Wednesday, 3 June 2009

People Should Come First

Malta joined the European Union in 2004. Since then, although several individuals might have benefited from the country's EU membership, it is my impression that the greatest beneficiaries were a relatively small number of business owners. Following Malta's entry into the EU, such people have been able to expand their operations in many other Member States, thus increasing the chances of earning much more money. Having said this, how has the life of the typical Maltese worker changed since 2004?

There is little doubt that the EU provides various opportunities for Maltese workers to improve their skills. Many people have heard about the Social Funds that could be utilised to help various individuals acquire a number of skills. Being a member of the EU also makes it easier for a Maltese worker to move to another Member State where they could earn more money and live more comfortably. Since 2004, new companies have set up shop in Malta, making it possible for new jobs to be created.

In spite of the above, there are still several points that suggest that many Maltese workers are still not doing so well when comparing Malta to many other EU Member States. Indeed, earlier on this week, I heard that Malta presently has the highest inflation rate in the EU. At little over than EUR 600 a month, the minimum wage in Malta is a joke and a strong slap in the face to thousands of Maltese people, especially those that have dependants. Although there might have been an increase in job opportunities within certain areas of the Maltese economy, the Nationalist Government rarely talks about the conditions associated with many jobs that are being created in our times. What is the point of boasting about how many people are working when several of those individuals might be on short-term contracts, earning relatively low salaries, and working under very stressful conditions?

When politicians face each other during various debates, it is quite common for numerous spectators to feel lost or confused. Given that many politicians are lawyers or economists, it is plausible to expect a great deal of jargon about the Euro, the calculations underlying countless figures, and so on. To a specialist, such discourse is likely to be interesting, but wouldn't the typical Maltese worker prefer to listen to a different type of talk?

The EU needs to ensure that people come first. Of course, it is fundamental to safeguard the welfare of every citizen, but when we know that there are so many workers all over the EU that are yearning for a brighter and more secure tomorrow, it is so important for politicians to dedicate more time as well as energy to focusing on various issues. Could there, for example, be more talk about the possibility of creating a decent minimum wage across the entire EU? Could there be more talk about preventing work from spilling increasingly further into one's home life? Could there be more talk about specific strategies aimed at ensuring that there is full employment in the EU?

Next Saturday's EU Parliament elections are another reminder that we have the possibility to do something to change this Union. Next Saturday is another reminder that your vote could contribute to ensuring that the EU becomes an organisation that truly promotes the message: "People Should Come First"!


Andrew Sciberras said...

This post has been very refreshing. I wish that all our politicians can, from time to time, tear down the boundaries that encapsulate Malta from the rest of the European Union.

The 'people' in 'people first' does not refer solely to Maltese citizens. 'Social' in 'Social Europe' does not refer to solely to the Maltese dream for social justice, social market and social equality but to the European dream.

I think that the fervent nationalism that has been displayed in this campaign has gotten out the worst in us. It has exposed our politicians' folly and poverty in thinking that the EP is just an extension of the Maltese House of Representatives.

2 weeks or so ago I came across an eloquent quote in local paper 'Illum'. It may sound old, hardcore and Marxist but which is still highly relevant in the context of socialism:

'Il-haddiem m'ghandux nazzjon'.

Red said...

Thanks a lot for your comment, Andrew! :)

I guess that the "island mentality" is exhibited by many people living in Malta during various political debates. Yes, it is important to know what is happening in Malta, but now that Malta is a member of the EU, we should broaden our vision and analysis of countless issues (employment, for example).

I totally agree that "Il-haddiem m'ghandux nazzjon". I would never say that such a quote is old or hardcore; it reflects one of the basic principles of the Socialist ideology. I have lived and worked in other countries. Believe me, once you live and work in a capitalist country, many employers are going to share certain traits no matter where you are. The same applies to the millions of individuals who try to survive on a monthly salary.

Even though Marxism should never be regarded as a dogma, I like the fact that Marx and many of his followers tried to mould the Socialist ideology by undertaking a scientific analysis of society. Following Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici's exit from the political scene in 1992, such an analysis has been almost completely brushed aside. Furthermore, there seems to be a tendency to regard any person who engages in such an analysis as a "fanatic". To me, that is ridiculous!