TIMES OF MALTA Wednesday, 4th June 2008
Editorial - APPOINTMENT TO GOVERNMENT BOARDS
Appointments to government boards will be made after a public call for applications. This was the 258th promise made by the Nationalist Party before the March 8 general election. Since a number of appointments have already been made without a call having been issued, government critics have already been howling over what they see as dragging of feet.
The government's reaction is that, yes, it plans to keep to its promise but since it has just started its new term there is plenty of time within which to do so. Strictly speaking, this is correct, but is this what the electorate understood when the PN spoke of the merits of ensuring that posts to boards would be filled only by those best qualified for the jobs? Definitely not.
There are promises and promises: Those that are made simply to add to the number put down in a programme just to impress an electorate; others that, objectively speaking, require time within which they can be translated into deeds and yet others that can be carried out straightaway. Just as it is absurd to expect a government to carry out a promise when changing circumstances make its implementation unfeasible, as the Labour Party is expecting the government to do in the case of its undertaking to cut income tax, irrespective of the fact that the price of crude oil is shooting up to record levels, it is equally unacceptable for a government to mark time on promises that can be carried out straightaway.
The promise for appointments to boards to be made after a call for applications falls into the category of those that can be carried out immediately. So, why is the government marking time? Hopefully, it is only because it had not done its homework well and has not found time yet to put the new system into practice. However, if the PN in government wants to keep all of its credibility intact, it would need to think long and hard about it. The longer it takes to keep to its promise, the more it would expose itself to criticism.
The people's perception is that most of the appointments to government boards are made on grounds of political allegiance or simply given out as thank you gestures for jobs well done in the party's interest. Such perception is hard to stamp out and the Nationalists' promise was obviously made to emphasise the party's strong political commitment to transparency. One would have, therefore, expected the government to put the promise into practice immediately. Doing so would have given the party and the government that stamp of correctness about which it preached so much before the election.
The Nationalists have already started this Administration on the wrong foot when, despite the Prime Minister's nice words about consultation and dialogue, it did not consult the opposition beforehand when it applied for Malta to rejoin the Partnership for Peace. The Prime Minister was far from convincing when he explained the reasons for this in a television programme some time ago. The government was manifestly wrong when it bypassed the opposition on the matter. Stuttering may be pardonable, for a time, for a new Administration, but since the Nationalists are hardly new in government, the electorate expects greater perspicacity.