.
We are starting without a budget, worse than when we became independent in 1964. The Euro crisis is not over. The Eurozone will remain stuck in recession. Later in the legislature, our population will start growing older. We will have less people paying towards pensions and more people claiming pensions. The Pensions Working Group, an expert body appointed by government, anticipates that by 2020, just eight years from now, the cracks in the pensions edifice (if not the crumbling down) will be there for all to see. This will also affect healthcare and other services the government (that is, we) offer for free.
Have we heard anything from about this from Labour or PN about this? No.
So, the conlcusion is, I will not vote. I will not trade my membership of the homo sapiens group with an iPad or EUR1,000 to travel round Europe. I will not go to vote pretending that that Malta is built on some rock solid foundations when in actual fact it’s just a house of cards waiting to crumble. I will sound the alarm bell instead.
So, I am being asked between two DJs playing on the Titanic as it sails straight into the iceberg. I am being told the decision is important, essential even, because bad music equals bad party equals disaster. There’s an iceberg, I say. What who? Carlsberg?
Come on boys, come on girls, in this crazy crazy world….
[To be continued after March 10th]
P.S. Alternattiva deserves a mention: Alternattiva have timidly tried to approach the issues of economic reform by proposing the introduction of a mandatory second pillar pension but at the same time wants to raise the statutory minimum wage. But for an economic liberal like me that’s nonsense. It’s like proposing to step forward and backwards at the same time. In all fairness, Alternattiva have done a better job overall compared to 2003 until they started saying there should be a third party in parliament because there should be a third party in parliament and that’s it. But that’s not enough reason to vote Alternattiva.
PS2: I assume you’re voting, please consider voting for candidates who stand for something, ideally receive no clocks from admirers, do not like Arsenal or football generally, do not have Kim Il Sung as their pen pal, do not suffer from Ego problems, wear no tache, tend to attend more than one parliamentary sitting every year and ask a question. If you want to vote PN: seriounsly consider voting for Karl Gouder and Ryan Callus among others. If Labour: Deborah Schembri. Please whoever you vote for, vote for women – we have too much testosterone in Parliament.
PS3: If you’re still voting for the carcade, please consider that pictures of you will be taken by tourists who don’t understand whether they’re in Sliema, Malta or an impromptu Masai gathering. If you don’t know who the Masai are and you never were aware about their face painting tendencies, then you just proved my point.