Since a long time I have been thinking on the future of my country, and I have shared many of my ideas with others including the readers of this blog. The objective has always been clear – how can we live beyond economic sustainability while ensuring that everyone in our society is better off. Economic decisions have a critical role to play, but these need to have a social or human development goal that goes beyond economic efficiency and adequate allocation of resources. Political, social and business decisions are variables in this equation. I can be criticised for giving economic choice priority over politics, or policy. But in true fact it is always a matter of selecting an economic decision making model over another. For a number of years, the choice was between central economic planning, free market or a mixed economy. In simpler terms, a choice between being on the Left or Right, with variations on each around the Centre. The case now is more complex as both Left and Right have been discredited between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Lehman Bank crisis. Where do we stand now and where can we see Malta in the future?
Of course, I can provoke other opinions with the points I am making here. There is no outright solution, at least, at this stage.
As an open economy, Malta cannot be politically, socially or economically insular. It is not true that we are a “special case”. Globalisation has secured the point that no country today can be referred to as a “special case”. Whoever says so, says it because he or she is being insular and inward looking.
Our economic model needs to be primarily based on the country’s natural resources, and these go beyond the cliché’ that these are only our people. We are endowed with so many other resources, amongst which are the environment and heritage. These need to be protected and maintained. A pro-business approach by Government cannot ignore that a balance on the extent and quality of construction and development needs to be maintained. We have all witnessed the “uglification” of Malta with horrendous architecture since the late nineteen seventies and eighties and the sheer lack of consideration to adequate urbanisation.
An additional resource is the country’s reputation. For over 25 years we have worked hard to regain Malta’s reputation as a respected country, endowed with civilised people who care for law and order; a member of the European Union renowned for reasoned contribution to both debate and action. It was hard to achieve this over the years, and perhaps it is more challenging now, drawing from recent months’ experience to maintain this reputation.
Malta is in permanent search for its identity, and we need to continue engaging in this debate. This is where education and the media become pivotal. I still think that the efforts in our education system assumed that the family is preparing pupils and students for the vocational or academic world. We failed because the family platform lacked the socialisation capabilities to prepare these young people for tertiary education. The process starts from the values imparted on children within the family, and then in primary schools. The main problems centre around civil behaviour, attitude towards reading, heritage and culture, language skills (reflecting thought processes), and a genuine sense for caring and tolerance.
We are in need for a new breed of politicians who go beyond being pragmatists and opportunists. This is one of the reasons why I am nostalgic for the great ideologies of the twentieth century. It is not true that there is a centre in politics, and even here we need to make a choice which supersedes both social and economic liberalism.
Joseph FX Zahra