The financing of the PLPN

Through a number of articles in the local press we have been repeatedly made aware that government and its authorities do not treat the parliamentary political parties (and their commercial companies) as the rest of us when it comes to outstanding bills, including those relating to taxes due.

The regulation of party-political financing should not stop at donation reports. We need to shine the spotlight on their pending bills too as these are an additional substantial financing source which in practice serves to finance the political parties through open-ended credit facilities! It is being carried out by the state, directly and by stealth.

To be clear I am referring to outstanding VAT payments and pending water and electricity bills which go back a number of years which have accumulated to millions in outstanding dues. In addition, there are also NI and PAYE contributions collected by the parliamentary political parties and their commercial companies on behalf of the Inland Revenue Department from their employees and retained unlawfully at their end. Any private employer who acts in the same manner is normally subject to legal action, in particular for failure to act on repeated reminders to conform! If you try not paying your water and electricity bills for years on end you will very soon receive a polite notice from ARMS indicating that you will soon have no more access to water and electricity!  But it is kids gloves for the PLPN. 

The amounts due run into many millions of euros and form part of the accumulated debts of the parliamentary political parties. It is difficult to quantify the precise amounts due by PLPN and their commercial companies as the authorities continuously withhold information as to the precise accumulated amount of the arrears due. The only information available in the public domain is sourced through leaks indicating that the amounts due run into millions: an upward eight digit spiral! Public knowledge of the extremely generous credit terms which public authorities grant parliamentary political parties and their companies would reveal the systemic abuses which have been shielded for too long a time.  This information should be disclosed as this is in the public interest. Good governance requires it.

This is an indirect source of political party financing which needs to be quantified and acted upon immediately. It is unfortunate that the regulator of political party financing is the Electoral Commission which is itself composed of nominees of the PLPN, who are thus regulating themselves, in addition to regulating their direct competitors, the other political parties.

It is also about time that the commercial companies belonging to the political parties are dealt with as an integral part of the political parties which they service. Stricter controls and real-time reporting time-frames are essential if we really want to ensure that these commercial companies are not used as vehicles to channel illicit funding to oil the PLPN political machinery.

As expected PLPN are in denial. The PL insists that its companies have not entered into a deal with Yorgen Fenech. The PN on the other hand insist that all is above board at its end: they proclaim that they have not issued any fake dB invoices! Yet both of them continuously fail to play by the rules. Audited accounts for their companies have not been presented for many years. As a result, there is no way to verify whether and to what extent the PLPN commercial companies are innocent of the charges that they are being continuously used to circumvent the rules regulating the funding of political parties.

Both the PL and the PN sanctimoniously proclaim their adherence to the basic principles of good governance. It is about time that they start practicing what they preach!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 17 April 2022

Issa li ħareġ ir-riżultat finali tal-elezzjoni!

F’dawn il-mumenti li qed joħorġu l-aħħar riżultati qed issir magħrufa l-komposizzjoni tal-Parlament.

Il-Parlament issa hu magħmul minn 79 membru parlamentari.

Ir-riforma li saret setgħet tat riżultati aħjar. Minflok kompliet għaffġet.

Għal uħud, li daħlu fil-Parlament 12-il mara bil-mekkaniżmu tal-ġeneru hu mument ta’ ċelebrazzjoni.

Naħseb li mhux. Anzi hu mument ta’ negazzjoni tal-proċess demokratiku.

Mhux qed nikkritika l-fatt li l-Parlament aġxxa biex jindirizza l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru fil-komposizzjoni tal-Parlament wara l-elezzjoni. Il-kritika tiegħi u tal-partit li mmexxi hi iffukata fuq il-mod kif dan sar.

Il-Parlament spiċċa biex raqqa’ s-sistema elettorali b’mod li sistema elettorali mimlija difetti saret agħar milli kienet.

Il-Partit Laburista illum ghandu 38+ 6 = 44 siġġu parlamentari u l-Partit Nazzjonalista illum ghandu 27+ 2+ 6 = 35 siġġu parlamentari : b’kollox 79.

Il-Partit Laburista kiseb 162,707 voti fl-ewwel għadd: jiġifieri kull wieħed mill-44 siġġu parlamentari tal-PL qed jirrappreżenta 3698 vot. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista kiseb 123,233 vot fl-ewwel għadd: jiġifieri kull wieħed mill-35 siġġu parlamentari tal-PN qed jirrappreżenta 3521 vot.

L-ADPD fl-ewwel għadd kisbet 4747 voti. Bl-istess kejl li l-PN u l-PL qed japplikaw għalihom infushom aħna għandna dritt għal siġġu parlamentari aħna ukoll. Dik hi r-realtà tar-riforma li trodd il-proporzjonalità lill-PLPN u iċċaħħadha lill-bqija.

Kien hemm soluzzjonijiet oħra li kienu jirrispettaw il-volontà tal-elettorat. Sfortunatamanet dawn ġew skartati. Fid-dokument li ippreżentajna għall-konsiderazzjoni tal-kovenzjoni kostituzzjonali kif ukoll fis-sottomissjonijiet fil-proċess konsultattiv dwar kif għandu jkun indirizzat l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru fil-parlament repetutament għidna li hu possibli li jkollna parlament ta’ 65 membru, li jirrappreżenta proporzjonalment lill-elettorat li jagħżlu kif ukoll li jkun iktar rappreżentattiv tal-ġeneri. Imma dejjem sibna l-bibien magħluqin. Ħadd ma ried jiddiskuti.

Soluzzjoni ġusta tirrikjedi tibdil sostanzjali u mhux li tipprova temmen li solvejt problema billi toħloq oħra. Imma hemm wasalna illum!

Beyond 26 March

Increasing our vote tally by almost doubling it between general elections is no mean feat. That is what has been achieved by ADPD-The Green Party on 26 March. Notwithstanding the small numbers involved, the achievement is substantial, getting close to the best green result achieved in the 2013 general election. 

The 26 March electoral result, however, once more, exposes an electoral system which does not deliver proportional results when it really matters: results that is, supporting minority views. Political parties representing the PLPN establishment, have continuously benefitted from various adjustments to the electoral system, from which they obtain one proportional result after the other: proportionality which they benefit from but simultaneously, continuously and consistently deny to others.

Fair treatment would possibly have seen us achieve much better results than we have achieved so far. Unfortunately, the electoral system is designed to be discriminatory. This includes the setup of the Electoral Commission itself as well as the manner in which it operates under the continuous remote control of the PLPN. Even simple access to the individual district provisional results, which I requested, was continuously obstructed and objected to by the Electoral Commission late on Sunday 27 March when the counting process was still in progress.

Furthermore, PLPN have normal access to electronic counting data held by the Electoral Commission in order to be able to vet the validity of the final results. Repeated requests to extend such access to the green monitoring team in the counting hall were ignored. Even the OSCE election observation team present in the counting hall found this very strange and queried our monitoring team continuously on the matter.

Tomorrow, we will start the long process in court which could deliver some form of justice: the restitution of the parliamentary seats which our party has been robbed of by the PLPN political establishment throughout the years.

Normally, after elections, we waste a lot of time engaged in soul searching discussing whether taking the PLPN establishment head-on, one election after another, is worth the effort. This time we are immediately taking the plunge to ensure once and for all that each vote cast in Maltese general elections, irrespective of whom it is cast for, has an equal value. It is a long journey which may possibly take us to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if this is considered essential, in order to settle the issue of electoral justice in these islands once and for all.

We have had to take this line of action as parliament in Malta has been consistently incapable of acting fairly. Parliament is, since 1966 under the complete control of the establishment political parties: PLPN.

By next Tuesday all bye-election results will be known. Subsequently the constitutional gender balance mechanism will be applied in favour of the establishment PLPN. This will be limited in implementation, similarly to the proportionality mechanism: limited in favour of the PLPN

The PLPN duopoly which has completely hijacked the institutions wants to be sure that its control is adequately embedded such that it can withstand any future shocks.

It is unacceptable that electoral legislation treats us in this despicable manner: differently from the manner in which it treats the establishment political parties. Unfortunately, the PLPN duopoly have not been able to deliver any semblance of fairness in our electoral system. The Courts, consequently, are our only remaining hope to address and start removing discrimination from electoral legislation, which is why tomorrow we will embark on our long overdue Court case.

The team we have built in the past months at ADPD has functioned quite well in achieving one of our best electoral results. It is now making the necessary preparations to ensure a better Green presence in our towns and villages in the months ahead. As a result of the excellent teamwork developed, we have starting preparing plans for the future which should lead to an organic growth of the party. This will make it possible for us to achieve even better results in the next political cycle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 April 2022

Kull vot jgħodd

Nhar l-Erbgħa, flimkien ma’ Ralph Cassar Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Partit, f’isem ADPD ippreżentajt kawża kostituzzjonali dwar ir-riżultat elettorali li ġie ppubblikat f’dawn il-ġranet.

is-sistema elettorali, tul is-snin, ġiet żviluppata fl-interess esklussiv  tal-PLPN, iżidu is-siġġijiet għalihom u jinjoraw lill-bqija . Għandna sistema elettorali mbagħbsa, mhux denja ta’ pajjiż demokratiku.

F’demokrazija b’saħħitha, kull vot jgħodd: il-valur tiegħu m’għandux jiġi mkasbar għal kwalunkwe raġuni. Sfortunatament, f’Malta, il-leġislazzjoni elettorali hi iddiżinjata b’mod diskriminatorja, u dan bil-kompliċità tal-Parlament. Hi sistema elettorali diskriminatorja favur il-PLPN li bejniethom ikkontrollaw lill-Parlament sa mill-1966, u jridu jibqgħu għaddejjin hekk.

Vot favur l-ADPD għandu l-istess valur daqs vot favur il-PLPN. Imma l-liġi hi diskriminatorja għax tagħti valur u piż lill-voti tal-PLPN u tinjora l-bqija tal-voti tal-Maltin u l-Għawdin.

Dan hu riżultat ta’ żewġ miżuri speċifiċi: waħda dwar il-proporzjonalità u l-oħra dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru. It-tnejn jiffavorixxu lill-PLPN u huma diskriminatorji fil-konfront tagħna, it-tielet partit, kif ukoll huma diskriminatorji kontra l-partiti l-oħrajn ukoll. Id-diskriminazzjoni li qed niffaċċjaw hi parti integrali mill-liġi elettorali.

Nhar it-Tnejn 28 ta’ Marzu 2022 kien imħabbar li r-riżultat elettorali kien aġġustat billi mal-lista tal-membri parlamentari eletti żdiedu tnejn oħra mil-lista tal-kandidati ippreżentata mill-PN. Din iż-żieda saret biex ikun hemm aġġustament għall-proporzjonalità bejn il-voti miksuba mill-partiti parlamentari fl-ewwel għadd tal-voti u s-siġġijiet parlamentari miksuba.

Meta sar dan l-aġġustament ġew injorati l-voti miksuba mill-partit ADPD fl-ewwel għadd tal-voti, liema voti kienu jammonta għal 4747 vot, ammont li hu ikbar mill-kwota nazzjonali. Din id-diskriminazzjoni tiżvaluta l-proċess demokratiku u dan billi l-voti tal-Partit Laburista u tal-Partit Nazzjonalista qed jingħataw valur billi jittieħdu in konsiderazzjoni biex isir l-aġġustament għall-proporzjonalità filwaqt li  l-voti ta’ ADPD qed ikunu skartati kompletament.

Il-proċess elettorali hu mistenni li jkompli fil-ġranet li ġejjin u dan billi l-emendi kostituzzjonali tas-sena l-oħra jipprevedu li wara li jkun konkluż il-proċess ta’ bye-elections assoċjati mal-elezzjoni ġenerali, l-Kummissjoni Elettorali talloka mhux iktar minn tnax-il siġġu parlamentari addizzjonali, sitta lil kull naħa biex jonqos l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru fil-Parlament. Dan ser ikompli jżid il-problema ta’ rappresentanza parlamentari billi ser iżid ir-rappresentanza tal-partiti parlamentari u jkompli jinjora l-bqija. Il-prinċipju tal-proporzjonalità li diġa huwa applikat b’mod dgħajjaf ser ikompli jiġi mnawwar bħala riżultat ta’ dan.

Il-kawża kostituzzjonali hi dwar dan it-taħwid kollu. Qed nitolbu lill-Qorti li issib li hemm ksur ta’ diversi drittijiet  umani liema drittijiet huma mħarsa kemm mill-kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta kif ukoll mill-Konvenzjoni Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem. Hemm ukoll ksur tal-artiklu 3 tal-protokol numru 1 tal-Konvenzjoni Ewropeja dwar id-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem u dan dwar id-dritt ta’ elezzjonijiet ħielsa.

Qegħdin nistennew rimedju kontra d-diskriminazzjoni li seħħet diġa meta l-Partit Nazzjonalista ngħata siġġijiet Parlamentari u aħna b’mod diskriminatorju ma ngħatajniex, kif ukoll protezzjoni mid-diskriminazzjoni addizzjonali li ser isseħħ fil-ġranet li ġejjin meta jidħol fis-seħħ il-mekkaniżmu korrettorju dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru.

Is-sistema elettorali Maltija mhiex isservi l-interessi tal-pajjiż imma biss tal-interessi tal-PLPN li kkapparraw ukoll l-istituzzjonijiet. Il-voti ta’ kulħadd għandhom valur u jeħtieġ li jkunu rispettati, mhux biss dawk tal-PLPN.

Inħarsu l-voti kollha.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 3 t’April 2022

Every vote counts

On Wednesday, on behalf of ADPD-The Green Party, together with party General Secretary Ralph Cassar I instituted constitutional proceedings relative to the election results just published.

The issue at stake is that the electoral system has, over the years been developed in the exclusive interest of the PLPN: milking more parliamentary seats for the PLPN and excluding the rest.

 In a healthy democracy, all votes have an equal value: every vote counts. Unfortunately, in Malta, electoral legislation, by design, that is with the clear intention of Parliament, is discriminatory in favour of the PLPN, the political parties which have exclusively controlled Parliament since the 1966 general elections.

A vote cast for ADPD-The Green Party is equal in value to those cast in favour of the PLPN. Existing electoral legislation is discriminatory due to its giving weight to votes cast for the two parliamentary parties and ignoring those cast for others.

This is the result of two specific measures: one dealing with proportionality and the other dealing with gender balance. Both measures are designed to benefit the PLPN and discriminate against us, the third party, and others. The discrimination we are facing is an integral part of electoral legislation by design. 

On Monday 28th March 2022 it was announced that the electoral result was adjusted through the addition of two MPs from the list of candidates presented by the PN.  This addition is the result of a proportionality adjustment between the votes obtained at first count by the political parties making it to parliament and the parliamentary seats won.

When this adjustment was carried out the votes obtained at first count by ADPD-The Green Party amounting to 4747 were ignored. These votes amount to more than the national quota. This discrimination is a devaluation of the democratic process as it gives weight to votes cast in favour of  Partit Laburista and Partit Nazzjonalista but ignores completely the votes cast for ADPD.

In the coming days, the final stage of the electoral process will be implemented. After all the bye-elections associated with the general election are concluded the Electoral Commission will assign up to a maximum of twelve additional parliamentary seats to the two parliamentary parties in order to address gender balance in the parliamentary ranks.  This will add to the existing problems of parliamentary representation by further inflating the parliamentary seats of PLPN to the detriment of the rest. The proportionality principle, already very weak will be further eroded.

The Constitutional proceedings deal with all this. The Courts are being requested to find that there has been a breach of several human rights protected not only in terms of Malta’s Constitution but also in terms of the European Convention of Human Rights. We also point out that all this is in breach of the first protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights relative to free and fair elections.

We expect that the Courts identify suitable remedies to address the discrimination which has already taken place when the Partit Nazzjonalista was awarded additional parliamentary seats and the votes obtained by ADPD were ignored. We also seek the Courts’ protection from further discrimination which will occur in the coming days when the provisions of the gender balance corrective mechanism are applied.

Malta’s electoral system is not serving the country well: it has been manipulated repeatedly by the PLPN to serve their own interests. To this end they have also hijacked the Constitutional institutions. It is not only PLPN votes which are important: everyone’s vote is important and requires the utmost respect.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 April 2022

Lejn regoli elettorali ġusti

Hemm min qed jikkritikana dwar il-kawża kostituzzjonali għax, jgħidu, li irridu niktbu ir-regoli elettorali mill-ġdid.

Dak hu li eżattament irridu nagħmlu minħabba li r-regoli elettorali li għandna illum huma nġusti u diskriminatorji. Għax il-PLPN ħadu ħsieb tagħhom infushom u gew jaqgħu u jqumu minn kulħadd.

Ħu per eżempju l-proporzjonalità. Il-PLPN qablu bejniethom li huwa mportanti li r-riżultat elettorali jkun jirrefletti l-vot popolari u dan billi jkun hemm proporzjonalita bejn il-voti u s-siġġijiet parlamentari miksuba mill-partiti politiċi individwali. Dan hu tajjeb, imma jillimitawh għal żewġ partiti biss, jiġifieri għalihom.

L-istess jgħodd għar-regoli dwar l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru. Jgħoddu biss għal żewġ partiti.

Huma dawn ir-regoli diskriminatorji li rridu nibdlu, għax kull vot għandu l-istess valur.

Vot ADPD jiswa’ l-istess daqs vot PLPN.

Riforma tal-Parlament

Il-Prim Ministru ilu jinki lill-opinjoni pubblika dwar meta ser ikun xolt il-Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta ser tissejjaħ l-elezzjoni ġenerali.

Imma Robert Abela kien ikkwotat jgħid ukoll li sa Ġunju 2022 ikun għadda kollox!

Kif inhuma  l-affarijiet illum, hi responsabbiltà kostituzzjonali tal-Prim Ministru dwar meta jkun xolt il- Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta tissejjaħ elezzjoni ġenerali.  Dan jagħmlu billi jagħti parir dwar dan lill-President tar-Republika.  Ħafna drabi nassumu li dawn it-tip ta’ deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu fl-interess nazzjonali avolja hu ċar daqs il-kristall li hu l-interess tal-partit fil-Gvern li jiddetermina kollox: dejjem.  Miżura li ssaħħaħ il-posizzjoni tal-Gvern qabel u waqt l-elezzjoni: the power of incumbency.

Dan mhux sewwa u għandu jinbidel kif inbidlu bosta affarijiet oħra.

Il-partit li immexxi qajjem dan il-punt fis-sottomissjonijiet li għamilna quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali: konvenzjoni li, dejjem ġejja, imma qatt ma tasal!

Hu propost li t-terminu tal-Parlament ikun wieħed fiss u li l-Prim Ministru ma jkollu l-ebda diskrezzjoni dwar kif u meta dan ikun xolt.  Fil-prattika kemm l-Istati Uniti kif ukoll il-parti l-kbira tal-Ewropa kontinentali għandhom Parlament b’terminu fiss. Anke r-Renju Unit, meta kienet immexxija mill-koalizzjoni bejn il-partit Liberali u dak Konservattiv, ftit snin ilu, introduċiet leġislazzjoni għal Parlament b’terminu fiss.

F’dan il-kuntest tajjeb li jkun emfasizzat ukoll li t-terminu ta’ ħames snin għall-Parlament huwa ftit twil. Dan ma kienx dejjem hekk. Meta twaqqaf il-Parlament Malti għall-ewwel darba fl-1921, mitt sena ilu, il-ħajja tal-Parlament kienet ta’ tlett snin. Sal-lum il-ġurnata, l-Parlament Federali Awstraljan għadu jkun elett kull tlett snin. Il-Kamra tar-Rappresentanti tal-Istati Uniti min-naħa l-oħra tkun eletta kull sentejn.

X’uħud jistgħu jkunu tal-fehma li għall-Parlament, tul ta’ sentejn jew tlieta bejn elezzjoni u oħra huma ftit wisq. Għal min qiegħed fil-Gvern, ħames snin jistgħu jkun perjodu addattat. Imma għal min qiegħed fl-Opposizzjoni hu twil wisq! Tlett snin hu perjodu ferm iktar addattat.

Il-Parlament għandu ħtieġa ukoll ta’ membri li xogħolhom ikun biss dak ta’ membri tal-parlament u li ma jagħmlu xejn iktar. Hemm bżonn ukoll li n-numru ta’ membri tal-parlament jonqos għax in-numru li għandna illum hu kbir wisq.  Membru Parlamentari full-time jaqta’ għal kollox kull kuntatt ma xogħol u/jew professjoni u bħala riżultat ta’ hekk inaqqas sostanzjalment il-possibiltà ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess meta jkun f’posizzjoni li jieħu kwalunkwe deċiżjoni.

Id-daqs tal-lum tal-Parlament, jiġifieri dak ta’ 65 membru parlamentari, kien determinat bħala riżultat tal-emendi kostituzzjonali tal-1974.  Imma dan, illum il-ġurnata, sa mill-1987, mhux id-daqs definittiv għax miegħu jistgħu jiżdiedu iktar bħala riżultat tal-applikazzjoni tal-mekkaniżmu kostituzzjonali tal-proporzjonalità.   Jista’ jiżdiedu iktar ukoll, bi tnax-il membru ieħor riżultat tal-miżuri kostituzzjonali ġodda dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru, jekk dawn ikunu applikati.

Il-Parlament li jmiss, għaldaqstant, jista’ jkunu kbir mhux ħażin jekk jintużaw kemm il-mekkaniżmu dwar il-proporzjonalità kif ukoll dak dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru. Jista’ jkun daqs li jikber sa 77 membru u possibilment anke sa 81 membru. Dan hu enormi għall-pajjiżna.

Is-sistema elettorali, li ż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament ilhom ibgħabsu għal żmien twil, tipprovdi għal riżultat proporjonali u b’element korrettiv favur il-bilanċ bejn il-ġeneri meta fil-Parlament ikunu eletti żewġ partiti politiċi biss. Meta jkun elett it-tielet partit dawn il-mekkaniżmi kostituzzjonali dwar il-proporzjonalità u l-bilanċ tal-ġeneru ma jistgħux jaħdmu. Hemm biss eċċezzjoni waħda. Din tkun fil-kaz ta’partit politiku li jikseb iktar minn 50 fil-mija tal-voti fl-ewwel għadd fuq livell nazzjonali. Dan ikollu dejjem il-jedd li jiggverna billi jkun allokat is-siġġijiet neċessarji għal dan l-iskop.  

Hemm numru ta’ soluzzjonijiet alternattivi li kieku ġew applikati kien ikun possibli li l-Parlament tagħna jkollu bilanċ aħjar bejn il-ġeneri u proporzjonalità mingħajr ma jikber fid-daqs.  Dawn is-soluzzjonijiet, imma, ġew skartati kompletament. Dan għax ir-riforma kellha dejjem l-iskop li toħloq l-inqas tibdil possibli. Tibdil kosmetiku fl-istil tal-Gattopardo: tibdil li jħalli kollox kif kien!

Dan hu l-Parlament tagħna. Jeħtieġ li jinbidel mill-qiegħ.   

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 13 ta’ Frar 2022

Reforming Parliament

The Prime Minister has been teasing public opinion for some time as to when Parliament will be dissolved and when we will consequently be proceeding to the next general election.

Robert Abela has been quoted as stating that it will definitely be over by June 2022.

As things stand, at this point in time, it is within the Constitutional prerogative of the Prime Minister to determine when Parliament is dissolved and a general election held. This he does by advising the President of the Republic accordingly. It is generally assumed that such decisions are taken in the national interest even though it is amply clear that it is always in the interest of the political party in power. It reinforces the power of incumbency.

Is this right? Should it remain so?

My party has raised this matter in its submissions to the Constitutional Convention which Convention has been pending for a number of years!

It is being proposed that Parliament should be a fixed-term Parliament and that the Prime Minister should have no discretion whatsoever in dissolving Parliament.  In practice both the United States as well as most of continental Europe have fixed-term Parliaments. Even the United Kingdom, some years ago, led by a Liberal-Conservative coalition, introduced legislation for a Parliament having a fixed-term.

Within this context it would be also pertinent to emphasise that a five-year term is a little bit too long. This was not always so. When Malta’s Parliament was originally established in 1921, 100 years ago, it had a three-year life span. The Australian Federal Parliament in this day and age is still elected every three years. The United States House of Representatives on the other hand is elected every two years.

Some could argue that a two- or three-year life span for parliament would be too short. Five years may be right for those governing. It is however too long for those in Opposition! A three-year term could be the right balance.

Parliament also needs fulltime MPs and probably less of them. A fulltime member of parliament would cut off completely all of his/her links with profession and/or employment and as a result substantially reduce instances of conflict of interest when faced with decision taking.

Parliament’s present size of 65 members was determined as a result of the 1974 Constitutional amendments. Since 1987, it is however not a definite size, as it is increased as a result of the constitutional adjustment mechanism for proportionality. It will be increased by a further twelve members if the newly introduced constitutional gender balance requirements are applied.

The next Parliament could be quite large if both the proportionality and gender balance adjustment mechanisms are in use. It could inflate to a size between 77 and 81 members! This is enormous for a country our size.

The electoral system, which the two parties currently in parliament have been tinkering with for ages, provides for proportionality and gender balance only if just two parties are elected into Parliament. If a third party is elected, both the constitutional provisions for proportionality and gender balance will not be activated. There is just one exception and this is relative to the political party which obtains more than 50 per cent of the votes on a national level: in such an instant, irrespective of the number of political parties making it to Parliament the party having an absolute majority of votes is ensured of having the parliamentary seats required for governing.

There are a number of alternative solutions available which make it possible for our Parliament to be both gender-balanced and proportional without any increase in its size. These solutions have however been completely discarded as the “reform” brief was always to change as little as possible. Cosmetic change is the order of the day in Gattopardo style: change which leaves everything the same.

Such is the state of our parliament. It needs a complete overhaul, which is long overdue.  

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 13 February 2022

Ensuring a guaranteed basic income

The need for a decent basic income is an all-time issue among those who have a social conscience. However, it assumes more importance in times like these, when prices of essential goods are spiralling upwards, almost out of control.

The perennial question is whether the income received by each person through employment (or a pension) should be sufficient or else whether such income derived from employment or a pension should be supplemented through a social wage, when, on its own, it is insufficient for ensuring a decent living.

Various jurisdictions are experimenting with this idea through pilot projects. As a result, they are seeking to reinforce a social net, protecting the vulnerable through ensuring that each is guaranteed a basic income irrespective of his or her circumstances in life. Each person has the right to have the basic means to ensure a decent life.

The basic facts should, by now, be clear to all.

The three Caritas studies published to date have revealed a widening gap between the official minimum wage and three different categories of vulnerable households.

In the case of a household consisting of 2 adults and 2 children this gap is approximately 40 per cent, at 2020 prices. In fairness it has to be clarified that this gap does not include the receipt of social solidarity income, amongst which children allowances and the various forms of supplementary social income which may be applicable to specific circumstances. When this is taken into account, I believe that in most cases the gap is substantially reduced.

The current price rise of essential goods, average close to a 25 per cent rise in a number of cases, (although a number of items have had much steeper price increases) brings to the fore another worry. Cost of living adjustments to wages and pensions are effective at the beginning of the year, and reflect the cost of living of the previous twelve months.

The last statutory cost of living increase has been of €1.75 per week, less than the cost of a cappuccino. During the past years such increases have varied from a €5.82 per week increase in 2010 to a €0.58 per week increase in 2015.

At times this increase is deemed to be too low as was the 2015 COLA adjustment.

It is essential that the basket of goods and services utilised to measure the actual cost of living is updated on a regular basis in order to ensure that the results obtained are realistic and reflect actual needs.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has over the past weeks emphasised that he is considering proposals to introduce a new form of COLA for low-income people. So far, however, nothing has materialised. The Minister has hinted that he is discussing various proposals behind closed doors. Would it not be a much better idea if the discussion is externalised? Everyone of us is interested in the proposals being drafted and discussed.

One possibility which should be considered is not to keep accumulating the cost-of-living dues and carry out adjustments to the minimum wage (and pensions) on the following January. It should be possible to carry out cost of living adjustments to the minimum wage as well as to pensions twice a year, towards the end of June and towards the end of December.  In times of steep price increases, as the present, such an initiative could make a substantial difference to the vulnerable and those on low income.

Ensuring that each has a basic decent income is a basic requirement in the development of the welfare state.

published Malta Independent on Sunday : 30 January 2022