People don’t understand what a million is

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2018-12-23T08:44:04+02:00Sun, 23rd Dec '18, 08:44|0 Comments

The government refused to give details of how much judges and magistrates will be paid after a new agreement on their conditions comes into force. It’s looking like they’ll be earning something like €100,000 a year which for many people sounds like a lot. 

Of course those people are not judges. Nor are they veteran professionals, learned and experienced, who have not chosen to give up what must be given up in order to provide a public service. Most people do not understand why a €100,000 salary for judgeship is not as impressive as it sounds.

What I want to take from that episode though is the government’s official excuse for refusing to publish details. The government says that information could be used by other sectors negotiating their pay package with them. Expectations would be raised beyond what the government would be willing to meet.

Clearly the government is not talking about teachers, nurses, policemen, soldiers, planners, lawyers and architects working for it. Though if we’re honest they are all underpaid for what they are asked to give back to the country.

The government is concerned here with the expectations of people of comparable rank with judges and magistrates: senior managers of the public service, top ranking professionals, parliamentarians, even Ministers (though I would imagine those know what Judges are going to be paid).

Now compare that with the government’s explanations on how they negotiated with Corinthia the price for a 100,000 square metres of residential and commercial property in St George’s Bay.

Quite simple really, explains Konrad Mizzi. We used the model negotiated with DB group for the property next door and applied it to Corinthia as well.

No pursuit of negotiating advantage for the government in this case.

The only advantage sought — at least in public view — is for the acquirers of multi-million euro water-front apartments even the most hard-working judge, never mind teacher, nurse, policeman or planner working for the government will never afford.

I’m not being an old fashioned socialist here and resenting the wealth of people who are richer than I am. I’m not that way at all. Envy does not come into this.

But I do expect from my government three basic considerations: that people who provide public services are adequately compensated; that the government ensures that merit is at least a factor in making headway in life; and that whatever limited resources the government has, they are used to narrow the gap between the richest and the poorest of our community.

I accept that the government’s resources are limited and as one who is not an old fashioned socialist I do not necessarily argue for a larger government that can afford to spend more — although that argument is not entirely unjustified in the present reality.

I accept therefore that paying judges cannot be an unlimited consideration and the government should seek to contain its expense, even on the most necessary.

But then I’m really confused how the government grants public land estimated to be worth €700 million effectively for free for people richer than anyone who actually lives here to own waterfront property in Malta? Where’s the sense in that?

Yes, the land is being given practically for free. Most people — the same most people who think a €100,000 salary for a judge is ‘a lot’ — do not understand that €17 million is absolutely nothing.

Not to mention that almost none of it is being paid before properties yet to be developed on the site can be sold to others.

Most people do not understand what’s going on. Which is why Konrad Mizzi reasonably expects to look better for closing this deal than Owen Bonnici did when he signed off on a miserly raise for judges.