Beyond GDP

“The GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” This was stated by Robert Kennedy at the University of Kansas 52 years ago in what is known as his GDP speech!

In what was a highly charged US Presidential campaign, during which he was assassinated, Robert Kennedy had further explained that the GDP “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.”

We may use different language or emphasise different aspects to explain the problem, but not much has changed since: The GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile!

Pursuing economic growth as the single most important policy goal is in conflict with the earth’s limited resource base. It contrasts with the fragile ecosystem of which we are a part and on which we depend for our survival.

Economic growth is supposed to deliver prosperity. Instead it has delivered unbridled climate change, fuel insecurity, sky-high commodity prices, collapsing biodiversity, reduced access to depleted water resources or clean air, and an ever-increasing global inequality. Is this measured by the GDP? Definitely not.

The GDP is just concerned with material wealth, ignoring in the process our health, our education, the safety of our streets, the social tissue of society, the state of our families, the devastation caused by all forms of hatred …………… GDP includes the production of armaments and the destruction of the environment carried out in the name of “progress” as well as the television programmes that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

The earth’s resources are limited and, consequently, they cannot fuel infinite economic growth. There are practical limits to growth, which should lead our economic planners to consider decoupling prosperity and economic growth.

This is the context in which Greens welcome the Justice and Peace Commission of the Church in Malta looking beyond the GDP. It is welcome not only because it is the correct approach but also because we have been at it for so long, mostly practically on our own.

The 54 page published Church Commission study entitled Beyond GDP – A framework to gauge Malta’s success through quality of life justifiably argues that limiting ourselves to gauging progress through the use of the GDP leads to a situation where other factors leading to a satisfactory quality of life can be easily disregarded.

The study, supported by EY, APS Bank and Seed Consultancy is a very valid contribution to a mature political debate which we lack so much.

The insistence that we should go beyond GDP in gauging our quality of life is not an exercise in diminishing the importance of the economy. Rather, it signifies the determination that the economy should not be seen in isolation but that it should be viewed within a realistic context. Social, environmental and cultural dimensions are extremely relevant, as much as economics, in the gauging of our wellness, or the lack of it.

A more just economy needs to look at the bigger picture and not limit itself to the GDP to get its bearings right. This is another way of emphasising the need for a sustainable development, a term which is much in use nowadays but unfortunately not sufficiently understood or catered for. Going beyond GDP in measuring our state of wellness would definitely yield more realistic indicators which we urgently require. 

Published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 29 November 2020

Loyalty and integrity

“Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don’t tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve.”

This was written by James Comey in 2018 in his book A Higher Loyalty. Truth, Lies and Leadership.

Comey, was fired as FBI director by Donald Trump. At a bizarre dinner at the White House, Trump had demanded Comey’s personal loyalty, putting aside his duties as FBI Director. Trump pressured Comey to let go of Michael Flynn – his National Security Advisor for 22 days – then under investigation by the FBI. Comey reflects on Trump’s demands for personal loyalty and emphasises that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives “………….. not to a person, not to a party not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth.”

All this came to mind when reading through Ivan Martin’s encounter with Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer earlier this week. Unfortunately, some know the price of everything but they do not have an inkling on the value of anything.

When the chips are down, our true values emerge. If the real values have been carefully camouflaged, the impact when they emerge in such circumstances may be shocking. What has been carefully hidden from view, all of a sudden emerges in full public view.

Offering money to an investigative journalist to “remunerate him for his services” has switched on many red lights. The attempt at bribing the journalist is bad enough. It also raises the inevitable suspicions that bundles of €500 notes could also possibly be used to influence the judicial process. Only time will tell whether the possible becomes a probable.  Most of us would remember when, in 2002, the then Chief Justice together with another Judge, were bribed to reduce a prison sentence at appeal stage. The then accused who directed the bribery of the judiciary had insignificant wealth when compared to today’s accused.

We must be vigilant. It has happened and it can happen once more.

There is a common thread running through most of the bits of information forming the developing jigsaw puzzle linking all those mentioned in the Caruana Galizia assassination: money and loads of it. It is becoming clearer that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigation of the corrupt power station contracts is what led to her assassination. Tainted money was used to purchase access to influence and people that matter. The indications arising are too numerous to be ignored. This is nothing new, however, in the present scenario it is of the utmost significance.

Kudos to Ivan Martin who had the presence of mind not to accept a wad of €500 banknotes. His loyalty to his values as an investigative journalist was automatic. He did not pause to consider whether it was worth sticking his neck out. All of us should be proud of him.

Ivan’s integrity will be remembered for many years to come. His loyalty to his values will undoubtedly reinforce Maltese journalism in these testing times.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 November 2020

L-inkwiet ta’ Konrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi qed jgħidilna li qed jirfsulu d-drittijiet tiegħu. Miskin, inkwetat li qed jippruvaw iċappsulu l-integrità tiegħu.

Hi verament ħasra li Konrad, u oħrajn, huma konxji ħafna ta’ dak li jaħsbu li huma d-drittijiet tagħhom, imma m’għandhom l-ebda idea tad-drittijiet tagħna lkoll.

Jiena dejjem kont (u għadni) xettiku dwar akkużi ta’ korruzzjoni għax dawn hu dejjem diffiċli ħafna biex tippruvahom. Jiġifieri minkejja s-suspetti kollha li hawn, avolja huma suspetti fondati u nkwetanti ħafna, dawn jibqgħu suspetti.

Ir-rapporti tal-inkjesti tal-maġistrati, kemm dawk konklużi kif ukoll dawk li għad iridu jkunu konklużi, meta dawn jgħidu li ma sabu xejn, ikunu preċiżi. Ma jkunux qed jgħidu li ma hemmx korruzzjoni jew li t-tali mhux korrott, imma biss li quddiemhom ma nġiebet l-ebda prova. Mhux li provi ma hemmx, imma li dawn ma ġewx ippresentati quddiemhom.

L-ispin politika iżda twassal messaġġ differenti kontinwament. Għax id-dellijiet jibqgħu hemm, minkejja kollox, u n-nies dan tafu. Għalhekk Konrad u ta’ madwaru inkwetati għax l-ispin tqawwi (biss) qalb dawk konvinti: imma l-bqija jibqgħu inkwetati li l-pajjiż qiegħed f’idejn ċorma ħallelin: inħossuha lkoll kemm aħna, avolja l-provi għad m’humiex ċari. Xi darba imma jkunu, nittama li f’data mhux fil-bogħod.

Sadanittant għandna l-obbligu li ma nesagerawx f’dak li ngħidu. Għax il-kummenti żejda jistgħu jkunu kontro-produċenti.

Il-qrun fil-ħajja pubblika

Alfred Mifsud

L-allegazzjonijiet dwar Alfred Mifsud huma serji ħafna. Imma huma allegazzjonijiet. Huwa diffiċli ħafna biex minn dak magħruf s’issa tikkonkludi dwar dak li jista’ jikkonvinċi lil Qrati bħala li huma l-fatti.

Dak li qalet Anna Zelbst u li ġie rappurtat verbatim fil-blog ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia irid jgħaddi mill-għarbiel tal-kontro-eżami fil-Qorti u diffiċli ħafna biex minn issa tifhem kif din ser tirreaġixxi għall-mistoqsijiet li ser isirulha. Id-dubji li ser jinżergħu għall-verżjoni tagħha tal-fatti bla dubju ser jagħtu spjegazzjoni alternattiva għal dik li twasslet s’issa.

Jibqa’ l-fatt li l-Gvern dam ħafna biex irreaġixxa għal dak li ntqal, l-istess bħalma għamel f’każi oħra biex issa qed ikun ċar iktar minn qatt qabel li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat jagħti każ ħafna iktar tal-ħbiberiji u tal-lealtà politika milli tat-tbajja’ (reali jew mhux) fuq l-integrità tal-kandidati li huwa jmexxi l-quddiem għal ħatriet ta’ importanza nazzjonali.

Kienet korretta għaldaqstant il-Membru Parlamentari Kristy Debono meta l-bieraħ fil-Parlament qalet li dan kollu jfisser ukoll li Alfred Mifsud għandu jkun sospiz mill-post l-ieħor li qed jokkupa bħalissa, dak ta’ Deputat Gvernatur tal-Bank Ċentrali.

Għal uħud jista’ jidher inġust li rapport fuq blog jingħata din l-importanza kollha u li jwassal għal dawn il-konsiderazzjonijiet. Jekk wieħed jillimita ruħu għal analiżi superfiċjali jista’ jasal għal din it-tip ta’ konklużjoni. Imma jekk taħseb ftit iktar forsi tirrealizza li dan kollu jfisser li l-Gvern ta’ Muscat m’jagħmilx eżami sewwa tal-kandidati li jkun fi ħsiebu jmexxi l-quddiem b’mod partikolari għall-karigi sensittivi u ta’ importanza nazzjonali.

Filwaqt li l-kollass ta’ relazzjonijiet personali m’humiex u m’għandhomx ikun kriterju għal dawn id-deċiżjonijiet, sfortunatament il-mod kif iġibu ruħhom persuni f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi joħorġu (f’mument kritiku) riflessjoni tal-karattru veru tagħhom. Għax filwaqt li l-ħajja privata tal-persuni fil-ħajja pubblika għandha tibqa’ privata tajjeb li nifhmu li s-serjetà u l-integrità tal-persuna huma riflessi ankè fil-ħajja privata tiegħu jew tagħha.

Hija din il-problema tal-ħatra ta’ persuni bħal Alfred Mifsud.