Jobs for the boys keeps Labour afloat but at what cost?

10% of police force over 55-years-old, over 200 people employed by Water Services Corporation in weeks preceding 2017 election 

Photo: Malta Police Corps

Some 223 police officers are aged between 55 and 62, a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Beppe Fenech Adami revealed.

The figure amounts to over 10% of the whole force, which according to information tabled in Parliament in November has 2,171 members in total. Moreover, The Shift News is informed that by the end of this year a large number of officers will reach 25 years of service but these have yet to decide whether to stay on or retire.

Some 300 officers will be eligible for retirement this year and the force’s top brass are trying hard to convince these officers, many of which remain undecided, to stay on or at least remain on a part-time basis in the corp’s reserves.

Home affairs minister Michael Farrugia revealed that 92 officers are over 60-years-old. Of these, 62 are reservists.  In reply to another question by Fenech Adami, Farrugia said that only 276 members of the force are under the age of 25.

Before the 2013 election strict rules were in place on the reinstatement of police officers and these could only return to the force if they had been retired for less than 10 years.

But upon Labour’s victory in 2013, this changed and many former officers were reinstated, including officers who had been in retire for well over 10 years.

In 2014, The Times had reported that some 100 former officers had been reinstated by then home affairs minister Manuel Mallia. Another 60 officers were also recruited as part-time officers.

These figures evidently show that the recruitment policy is not driven by the needs of of the police force but by electoral exigencies.

While an ageing police force, with very limited resources is music to the ears of criminals, the reinstatement of retired officers is another case of a government dishing out jobs to improve its electoral chances.

In the four weeks preceding the 2017 election, 114 persons were employed by the Armed Forces while 574 AFM officials received promotions during the same month.

This came in the wake of other statistics showing how the government’s power of incumbency was abused before the 2017 general election.

These included reports of a spike in government jobs in Gozo when some 86 workers were employed in the run-up to the 2017 election to look after the Citadella.

Another Parliamentary Question tabled by opposition MP Jason Azzopardi shows that between December 2016 and the June 2017 election 204 new employees were engaged by the Water Services Corporation which back then fell under the responsibility of Konrad Mizzi.

Most of these workers hailed from Fgura, Paola, Tarxien and Santa Lucija – Mizzi’s electoral district.

Surely one cannot solely attribute Labour’s landslide victory in 2017 to the abuse of the power of incumbency but this was used to maximise victory and ensure that Labour wins with the same margin as in 2013.

The power of incumbency may also have been used to ensure a full turnout among traditional Labour voters, some of which were threatening not to vote. Clearly Labour strategists banked on a knock out for the opposition and they were right.

This is certainly nothing new, as in the past we have seen successive administrations and ministers use their power of incumbency to buy votes: from 9,000 jobs dished out on the eve of the 1987 election, to the wholesale abuse of planning permits in successive elections.

A total of 364 permits, 46 of them ODZ, were issued in the last week of the 2017 electoral campaign. In comparison, only 60 permits were issued in the final ninth week in 2013 while 228 were issued in the final week of the 2008 electoral campaign.

All this flies in the face of Labour’s promise to be the most transparent and accountable government in history. If this is the new way of doing politics, the country has learnt nothing from past mistakes.

The economy is currently on steroids, but if expenditure spirals out of control and economic conditions change we could return to the days when national debt was an albatross around our, and future generations’ neck.

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