A pile of ash

When Joseph Mus­cat un­veiled his Road Map on that screen some nearly four years ago full of pom­pos­ity, there was just a hol­low idea on the board, a bor­rowed plan that failed to live up to its orig­i­nal pur­pose be­cause to fol­low is not to lead, to copy is no

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Rachel Borg is an in­de­pen­dent colum­nist based in the tourism in­dus­try

Dur­ing his in­cu­ba­tion as leader of the Labour Party, Dr Mus­cat to­gether with Keith Schem­bri and Kon­rad Mizzi must have had their heads locked to­gether, wrack­ing their brains to find a way to cut the head of the dragon and take power over this coun­try and its as­sets and con­trol its pop­u­la­tion in a way that they be­come will­ing con­cede this same power and con­trol over to them.

They watched, they stud­ied, they baited. All that the Na­tion­al­ist Party had done and were do­ing came un­der their scru­tiny and no de­tail was left undis­sected. They re­garded the Gov­ern­ment of Gonzi and Fenech Adami as a busi­ness and watched it grow and pro­duce. Left­ist, so­cial­ist, thug­gish pol­i­tics was dis­carded to make way at Labour Head­quar­ters for this new breed of the mil­len­nium, for­ward look­ing, mod­ern think­ing, gutsy but hope­lessly un­o­rig­i­nal and bla­tantly crony and un­scrupu­lous band of pre­tenders.

The prob­lem with post-Mintoff Labour has al­ways been and is es­pe­cially so with Joseph Mus­cat’s lead­er­ship, is that it suf­fers from envy and has very lit­tle to of­fer in the way of hon­est in­ten­tions, clear rea­son­ing and un­en­cum­bered projects that can add value to what is al­ready ex­ist­ing.

Hav­ing a sus­pi­cious and un­trust­ing na­ture it was quite nor­mal for the point of de­par­ture to be one that as­sumed that cor­rup­tion was part of the game. They cheat and they steal, was the premise of Mus­cat’s think tank about the Na­tion­al­ist big shots. Any­thing they can do, we can copy and do bet­ter and do like them.

Heads came to­gether, Kon­rad flew in from nowhere and brought with him a phony power sta­tion. This will be our ral­ly­ing cry to arms. This will dev­as­tate Austin Gatt and To­nio Fenech. Our plan is big and our plan will suc­ceed and we will do it in a flash. That was Plan num­ber one.

Plan num­ber two. Shoot the ducks from be­hind. Get the weak­lings who are un­com­fort­able with not hav­ing more of the pie, over to us by sim­ply promis­ing them what­ever they want.

Plan num­ber three cap­i­talised on the frus­tra­tion that was felt when the Res­i­dence Scheme was re­moved and for a long time there was noth­ing in its place and when some­thing was done to re­place it, it was a big flop. This tied in with prop­erty de­vel­op­ment and a two headed hy­dra was cre­ated in the form of the Cit­i­zen­ship scheme and the li­cence to build.

The thing that must irk the Na­tion­al­ist Party most, now in Op­po­si­tion af­ter a crush­ing de­feat, is not the fact that they had gone ahead with the high wa­ter and elec­tric­ity rates, the chaos of the Ar­riva pub­lic trans­port over­haul or the po­si­tion on di­vorce, but that they ex­posed them­selves to a takeover.

And it was mas­sive. Once one cor­ner was taken, the other came soon and the other af­ter that. Be­cause if there is one thing that the Na­tion­al­ist Party in gov­ern­ment suf­fers from, it is this dis­trac­tion with them­selves and the ten­dency to avoid con­flict bring­ing on a kind of lethar­gic men­tal­ity and an as­sump­tion that things will sim­ply sort them­selves out or be for­got­ten. Peo­ple sense that and want some­thing to be done and de­ci­sions to be taken.

There is now a lot of catch­ing up for them to do. Si­mon Busut­til keeps try­ing to put the gear into first and rev up the mo­tor. That he has a keen mind is clear.

His speech on the bud­get was well de­liv­ered and made all the right ar­gu­ments. But then the old fairy tale emerged again, like a lit­tle old teddy bear that we cling on to even though its eye has fallen out and its ears are bare and worn. The Rent Laws and by ex­ten­sion, the prop­erty sec­tor.

Af­ter mak­ing the case that to­days’ own­ers seek to earn a good rent on their prop­erty and there­fore the gov­ern­ment should step in to sub­sidise this rent for those who can­not af­ford it, he is per­fectly com­fort­able at hav­ing pri­vate own­ers carry the bur­den for those who live in their rent­con­trolled prop­er­ties, some­thing which to­day has been de­clared anti-con­sti­tu­tional, that is, the lease that con­verted to a con­tract and that is fixed at ridicu­lous rates. More like cham­pagne so­cial­ism pur­chased from a low cost su­per­mar­ket.

If some­thing is to be done here, it is for the own­ers to have the same com­pen­sa­tion from the gov­ern­ment for the dif­fer­ence that they are be­ing de­prived of in in­come. So if it is ok for the ten­ants who can­not af­ford the rent, then it should also be re­spected that own­ers who are un­able to re­ceive their en­ti­tled earn­ing, be com­pen­sated ac­cord­ingly.

We have noth­ing against gov­ern­ment com­ing up with al­ter­na­tive hous­ing for those gen­uine cases where they can­not af­ford the rent or who are find­ing them­selves with­out an al­ter­na­tive, but let’s not kid our­selves that ev­ery­one in this con­trolled rent hous­ing is in a po­si­tion of poverty or who has no other means. In­deed, many of the sit­ting ten­ants are ac­tu­ally bet­ter off than the own­ers.

To put it into per­spec­tive, such con­tracts may have ex­pired in 1971 but still bind the own­ers to the agree­ment therein. That is four gen­er­a­tions ago. 45 years ago. A quar­ter of a cen­tury ago.

So, when Joseph Mus­cat sat down with his cronies to come up with per­fect model of con­vert­ing en­ergy from blue to red, from oil to gas and from trans­fer­ring con­trol from ten­ant to owner – first move sig­nalled by the Café Pre­mier story - , from Europe to Malta by the cit­i­zen­ship scheme, some peo­ple, many peo­ple, were in­trigued. Maybe, fi­nally, they thought, their jus­tice had ar­rived.

But the truth of the mat­ter is that for Labour, th­ese things do not come nat­u­rally or gen­uinely. They are born of self-in­ter­est, not of so­cial jus­tice, vi­sion or co­op­er­a­tion. And they are con­ceived in an ill man­ner with odd part­ners and du­bi­ous con­se­quences. The op­por­tunis­tic ten­dency is the prime mo­ti­va­tor.

To­day the gov­ern­ment of Joseph Mus­cat is strug­gling. Suf­fer­ing a sig­nif­i­cant drop in the polls and pub­lic opin­ion, they are on the cusp of be­ing ex­posed yet again. One scan­dal af­ter an­other has caused their mon­u­ment to show cracks and be­gin drop­ping an arm or lose a foot.

Be­cause whilst they were so pre­oc­cu­pied with the past of the Na­tion­al­ist party, the world moved on. We now live in an age where there is dif­fu­sion of in­for­ma­tion and rep­u­ta­tion has be­come the new cap­i­tal. The cur­rency of the new econ­omy is trust. And un­for­tu­nately for Mus­cat, Schem­bri and Mizzi, they im­ploded and came crash­ing down in this depart­ment and lost all the trust of the peo­ple.

To­day, hurtling to­wards them is a sharp and clear mes­sage re­gard­ing some­thing that could not be seen be­fore. The Panama Pa­pers show us what hap­pens to money that stinks.

The ob­vi­ous non-starter and self-serv­ing busi­ness of the notever-needed new power sta­tion run­ning on LNG with Elec­tro­gas and the sale of the BWSC to Shang­hai Elec­tric is the em­blem of greed and cor­rup­tion and the sheer lack of good will and gen­uine in­tent to con­struct, to serve and pro­vide.

Cou­pled with the shad­owy setup of the Vi­tals Health project for the three hos­pi­tals, where we do not even know who the true own­ers of this com­pany are, we are left with no other con­clu­sion than that what­ever may have seemed at­trac­tive four years ago, is now noth­ing more than a pile of ash.

Quite likely, E Grant is next.

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