Bernard Grech has been proudly stating that the Nationalist Party has launched its electoral manifesto after 100 hours that the general election campaign started. However, it is quite clear that this manifesto was very quickly put together by a few individuals, with its contents yet to percolate to the PN’s main figures. Key among them, Bernard Grech himself who when he was presenting the manifesto at the PN’s General Council even went as far as saying that it had 533 proposals, when its latest version has 544.
The first version to be uploaded on the PN’s website was full of editing mistakes such as double numbering and repetition of some proposals in different sections. Over time other versions were uploaded that gradually corrected some of these mistakes. But some glaring ones remain. For instance, proposals 144 and 348 both are saying the same thing about a reduction in VAT. Proposals 76 and 218 are both on Malita Plc taking over from Steward.
On page 163, one finds again the title “Pensjonijiet Sostennibli” with the first three proposals relating to pensions and in part documented in the section “Pensjonijiet Adekwati”, then the section continues on to detail 3 proposals that are about land registration and have nothing to do with sustainable pensions. In Maltese we have a saying “Ħawwadni ha nifhem”: confuse me so that I understand.
Some proposals are duplicated, while others must have slipped out unnoticed. The day after the manifesto was launched, Peter Agius claimed they were twelve proposals in favour of animal rights. The final version only has three.
Some proposals are duplicated, while others must have slipped out unnoticed.
While these kinds of mistakes are being cleared up, what is more difficult for the PN strategists to do is to modify proposals completely because they represent no change at all from current policies. From a quick readthrough of the manifesto, one can find ten glaring examples.
- The introduction of a social security contribution credit for those who are inactive due to sickness. This provision has been in the Social Security Act for decades.
2. Those who could retire because they have enough social security contributions will be allowed to continue working and contributing so as to get a better pension. Not only was this reform introduced in 2016 and leads to an increase of 2% of one’s pension but has already benefitted about 10,000 persons who have retired with a better pension because of it.
3. Pensioners working full-time to be paid a full statutory bonus. This is already being paid, by employers.
4.Widows/widowers to get a full pension – In 2016, Government introduced this for those widows/widowers who before their partner’s passing away had a pension in their own right. In the Budget for 2022 this measure was extended to all widows/widowers.
5. Those who cannot pay a deposit for their loan will be helped by Government: this scheme was introduced in 2020 and has already benefitted hundreds of new homeowners.
6. IVF to be provided for free: this is already the case.
7. A new mental hospital to be built instead of Mount Carmel hospital: the tenders for this hospital are in the process of being issued.
8. Establishing a Malta Enterprise Office in Gozo: the office has been open at least since 1996.
9. Introducing tax deductions for extracurricular activities of your children: this was introduced in 2009.
10. Introduce a scheme so that those with missing social security contributions can pay them: this scheme was introduced back in 2014 and has benefitted thousands of persons, especially women.This list is but a small example of the amateur nature with which the PN manifesto has been drawn up. Besides putting as main proposals, policies that have been there for years and sometimes even decades, the manifesto is replete with repetition and mindless waffle.
That said, the manifesto also includes a number of proposals that if they were to be implemented, they would create very perverse incentives – case in point being the rolling fines amnesty – or which would be quite expensive to implement.
Mind you, given that this document is still a work in progress repeatedly being uploaded again as people point out silly mistakes in it, it might well be that some of these proposals may end up deleted silently.