The welfare state sees the government as the guarantor of the social and economic wellbeing of all citizens. Through timely interventions, policy planning and management of public wealth, the state ensures that even the weakest among its citizens are cared for.
In democracies like our own, the people trust the institutions with the government of the nation in order to ensure that their common and individual welfare is safeguarded. It is the reason why we elect representatives to parliament, why we elect governments and why we pay taxes and collectively obey the rules enacted in our name.
I might be stating the obvious here, but in our everyday assessments of the political we tend to overlook the basic and the obvious. Above all our perception of the political establishment is no longer one of trustees of the common good, but rather we have distorted into an idea of a monarchy of sorts to whom we owe blind allegiance.
The outpouring of anger following the senseless murder of Paulina Dembska included strong appeals to right a broken welfare system. The guarantors of citizen’s welfare have once again fallen short in their duties and the citizens, particularly women, still feel threatened and unprotected.
Meanwhile, the alleged perpetrator of the hideous crime has been confined to Mount Carmel – an institution that has been itself in the line of fire in the last few weeks. Like Corradino Correctional Centre, Mount Carmel Mental Hospital is an important link in our welfare state. Both these institutions have a crucial role to play in strengthening the social fabric of our community. Both have been left to collapse.
You see, it is not just one problem. It is many. It is the result of years of neglect and lip service without any concrete action. Remember this is a Labour government that has supposedly over the last seven years strengthened civic rights to no end. Then again, we are witnessing the crumbling of yet another important link in our institutional set up.
Few doubts remain as to how Muscat’s government sold off our health structures in a corrupt deal with few concerns as to its consequences so long as pockets were lined. With public money of course. Public money that is daily dished out by direct order or in the form of salaries to persons of trust.
What we often fail to see is that this indiscriminate spending of public money on the salaries of the undeserving also means the weakening of the institutions to which the lackeys and leeches of society are attached. The institutions might be working, but they are not working in the citizen’s favour.
Take for example the latest assault on The Shift from the government, which is refusing to abide by decisions of the Data Protection Commissioner. This news portal was forced to file Freedom of Information requests to obtain access to documents that were being withheld by the various government departments involved. When the Data Commissioner ordered the ministries to provide the requested information, the government challenged the Commissioner in court.
The institution was not working in the government’s favour, so something needed to be done.
Investigations such as these, or that into multiple-position-of-trust recipient Janice Bartolo, serve to expose the abuse of our institutions by a government that is evidently less concerned with its citizen’s welfare and more with that of a large rent-seeking elite who leech on public funds to the detriment of our system.
We have recently had good news from the courts of Malta as the criteria for legal standing to challenge institutional decisions are seemingly being relaxed. What this means is that if the trend continues it will be easier for common citizens or NGOs to drag government entities to court over their decisions.
It would take a huge educational effort to get ordinary citizens to understand how dangerous an assault on their welfare the current practices of our political system are. Unless we heed this wakeup call, we can wave farewell to our welfare.