He was really indignant. Not because of the government’s half-truth (“we are used to this from politicos in power”), but because a fellow economist, purporting to be apolitical, failed to respect what is probably the most sacred tenet in the profession: an acknowledgement that there exist at least two aspects (sometimes more, admittedly of unequal import or merit) to every issue of economic significance. Anyone professing to speak qua economist is bound by professional integrity to comment on all aspects, even if in strong disagreement.
“How could he have drawn a comparison with a basket of increasing apples without acknowledging that there had also been decreases in the process?” He was referring to the public statement made by the incumbent executive chairman of Malta Enterprise in support of the government’s boasting on jobs creation over the last four years or so.
A more apt allegory, my friend retorted, would have been the case of a couple visiting a casino. Whilst the man gambles, his partner relaxes over a cocktail in the saloon. After a while, the former announces contentedly that it was a winning evening. When asked how much he had won, the man replied “One thousand euros”. “Yippee! It’s champagne dinner tonight” she gleefully exclaimed. “Hold on, my dear, you failed to ask me how much I also lost in the process. Well... nine hundred euros. So we can only afford our usual”.
In repeatedly insisting on having created 20,000 jobs between 2007-11, both the P M and the Finance Minister tried to fool the people and hoodwink the E U. But for a little probing by a Labour MEP, the charade would not have been uncovered. As it turned out, it also backfired badly, heaping pathetic ridicule on the economist-experts feeding both Ministers.
Intelligent people have now realized that the brag was so grossly exaggerated that it was really no more than an absurd pretence designed specifically at creating an artificial aura of respectability, complementing the official bombast contained in the pre-Budget document recently published for discussion.
Incidentally, the Budget itself might not even take place for a combination of political and economic reasons, but the pre-Budget document would have achieved the intended purpose of depicting a healthy and growing economy , at least until the dissolution of Parliament is announced and the electoral campaign is launched.
Judging by the previous 1996 experience, the Labour Party, if voted in power, would likely encounter an even worse financial and fiscal situation than is already nowadays suspected by non-political economists. It would not even have the benefit of an approved budget to work on by the time the election results are known. Or, a worse scenario, a hurriedly-approved spurious and unrealistic budget that would eventually show up the Labour government’s inadequacy and absence of economic heft.
And prove the Nationalist Party’s Tory-plagiarised billboard right. They hope.