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BUSINESS TODAY 29 February 2024

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11 EDITORIAL BusinessToday is published every Thursday. The newspaper is a MediaToday publication and is distributed to all leading stationers, business and financial institutions and banks. MANAGING EDITOR: SAVIOUR BALZAN EDITOR: PAUL COCKS BusinessToday, MediaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN9016, Malta Newsroom email: Advertising: Telephone: 00356 21 382741 29.2.2024 T he Jean Paul Sofia inquiry find- ings are disturbing albeit not surprising. The inquiry board did not mince its words in describing the failings across several public entities that contributed to a lax supervisory en- vironment. Before the inquiry board had the op- portunity to take a deep dive into the systems that regulate the construction industry, many had spoken about lax enforcement by the authorities that al- lowed developers to cut corners. Un- fortunately, ears remained shut and in Sofia's case, cutting corners had fatal consequences. From the award of public land at the Corradino Industrial Estate to the de- velopers, which the inquiry said should have never happened, to the lack of in- spections on the building while it was being constructed, the whole process was fraught with failings. In a very pertinent observation, the inquiry board referred to public offi- cials and their attempts to accommo- date developers at all costs, while hid- ing behind anonymity and bureaucracy to escape the consequences of their shortcomings. Public officials have to shoulder responsibility for their ac- tions and must be accountable for the decisions, or non-decisions, they make. In one of the salient comments the inquiry board said: "In a normal coun- try, negligent or irregular behaviour leads to civil legal consequences and sometimes criminal consequences. Someone, somewhere must under- stand that what is bent cannot remain so but must be straightened. It's wrong to say everything goes on the mistaken premise that people forget over time. When those who are obliged to defend the common good, stop doing so, the risk is that the illegality becomes ac- ceptable, and the rule of law gravely prejudiced." The inquiry board's observation is very true across the width of the public service. This is an attitude problem – the anything goes attitude that in So- fia's case proved fatal. Unfortunately, this is an attitude that trickles down from the higher echelons of political power, where people found guilty of wrongdoing are welcomed back as heroes and money is dished out generously to cronies, while regu- latory authorities are beset by lack of resources to carry out their work. The inquiry findings justify the re- peated calls made last year for a public inquiry to be held because it was best placed to shed light on administrative shortcomings. It proves how wrong the Prime Minister was to refuse the inquiry and how right Jean Paul Sofia's mother Isabelle was to persevere in her quest for a public inquiry. It is good the Prime Minister eventu- ally saw light and went on to appoint a public inquiry board with a wide remit. It is also good that he apologised to So- fia's parents. But an apology is not enough. The Prime Minister must make a com- mitment and take the necessary steps to ensure the anything goes attitude across the government is eradicated. This attitude fosters impunity and undermines the basic tenets of a nor- mal democracy. On Wednesday evening in parlia- ment, the Prime Minister spoke bold- ly about the need for the construction sector to 'shape up, or ship out'. He is correct because the sector has long acted like it owns the country. But the change must go beyond the construc- tion sector. Government ministers and politi- cians must also 'shape up, or ship out' by fostering an attitude of account- ability towards the people that elect them. The Sofia inquiry is as much an indictment of the construction sector and the authorities that regulate it, as it is of the politicians who enabled these circumstances to occur and persist. Why the Sofia inquiry is also a damning indictment of politicians n August 2023, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade decreased by 1.2% in the euro area and by 0.9% in the EU, compared with July 2023, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In July 2023, the retail trade volume decreased by 0.1% both in the euro area and in the EU. In August 2023 compared with August 2022, the calendar adjusted retail sales index decreased by 2.1% in the euro area and by 2.0% in the EU. In the euro area in August 2023, compared with July 2023, the volume of retail trade decreased by 3.0% for automotive fuels, by 1.2% for food, drinks and tobacco and by 0.9% for non-food products. In the EU, the volume of retail trade decreased by 2.4% for automotive fuels, by 0.9% for food, drinks and tobacco and by 0.6% for non-food products. Retail Price Volume DID U KNOW?

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