Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Meeting With the Prime Minister

A few weeks ago, an open letter signed by 26 individuals was sent to Dr Joseph Muscat, the Leader of the Labour Party as well as the current Prime Minister of Malta. The persons who signed the letter included Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, one of the country's former prime ministers. I also agreed to sign the letter. 

The letter attracted some attention in the media. More specifically, the links relating to a number of publications have been posted at the end of this blog post.

Following the articles which appeared about the said letter, I was informed that Dr Muscat wanted to meet with us to discuss the points that were raised. The meeting was going to be held on 1st December at 4pm. The venue was the Auberge de Castille in Valletta. 


Out of the 26 individuals, around 16 turned up for the meeting. We met outside the Auberge de Castille shortly before 4pm so that we could all go in together. 

After being led to a large meeting room right next to the Prime Minister's Office, Dr Muscat came out to shake hands with each one of us. Clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt, the Prime Minister then walked to his chair to start the meeting. We sat down around the oval-shaped table.  

Dr Muscat went through the letter and expressed his reaction concerning each point. As expected, his response to virtually all the issues was characterised by various references to the government's positive achievements following the Labour Party's electoral victory in March 2013.

Surrounded by the portraits of the country's previous prime ministers, almost every person who attended voiced their views regarding a number of topics. I told Dr Muscat that I wanted to speak as a university graduate who was working in the financial services sector, an area that has often been praised as one of the most successful in the current economic climate. I said that even though I managed to qualify for a mortgage, the thought of paying the bank until I was 65 was quite daunting. Previous generations were reportedly often able to pay off their home loans within around 10 to 15 years. Being in debt until the age of 65 led to more pressure and anxiety; if I could no longer keep up with the monthly payments for one reason or another, I could end up losing my home.  I expressed my hope that the government could do something to help ease this burden for the thousands of people living in similar circumstances.

I also expressed my disagreement concerning one of the narratives that had been promoted by the Labour Party even before the 2013 election. More specifically, I told Dr Muscat that I totally disagreed with the notion that there was no longer any conflict of interests between the employer and the employee. My own experience and that of many other workers clearly demonstrated that employers typically squeezed their employees as much as possible without giving fair remuneration. I added that the issue of the conflict between employers and employees formed part of the basis of leftist thinking. I argued that it was, therefore, practically impossible to identify with such a political viewpoint and reject the existence of the said clash of interests.

With reference to the housing issue, Dr Muscat did not offer any reassurance at all. No mention was made of any government scheme aimed at helping existing and potential home-owners to pay off a mortgage within a much more reasonable time-frame. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that the aspiration to own a home would soon no longer be sustainable given the country's environmental constraints. He added that renting will need to become more popular in the future rather than opting to have one's own property. 

Dr Muscat's reaction was quite disappointing. His response totally neglected the hardships associated with living in debt for most of one's life just to have a stable roof over one's head. Moreover, simply encouraging rent as an alternative does not offer much relief to the countless individuals who wish to avoid the fear of losing one's home as a result of not being able to keep up with the monthly payments. 

Turning to the class warfare issue, the Prime Minister was quite succinct. More specifically, his view was that any focus on the said matter would be counterproductive.

The meeting lasted for around 90 minutes. Dr Muscat concluded by saying that even though his door was open to everyone, he could not guarantee that he would accept every request that was brought to his attention.

                                                                   *          *          *

Image 2