After nine years of high-profile scandals, dozens of resignations or suspensions of MPs and high-ranking officials, and the surge in condemnation that led to the removal of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, the incumbent Labour Party attempts once more to convince voters it is still fit for purpose.
The Party has the largest electoral programme on record, but when it comes to the crunch, what’s it really worth? The Shift has analysed the manifesto published by the Party in government only two weeks before citizens are being asked to vote. It follows our analysis of the programmes proposed by the parties in opposition.
For the sake of ease of navigation and clarity, proposals deemed too vague to pin down or otherwise referring to already existent and identified services were excluded from the database, as have those that consist of nothing more than self-praise. Proposals that referred to the same concept but were split up into multiple proposals were merged.
There are no more than 550 concrete proposals – a far cry from the Party’s claim that its manifesto puts forward 1,000.
The main proposals offered in each sub-section of the manifesto are highlighted in writing below the data charts. Main proposals were selected on the basis of the significance of their impact on the overall well-being of both the country’s infrastructure and the people affected.
The visual distribution of PL’s manifesto indicates that the main areas of focus for the Party are social issues, the environment, youth, the economy and healthcare. The substance of those commitments needs to be considered against the Party’s track record during its nine years in government.
PL’s manifesto suggests that the Party seeks to score points with environmentally-conscious voters – a difficult battle considering their track record that favoured excessive development with little regard for basic considerations on quality of life, despite all the protests.
The Party promises to spend €700 million in the next seven years on urban greening projects, parks, pedestrian zones and underground parking, further adding that it plans on converting public buildings (or purchasing private property for the same purpose) to convert them into green public spaces.
These proposals can hardly make up for the countless open, rural and/or agricultural spaces which have been lost to over-development, the thousands of trees that have been uprooted to make way for road-widening exercises and further urbanisation, nor the exacerbating effect this has had on Malta’s shrinking rural environment.
A proposal that will require further scrutiny should PL be elected again refers to instances in which public projects may need to take up land outside development zones. In such cases, the equivalent amount of public land within development zones would need to be converted into an open space, raising questions as to whether this would allow for ODZ land to be parcelled out and exchanged with less environmentally significant spaces within development zones.
The manifesto’s proposals to address construction and development are limited to references to already-existing laws and regulations which the PA and the EPRT are already supposed to uphold and enforce, with no concrete proposals to at least look into how the systemic issues that have plagued Malta’s planning process for years could be improved.
Robert Abela attending a private dinner organised by Joseph Portelli for contractors and entrepreneurs in Gozo, revealed by The Shift, puts such proposals in sharp focus.
As for the economy, Labour’s strategy leans heavily on tax credits, fiscal incentives and grants. Its flagship proposal refers to a national plan for socio-economic regeneration, which aims to provide incentives to those who invest in businesses in localities identified as needing further investment.
Yet again, the proposals being put forward do not make amends for the state of Malta’s public debt and deficit, along with the hundreds of millions of euros flushed down the drain on public procurement projects that end up costing twice what was originally budgeted, contracts which favour private concessionaires over the taxpayer and the overall loss of trust in Malta as a reputable, trustworthy jurisdiction.
As for healthcare, a Labour government promises to improve collective agreements for healthcare professionals, expand community healthcare centres to all localities, build a new outpatients unit adjacent to Mater Dei Hospital, and the development of a long-COVID monitoring clinic, among other commitments made while ignoring the elephant in the room – the “corrupt” and “fraudulent” concession of three of Malta’s public hospitals.
Overall, the party’s manifesto signals an unwillingness to acknowledge its scandalous conduct over the last nine years in government. In fact, it is the only manifesto we reviewed so far that does not have a section specifically targeting Malta’s deep-rooted organised crime and corruption.
Instead, it clings to glitzy marketing and self-praise to make up for the shallowness of its plans, leaving voters scratching their heads as to what the Party plans to do to clean up its own mess.