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MW 4 April 2018

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maltatoday WEDNESDAY 4 APRIL 2018 News 6 A €5 million donation to Puttinu Cares announced by the Prime Minister during a charity marathon on prime time TV on Good Friday may well have exposed him as an unscrupulous politician who does not miss one opportu- nity to increase his popular- ity but the negative reaction from a part of the PN's front bench may have maximised the PM's political advantage. For by shooting down a do- nation whose end result was alleviating suffering, some Opposition MPs seemed oblivious to the inevitable political fallout. Charity, business and politics Televised charity mara- thons, where businesses and politicians seek to wash away a nasty reputation by announcing hefty donations or by lending their face to collection efforts, have been a regular feature on Maltese TV for the past two decades. While neither Lawrence Gonzi nor Eddie Fenech Adami had ever intervened in live shows to donate state monies, politicians regularly participate in the Strina fun fair, and the Good Causes Fund subsidised by gam- ing money was the subject of political controversy over donations made in strategic districts. That fine line blurring Pub- lic Relations and charity is not limited to Malta. Even the revered Mother Theresa was questioned for accepting donations from Papa and Ba- by Doc Duvalier, the gang- ster tyrants of Haiti. Cynics may note that Mus- cat's donation to Puttinu Cares is worth more than a hundred propaganda bill- boards. For it projects the PM as an agent of benevo- lence towards those who are most in need. In this way Muscat has once again assumed the im- age of a father figure. One may also suspect that this provided the PM some res- pite from the Pilatus bank controversy especially after confirmation of his attend- ance in Ali Sadr's wedding in Venice. Yet the government's do- nation which quadrupled the €1.6 million collected from the public has surely made a real difference for the relatives of cancer pa- tients whose expenses are not covered by our welfare state. Puttinu Cares will thus be able to build 30 apart- ments in central London for relatives of Maltese patients seeking treatment abroad. Yet this raises another question: Would it not be better if all such expenses are covered by the state without much noise and fun- fair? Why not replace charity with a small increase in pro- portional taxation? Muscat's big society While theoretically one may well argue that social justice is best served by income redistri- bution from the haves to the have nots through the joyless act of paying taxes, the act of giving through charity does unite the nation for a common cause. One should not underscore the importance of charity not just as a way of making up for inevitable shortcomings in the welfare system but as a hall- mark of what former British conservative Prime Minister David Cameron coined as the "big society." This is a concept in social policy – mostly advocated by conservatives – whereby a significant amount of respon- sibility for the running of a so- ciety is devolved to local com- munities and volunteers. Charity marathons add that personal touch to social policy, by enabling donors to feel part of something bigger. That is why shows like l-Istrina and the more somber Xarabank collection for Puttinu Cares have become a national insti- tution. These events also establish a direct link between donors and the NGO delivering a vis- ible service to those in need. Put simply, people can see on their TV screens where their money is going and they can also empathise with those who are suffering. According to a survey by the World Giving Index of the Charity Aid Foundation, Mal- ta is the third most generous country in the whole world. This survey, based on 2016, places Malta in third position out of 139 countries, with 73% of the population giving dona- tions to charity. By intervening directly on TV to dish a substantial dona- tion derived from public funds, the PM has clearly understood how these charity events have become veritable symbols of modern Maltese identity of which generosity is seen as a hallmark. So, one may ask, "What's wrong in the PM putting him- self at the forefront of this na- tional effort?" The answer to that would be that he has also reaped precious political capi- tal in the process of doing so. One can counter this argu- ment by saying that through this donation, the PM was en- suring that the state does not abscond on its duty to help the vulnerable by letting the NGO in question rely on private money. In fact, the amount of money given by government was four times the sum collected from private citizens. This may well consolidate a hybrid welfare model in which public monies are used to sup- plement donations for private charities. While there is a risk of mak- ing welfare initiatives more dependent on charity boosted by occasional top ups by the state, one has to consider that this happens in a country with a national health care sys- tem which is already in place. Charity marathons simply address realities which go be- yond the scope of the state's obligation to secure free basic health care for all. Yet one can still see a pattern forming. In March 2017 Muscat had already intervened through a life call during a similar marathon to collect funds for a home for ALS sufferers dur- ing which the PM pledged to cover the annual expenses of the home. The model is advocated by ALS sufferer and volunteer Bjorn Formosa who thinks that "Government must be there many more times on Xarabank to give its backup to many more initiatives, to help all fel- low countrymen. This time we have tackled cancer, next time it will be neurological condi- tions, autism and many more! May many more organisations and people of good faith come forward with their initiatives to help improve the sufferers' quality of life." The risk in this is that of es- tablishing a pattern in which government starts exploiting charity as a PR opportunity in what can be seen as a win-win situation for both the NGOs involved and the government of the day. Robin Hood Muscat? In some ways hiving off mon- ies from the passport scheme to accommodation for cancer patients may also be seen as an act of redistribution from an exclusive scheme benefitting the global rich to Maltese peo- ple in need. Some may cringe at the prov- enance of these funds from a scheme which raises ethical questions, not just because some of those who have ac- quired citizenship actually do JAMES DEBONO How wise was it for Opposition MPs to lash out at a €5 million government donation to Puttinu Cares announced by the PM on live TV? NOTICE Third Judicial District Court, State of Utah, Salt Lake County In the matter of the adoption of Tina Micallef Phansuwan, Case No. 182900087 STATE OF UTAH TO: Carmelo Micallef A petition for adoption has been filed in the Third Judicial District Court, State of Utah, regarding a child born on December 16, 2006, in Valletta, Malta to Uraiwan Phansuwan. IF YOU INTEND TO CONTEST THE ADOPTION, YOU MUST FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS OF UTAH CODE § 78B-6-110(6), INCLUDING FILING A MOTION TO INTERVENE WITH THE COURT, WITHIN 30 DAYS OF RECEIVING THIS NOTICE. IF YOU DO NOT, THE COURT WILL ENTER AN ORDER THAT YOU HAVE WAIVED ANY RIGHT TO FURTHER NOTICE IN CONNECTION WITH THE ADOPTION OF THE CHILD, FORFEITED ALL RIGHTS IN RELATION TO THE CHILD, AND ARE BARRED FROM THEREAFTER BRINGING OR MAINTAINING ANY ACTION TO ASSERT ANY INTEREST IN THE CHILD. Any motion to intervene must be filed with the Third Judicial District Court, 450 S. State Street, P.O. Box 1860, Salt Lake City, UT 84114, with a copy mailed to Larry Jenkins, 50 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, and must set forth specific relief sought, accompanied by a memorandum specifying factual and legal grounds on which the motion is based. For a copy of the petition, contact Mr. Jenkins at (801) 328-3600.

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