Life After Politics: Franco Mercieca

Manuel Zarb - 9th December 2017

In this series of interviews, former politicians share their experiences in politics and how they’ve readjusted to day-to-day life as private citizens.

For Franco Mercieca, the former Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing and Disability Rights, his brief experience in politics was overall positive, if somewhat unexpected. “I never expected to be elected in 2013, as I had never been involved in politics before and didn’t really attend many political events. It was definitely a culture shock, as politics was very different from my practice. However, I was lucky to be in Cabinet for a year, along with chairing the Environment and Planning Committee, and I had a taste of life both in Cabinet and as a backbencher.”

“I’ve met many interesting people and had new experiences through politics. As a doctor and a specialist I was somewhat cocooned from society, whilst being a politician allows you to see how society works.”

Dr Mercieca, who is an ophthalmologist, says he decided to move back into his private practice from politics not long after joining Cabinet. “After being appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary, I realised I wasn’t cut out for the job,” he says. “I love my profession so much that I cannot live without it, so I decided that being in Cabinet wasn’t my line. Rather than finding it difficult to readjust to working at my practice after I left Parliament, I had found it difficult to adjust to being a politician.”

He feels that the level of pay currently given to politicians is an important factor that needs to be addressed. “If you pay peanuts you don’t get good people, and the good people that you manage to attract will find it that much harder. Besides, having low salaries, not just for Ministers and MPs but also for the civil service, makes it easier for people who might be dishing out multi-million euro contracts to be tempted by corruption.”

Dr Mercieca believes Members of Parliament should be full-timers. “MPs should work full-time, but it’s important that they’re also well paid. Perhaps for some it is possible to cope with being in politics and reducing their hours at work, but in my case I certainly had to continue working, dedicating 80 per cent of my time to my profession, whilst working as a politician in a part-time capacity.”

“If MPs are full-timers,” he continues, “it would be a positive development for the debate in Parliament, as MPs would have more time to prepare and would be able to contribute more positively rather than simply criticise.”

A version of this interview originally appeared in the Commercial Courier


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