Power without responsibility

In a memorandum to political parties the Malta Employers’ Association has proposed that Malta should introduce the possibility to appoint technocrats to Parliament and to Cabinet.

Parliament is a representative body. In democratic societies Membership of Parliament is the result of being voted into office. There is no role for unelected technocrats in Parliament in a democracy. Technocrats can always contest elections and if elected they will form part of Parliament as of right.

The appointment of technocrats to Cabinet on the other hand would mean giving powers to unaccountable Ministers, if these have not been previously elected as Members of Parliament!

We have had a “technocrat in Cabinet” for a number of years, Richard Cachia Caruana!  In Malta it is the best example one can find of the use of political power without the shouldering of political responsibility. His Excellency undoubtedly exercised political power, even if unofficially, without submitting himself to the electorate’s consideration. He always preferred to remain in the shadows. His role is well known right up to his being removed by Parliament last summer.

Earlier during the 70s we had “technocrats” from the General Workers Union (GWU) who formed part of Cabinet. They participated in Cabinet meetings in view of the then fusion between the Labour Party and the GWU. They had no executive discretion but their participation in Cabinet meetings had some influence on decisions taken.

The appointment of unelected technocrats in a position whereby they exercise political discretion  is a proposal which is alien to the Maltese political system and would take Malta back to when the British Governor, generally a retired senior military person representing the colonial power, used to appoint a number of Maltese experts (including some bootlickers) to advise him, sometimes granting them executive powers in a so called Council of Government.

As rightly said by the FORUM of Maltese Trade Unions, the Malta Employers’ Association proposal is dangerous as if it is taken up it would reduce further the accountability of Cabinet.  Parliament is already very weak in that it has not been capable throughout the years to hold government to account. The proposal to introduce unelected technocrats in Cabinet would further weaken Parliament as it would allocate power without the corresponding responsibility.

Some may argue that technocrats would be neutral politically as they would not be subject to electoral pressures. This is incorrect as technocrats have their own political allegiances, their own political agendas and their own views of society.  Nothing wrong with that, accept that not being subject to the electorate is compounded with Malta’s weak Parliamentary set-up. Malta’s Parliament is a weakling which has very rarely been capable of scrutinising Cabinet’s operations effectively.

On TVam earlier this week Joe Farrugia of the Malta Employers’ Association stated that he was negatively impressed by the operation of Parliament in the past weeks. If a number of MPs are mediocre Joe Farrugia should address his concerns to the PN and the PL and ask them to select more appropriate parliamentary candidates!

Political power should be accompanied by accountability. Technocratic government as suggested by the Malta Employer’s Association would be a step backwards in the political development of this country.

published on di-ve.com on 2 November 2012

Also on this blog : RCC kien uffiċjal politiku.