This will hopefully be a simpler post than usual, it is just three thoughts from yesterday which I wanted to share. These thoughts are reactions to “news” or rather statements which came out last Wednesday (17th May 2017).
The first thought is about something that made me angry especially because of the source the “nugget of wisdom” came from. The second made me even prouder than usual to be Maltese, and made me appreciate how far this country has come in the last few years. The third was a source of frustration and disappointment not much for the statement itself, but for the absolute lack of reaction it got.
The Fall of the Economist and the Rise of the Nazis
The Economist decided to publish an animated cartoon about hyperinflation. The drawings were nice, but the actual content itself was euphemistically speaking underwhelming.
Another reader called it a “simplistic grade school presentation” and points out how this lacked any explanation of how a nation gets into a hyperinflationary spiral. The presentation also fails to even attempt to explore whether there are common characteristics in the examples illustrated: “1920s Germany”, “1990s Yugoslavia”, and “2000s Zimbabwe”.
However, what ticked me off was the perpetration of an already widespread factually incorrect historical myth. The Economist claimed that hyperinflation opened the door for the rise of the Nazis in Germany – which is NOT true!
so I left this comment…
The Nazis did not rise to power in Germany because of the hyperinflation which occurred between 1920-1924 but because of the Great Depression which started in 1929 and hit Germany during the 1930s.
In 1924 Hitler’s party had gained 6.4% (in the May elections), but went down to 3% at the elections held during December.
By 1925 Germany had already recovered from hyperinflation.
In the elections held on May 1928 the Nazi Party gained only 2.6% of the vote.
In 1929 the Great Depression started in the USA and then rippled to the rest of (most of) the World.
In the 1930 elections the Nazi party registered an electoral support of 18.3% becoming the second largest political party in Germany. The rest is history, of course it was not just about economics either.
The Economist is one of the most widely read and respected sources of information and analysis with regards to International Affairs, economic, and financial issues. I have been a reader of the Economist for almost 15 years now and it is painful to witness what feels like a continuous deterioration in the quality of its content. Sure The Economist still publishes the occasional gem but it seems that finding one requires sifting through more and more lumps of coal as time goes by.
The Rainbow Champions League
In order to mark the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT), ILGA-Europe published its annual Rainbow Map Report for 2017. This Report provides a comprehensive overview of human rights LGBTI people enjoy in 49 different European countries and reviews the developments occurred throughout the past year.
The report also awards a numerical score to countries according to their progress towards achieving full equality. Malta has topped the ranking for the second time in a row, by achieving a score of 88% which is substantially higher than the 77.7% obtained by the runner-up: Norway.
This was no easy feat considering that Malta is also the last country in the World to have introduced divorce. The notion that a country still entangled by the cobwebs of the Medieval thinking which made such a basic civil right a hotly debated “controversial” issue, could become a beacon of equality and human rights for LGBTIQ people was just laughable.
Of course this result didn’t come by itself, nor was it costless. It took great courage and true political leadership from the Maltese Prime Minister to stick his neck out to bring justice and equality in this area. There was also a harsh political price to pay, as the conservative powers have been out for him seeking their pound of flesh at every possible occasion ever since.
Of course there’s still work to do, after all we didn’t achieve a perfect score, even tho 2 of the 3 necessary steps to do so should be implemented this year. (oh yeah I did actually read the report…ok just a little bit). There’s also the issue of how other countries are lagging behind which means that real people are being denied their human rights, but today is the day to be parochial and strut around.
The University General Election Debate where Malta’s Political Leaders confront each other and take questions from students ahead of the Armageddon is slowly becoming a welcome tradition. This year’s debate had already made the news headlines twice before even taking place.
First because the current Prime Minister Dr. Joseph Muscat might have not been able to attend due to a state visit by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. The PN media tried to twist it as if the Prime Minister was trying to dodge the debate because it would be held in front of an audience of University students who are be able to think critically. Hence, according to the PN media there was no way for these people to support Muscat.
The second news was featured even more prominently, as a secret plan by a PN leaning group tried to highjack the debate was leaked. This group was plotting to flood the venue were the debate was going to take place with PN supporters who would jeer each and every statement made by the Prime Minister and loudly cheer any statement made by Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil. This was an attempt to manipulate the perception of how the alternative political offerings were being received to build a narrative that open minded discerning people all support the PN while only “ignorant fools who are unable to think” could support PL.
There’s a lot of statements made during the debate that I would like to comment on. However, if I had to write all I want to say I would probably end up writing 2x 1000 words essays for every 3 sentences each political leader said. At least many statements, made by all leaders, were rightfully subject to critique, analysis and discussion; but a potentially dangerous one seems to have flown under the radar.
At one point Marlene Farrugia tried to minimise the importance of Malta achieving a fiscal surplus for the first time in 35 years. She even claimed that “Greece still ended in a recession despite having a surplus” – This is completely FALSE!
During the decade preceding the Financial crisis Greece never managed to post a deficit below the 3% Maastricht criteria later all achieve a fiscal surplus. Their best result was lowering the deficit to 4.1% of GDP in the year 2000.
On the other hand Ireland and Spain both posted surpluses in 2007, which is one of the main reasons why the crisis in these countries was less severe despite their “bubbles” being relatively bigger than in Greece.
The Euro-sovereign-debt crisis is not just an issue of fiscal responsibility, but let’s not go to the other extreme and spread the lie that it played no role at all.
Greece did finally get a surplus in 2016, although this was achieved through an economic recipe that probably did more harm than good. However, this did not play any role whatsoever in how the crisis manifested itself almost 9 years ago and how things played out thereafter.
Let’s not allow people to spread easily verifiable lies or myths, especially when these can become very dangerous. Fiscal rigour and responsibility is of utmost importance for the long-term well being of a country and managing to finally balance our budget for the first time in 35 years is a historical feat which no person who loves this country should or would belittle just to gain some political mileage.
An irresponsible fiscal policy drove Greece into a corner were it was forced to get to a surplus through harsh austerity measures. Cuts in pensions, wages, public sector jobs (including teachers, nurses, etc..), health services, education, and even infrastructural investment were imposed, resulting in a deep recession and massive unemployment.
On the other hand Malta’s surplus in the wake of the fastest economic growth of the last 20 years and the lowest unemployment rate in history. Infrastructural investment increased, Health and Education services were extended and improved, and wages experienced a rise in real terms (unless you pay private rent) after several years of losing purchasing power. This was possible only because of policies based on a thorough understanding of economics and measures aimed at enhancing the output capability of the country.