Saturday 16 February 2019

Promising the moon

As we haul ourselves tomorrow into the fourth week of this marathon campaign (yes, six more gruelling weeks to go, but who’s counting?), it is becoming more apparent that each party has different targets in mind:

The Labour party – having recouped many of the disenchanted Labour voters who had given up on the party in the past, is now feeling confident enough to try and make inroads into previously unassailable sections of the electorate: floating voters, ex-PN voters and first-time voters.

The message is one of positivity and there is an undeniable vibe which hasn’t been seen in the party for years.  With their slick marketing campaign, they have only really got it wrong twice:  copying the Obama campaign song (couldn’t they have at least attempted to be original?) and placing that video with Narcy Calamatta at the cinema (people trying to escape politics by going to the movies were not amused).

The Nationalist party – is busy trying to stem the flow of those PN voters who are refusing to vote, or more alarmingly, who have decided to vote Labour this time round.

Its rhetoric is often aggressive, strident and obviously pandering to its grassroots in an attempt to stir passions among supporters who are not as gung ho as they used to be. Listening to the speakers during the general council on Friday, they spent more time denigrating the Labour party than speaking about why people should vote PN.

Alternattiva Demokratika – seems to be gaining ground slowly but surely, appealing to those who are disillusioned with both PN and Labour, and who see in AD the only possible hope to break the stranglehold of the ‘two tribes’ mentality which often prevents this country from moving forward.

Speaking for those who yearn to see a third party represent them, AD in this election have managed to make their presence felt even when they are only allotted a mere few minutes.

But, apart from the image they are projecting, what about the substance?

While ideally we should be discussing the issues and how each party plans to run the country, as we have seen from some of the electoral proposals, the two main parties at this point are falling over each other, promising everything to everyone. The problem with these goodies raining down from heaven is that inevitably someone is going to be left out. People who happen to be in the wrong demographic start wondering ‘hey, what about me?’  As if to drive this point home, one lady on the website actually asked Gonzi whether he could spare a thought for the elderly and give them a free Kindle.

When it was announced by the PN that teachers would also be given a free computer tablet, LSAs were quick to point that they had been left out of the equation. Gonzi hurriedly rectified this by saying LSAs would get one too. The considerable quantity of PN computer tablets, by the way, is going to be leased, which makes one wonder who is going to get this lucrative ongoing contract.

Gonzi said that students would benefit from a cost of living increase in their stipends if he is elected, so Muscat has matched this offer and promised the same thing as well.

Now, with what almost sounds like a ‘have a baby for cash’ offer, (1000 Euros to be deposited in a pension fund for each newborn), it is as if the national coffers are a bottomless pit.

Each time I hear a new proposal which magically dispenses money with the largesse of someone who has hit the jackpot, it is apparent that the PN (especially) is attempting to attract votes through short-term fiscal rewards. Throwing money at various sectors seems to be the way forward.

It is no wonder that voters have become more cynical with every general election, when an electoral manifesto ends up sounding like something from a  teleshopping channel.  I’m half expecting the leaders to appear on the next Xarabank debate giving away free plasma screens in exchange for votes.

And even while certain incentives by the PN sound good (such as giving tax breaks and paying the National Insurance for people setting up their own business), the million dollar question remains: just how much more can public expenditure be stretched to cover everything which has been promised?

Tomorrow we are going to be told how all this is going to be financed, and I cannot wait to see economic wizards invited on daily TVM programmes to go through each and every figure with a fine tooth comb.

But I won’t hold my breath.






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