Not funny any­more

Malta’s cli­mate of­fers up a small but es­sen­tial fea­ture of our daily life – run­ning around in flip flops for around half of the year or more.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Rachel Borg is an in­de­pen­dent colum­nist based in the tourism in­dus­try

This lit­tle lux­ury has the ef­fect of tak­ing our mind off more se­ri­ous mat­ters, of let­ting things slide and look­ing on the bright side. And so it should be really. If Spain and Bel­gium could func­tion with­out a govern­ment for so many months, how bad can it be to go through life with flip flops?

When­ever Bri­tish tourists come to Malta for a sunny hol­i­day (or even if we are wear­ing coats and boots) the first thing they will do is change to flip flops and come what may. The im­por­tant thing is that hol­i­days re­quire flip flops and shorts and no mat­ter what the weather or tem­per­a­ture or how lit­tle space in their 10 kg carry on suit­case, that es­sen­tial item is the mark of a hol­i­day.

This state of mind, even for us Mal­tese is the pre­ferred one and the de­fault op­tion. If we could, we would make watch­ing foot­ball/go­ing shop­ping and wear­ing flip flops the clos­est thing to hav­ing a per­fect life.

But, as last week’s Gri­galata pound­ing onto our shores showed us, it is not al­ways so. Even­tu­ally, the beach packs up, the um­brel­las are closed and the roads are once again clogged with fum­ing dads and mums tak­ing their kids to school or sixth form and univer­sity. Be­fore you know it, Christ­mas is around the corner and two months of hi­ber­na­tion un­til the prep work be­gins again be­fore the ac­tual plunge into Sum­mer.

Know­ing full well that this is our nor­mal rou­tine, op­por­tu­ni­ties for hid­ing in­for­ma­tion, scan­dals, unan­nounced land grabs or recla­ma­tions, shady ap­provals for high-rise tow­ers, dodgy pro­mo­tions and let­ting off crim­i­nals with­out ar­rest, whilst treat­ing bomb ex­plo­sions as a trip to the gym be­fore go­ing to work, are easy enough to cre­ate.

But to learn the method of the dodge you need to have an­other skill set and that is the art of ly­ing and a course in the ben­e­fits of own­ing off­shore ac­counts.

The aw­ful truth is that the hol­i­day is over and the months of ly­ing on our back are be­com­ing a lux­ury few can af­ford. Those who thought that the the­atrics could carry on be­ing re­cy­cled show after show, are find­ing that they are be­com­ing less and less be­liev­able if not al­to­gether eas­ily dis­missed or ridiculed. Some of the re­worked ver­sions on the bud­get it­self and on the de­bates re­cently, in Par­lia­ment, are a mea­sure of how much this govern­ment has come to be­lieve its own style and rhetoric.

If that were not enough, we are given a proud state­ment from Elec­tro­gas – fi­nally from Elec­tro­gas and not from the Prime Min­is­ter or Min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio, Konrad Mizzi – about how the LNG tanker sur­vived the Gre­gale, like a child show­ing its mother a dry bed sheet the next morn­ing. Trans­port Min­is­ter, Joe Mizzi also stomps and fumes at us for not play­ing on the buses with him and Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne is him­self out of the pic­ture when the agree­ment with Vi­tals Health Group is fi­nally pre­sented with black outs all over it. How much we will be pay­ing for elec­tric­ity be­comes a game of monopoly and de­pend­ing on where the dice will fall, we will ad­vance or get back to Go. The cost of liv­ing in­crease is a les­son on add and sub­tract, one in my mind and two on my fin­gers and we are to be­lieve that Panama ac­counts are as nor­mal as miss­ing your home­work and say­ing sorry to teacher, whilst hav­ing your dad sign a pa­per to give to the Head.

And just as the edi­to­rial in the In­de­pen­dent of 1st Novem­ber – Our frail econ­omy, high­lighted so well, when you as­sess the real value of pros­per­ity, it shows a rather dif­fer­ent pic­ture than the one trum­peted by govern­ment.

Ul­ti­mately, there are only so many times that you can wear the same dress to an oc­ca­sion where ev­ery­one knows each other.

All of this, in com­bi­na­tion with the steady ex­po­sure of se­crets and funny in­vestors, are leav­ing this govern­ment to look more and more like a one-term mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion. They are as likely to per­suade us of the use­ful­ness of tak­ing our money to fund pri­vate busi­ness as they are of mak­ing us wealthy due to their own poli­cies.

Words fail when Min­is­ter Carmelo Abela praises govern­ment’s re­spect for court de­ci­sions, when prac­ti­cally the whole (and that’s huge) cabi­net ap­peared in court re­cently for the ap­peal case of the two par­lia­men­tary seats be­ing con­tested by the Op­po­si­tion. And Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Louis Grech wants to re­store pub­lic trust in EU in­sti­tu­tions when our Om­buds­man had to re­sort to court and wait through an ap­peal in or­der to be en­dorsed in per­form­ing his job.

Same with the the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Anal­y­sis Unit - a govern­ment agency es­tab­lished un­der the Pre­ven­tion of Money Laun­der­ing Act, when re­port­ing on the is­sue of the Panama ac­counts of Mizzi and Schem­bri. Or what about the Po­lice and the Army? Who will re­store our trust in them now?

So, really, it is just not funny any­more. The sooner we can get these clogs off our feet and re­vert to flip flops with a clear con­science and get to breathe out again and re­lax prop­erly, the sooner nor­mal life will be re­stored, along with trust and peace of mind.

We still have to sit through some ag­o­nis­ingly em­bar­rass­ing times with pro­grammes on for­eign TV cov­er­ing sto­ries of money laun­der­ing in Malta and var­i­ous other cre­ative en­ter­prises like sell­ing pass­ports and smug­gling diesel and drugs and what­ever else is a com­mod­ity these days.

We will also want to stay out of sight when the car­pets are rolled out in front of Castille and hands are shaken and car doors held open. Crys­tal en­crusted bags will be pre­sented and the cur­tain will be raised on an­other show about sailors and Strait Street, whilst the fire­works em­bla­zon Fort St An­gelo and sirens cut through the traf­fic jams over hastily laid tar­mac.

In the mean­time, its em­bar­rass­ment-in-chief prom­ises that tal­ent is com­ing to Malta and we are the best in Europe. Be­lieve it if you will. Win­ter may be ap­proach­ing but Sum­mer is not far off.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Satur­day 5 Novem­ber 2016

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