Lies, damned lies, and Bernard Grech statistics

In perfect post-truth fashion, it has become a characteristic of the Nationalist Leader not to back off when challenged on facts, but to continue lying even when caught.

The phrase ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ really comes to life whenever Dr Bernard Grech decides to grace one of his speeches with some quantitative statements. After having completely turned statistics on class sizes on their head, it was now teachers’ salaries that were given the ‘Bendueconomics’ treatment.

In a speech in Senglea, the Leader of the Opposition claimed that the income of around 60% to 70% of teachers is between €18,000 to €24,000 per year. Now, the Financial Estimates for 2024 provide information on the basic salary of teachers. On page 485, it reports that a teacher is employed within scale 9 of the civil service. The basic salary for this scale starts at €24,854 and increases by an annual increment of €447.33 up to a maximum of €27,538. It is worth recalling that, in addition to basic pay, teachers enjoy allowances totalling several thousand euros. This means that at present there is no full-time teacher earning between €18,000 and €24,000. To earn a salary of €18,000 a teacher would need to be in scale 14, or 5 scales less than that specified by the current collective agreement.

It could be that, when he mentioned the €18,000 figure, Dr Grech was referring to what teachers used to be paid in the GonziPN days. In those days, as a matter of fact, a teacher started with a salary of around €17,000 and went up to just €19,678. This means that, in basic pay alone, since 2013 teachers have received an increase in their maximum salary of €7,860, or 40%. This is equivalent to an average percentage increase of almost 4% per year, excluding improvements in allowances.

Yet, Bernard Grech claimed that Government has been denying teachers a pay raise for ten years. Funny that, under Dr Grech’s idol, former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, teachers had seen their maximum pay increase by less than €3,400, or by around 21%. This means that, under a Labour administration, basic teacher pay has already increased by twice what it had risen under GonziPN.

The Opposition Leader was also incorrect when he claimed that there are hundreds of teachers in Government schools who are resigning. A response to a parliamentary question provided on 25th October by Education Minister Clifton Grima indicates that, this year, only 23 teachers have resigned from State schools while 200 new teachers have been employed.

This brings us to Bernard Grech’s next big lie. He said that, while 20 years ago there were 300 students studying to become teachers, there are now just a few dozen. NSO data, however, show that there are currently around 2,424 students following tertiary courses in education. A total of 943 people graduated in education in 2021. In contrast, two decades ago, according to NSO’s Education Statistics 2003, there were 1,817 students following courses at the Faculty of Education, or a quarter less than at present, while graduates were 401, or less than half the amount who graduated in 2021.

Besides lying on the education sector, Bernard Grech had the gall to repeat the falsehood that the population in our country has doubled since 2013. He re-iterated this claim despite all the independent newspapers, from Times of Malta to Malta Today, having included pieces proving that the Bernard Grech is making false claims. But, in perfect post-truth fashion, it has become a characteristic of the Nationalist Leader not to back off when challenged on facts, but to continue lying even when caught.

One can only hope that, at some point Dr Grech understands that lies will get him nowhere.

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