Cor­rup­tion and what peo­ple think

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

At first glance, a sur­vey show­ing that nearly half the pop­u­la­tion thinks the govern­ment is cor­rupt should be con­sid­ered as bad news for Castille. But look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion from another an­gle, given the nu­mer­ous cor­rup­tion scan­dals that have hit the coun­try since the Labour Party took over in March 2013, the sur­vey re­sult may not be so ter­ri­ble for Joseph Mus­cat and Co.

Last Fri­day, our sis­ter news­pa­per pub­lished the first part of the re­sults of a sur­vey that was car­ried out by this pub­lish­ing house, com­mis­sioned to Busi­ness Lead­ers. Other parts of the sur­vey are be­ing pub­lished to­day and will con­tinue to be pub­lished in the com­ing week.

In an­swer to a ques­tion on cor­rup­tion, 47 per cent said they be­lieved the govern­ment is cor­rupt, while 37 per cent do not think so. The rest were ei­ther un­de­cided or would not an­swer.

In dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, the fact that nearly half the pop­u­la­tion thinks a govern­ment is cor­rupt would be very wor­ry­ing for the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Yet, with all that has hap­pened in this leg­is­la­ture – the Café Premier, the Gaf­farena scan­dal, Aus­tralia Hall, the hedg­ing agree­ment, the Libyan med­i­cal visas to name but a few, topped of course by the Panama Pa­pers – such a re­sult might not be bad at all.

It shows that, in spite of all th­ese in­stances and other sit­u­a­tions that have em­bar­rassed the govern­ment time and time again, half the peo­ple still think that the govern­ment is as clean as a whis­tle. Con­sid­er­ing that Malta is more or less di­vided in half in terms of po­lit­i­cal al­le­giance, one could ar­gue once again that, for Labourites, a Labour govern­ment can do no wrong.

It also shows that there is a large sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion that has been un­fazed by the string of sit­u­a­tions that would have led to in­di­vid­ual res­ig­na­tions or worse, had they had hap­pened abroad, but here in Malta are con­sid­ered as mi­nor blips by peo­ple who want to hold on to power at all costs and ir­re­spec­tive of the shame they bring to them­selves and to the coun­try as a whole.

Ac­count­abil­ity is a word that is used of­ten by politi­cians, but it seems that it ap­plies only to their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and not to them. If some­one on the other side does some­thing wrong, then he or she should go, but if it’s some­one from our side then we de­fend him or her un­til the end.

But such a re­sult also throws a bad light on the Opposition, which has seem­ingly not made any in­roads in all of this. None of the work that has been car­ried out by the Na­tion­al­ist Party to point out the govern­ment’s cor­rupt prac­tices has had an im­pact with the peo­ple. All the cam­paigns and mass protests in the streets of Val­letta to raise aware­ness on the var­i­ous is­sues that have dogged this ad­min­is­tra­tion have not dented peo­ple’s over­all per­cep­tion.

And this is con­firmed by other parts of the sur­vey which we are pub­lish­ing to­day, which show that, not­with­stand­ing ev­ery­thing that has taken place, Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat is still trusted more than his po­lit­i­cal coun­ter­part Si­mon Busut­til. Dr Mus­cat has been ac­cused of pro­tect­ing his right and left-hand men Kon­rad Mizzi and Keith Schem­bri, but he is still way ahead of Si­mon Busut­til when it comes to politi­cians that can be trusted.

Joseph Mus­cat is still rid­ing on the back of the huge elec­toral win his party achieved three and a half years ago with a com­fort­able mar­gin. It could be that the eco­nomic pros­per­ity that the coun­try is en­joy­ing is enough for the peo­ple to brush aside their con­cerns about cor­rup­tion. ‘If I have money in my pocket and food on the ta­ble, I don’t care what the top brass is do­ing’, is an ar­gu­ment that is made of­ten.

Iron­i­cally, un­der Lawrence Gonzi the econ­omy was do­ing per­fectly well in even worse times around the globe, and yet this was not enough for him to re­tain power, cer­tainly be­cause of fac­tors that went be­yond the oil scan­dal that erupted on the eve of the elec­toral cam­paign. Yet, this time around, it is clear that the feel-good fac­tor com­ing from an eco­nomic boom is suf­fi­cient for Joseph Mus­cat to re­main pop­u­lar.

The Na­tion­al­ist Party, on the other hand, is still far from be­ing a con­vinc­ing al­ter­na­tive govern­ment. Si­mon Busut­til has made great strides for­ward in his lead­er­ship skills since tak­ing over the party’s reins, but is still not per­ceived by many, in­clud­ing PN sup­port­ers, as be­ing bold enough. Added to this, the PN benches in Par­lia­ment are still oc­cu­pied by peo­ple who formed part of the 2013 down­fall, and the mem­o­ries of that have not gone away.

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