Evarist Bar­tolo takes top spot, Konrad Mizzi plumets but still ahead of PM

Malta Independent - - ISURVEY - He­lena Grech

Min­is­ter with­out Port­fo­lio Konrad Mizzi has been given his low­est rank­ing since The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sunday be­gan com­mis­sion­ing its iSur­vey, but has still main­tained a lead over Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat. He has also man­aged to re­main in the top five out of a 23-mem­ber Cabi­net.

Re­spon­dents were asked to name who they be­lieve is the best-per­form­ing Min­is­ter or Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary with­out be­ing prompted in any way.

Dr Mizzi topped the list in the iSur­veys of April 2016, April 2015, and May 2014. In De­cem­ber 2014, he was bested by then min­is­ter Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, be­fore she be­came Pres­i­dent of Malta. This time around, how­ever, Dr Mizzi lost 8.7 per­cent­age points, to rank fourth af­ter re­ceiv­ing 10.8 per cent of men­tions by re­spon­dents.

Em­ploy­ment and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo, who came sec­ond to Dr Mizzi this April, has now over­taken him to reach the top spot, re­ceiv­ing 19.5 per cent of men­tions – an in­crease of 2.9 per cent com­pared to the last sur­vey.

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat has held steady at fifth place, just af­ter Dr Mizzi, re­ceiv­ing 8.8 per cent of men­tions. He was ranked sec­ond in April 2015 (17.6 per cent), and dropped to fifth in April 2016 (9.6 per cent).

The top five names, which have re­mained un­changed since last April, de­spite the reshuf­fling be­tween them, are: Em­ploy­ment and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo (first at 19.5 per cent), Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne (sec­ond at 13.8 per cent), Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ed­ward Sci­cluna (third at 11.5 per cent), Min­is­ter with­out Port­fo­lio Konrad Mizzi (fourth at 10.8 per cent) and Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat (fifth at 8.8 per cent).

The reshuf­fles in rank­ing shown in the April 2016 iSur­vey, car­ried out in the wake of the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal, held on some seven months later. Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo had jumped to sec­ond in April, af­ter pub­lic per­cep­tion of him im­proved fol­low­ing his cryp­tic-yeto­b­vi­ous so­cial me­dia posts crit­i­cis­ing all those in­volved. He had also said that, were he in Dr Mizzi’s po­si­tion, he would take the ad­vice of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter and cur­rent MEP Al­fred Sant, and re­sign.

‘Panama Pa­pers’ refers to the leak of mil­lions of doc­u­ments show­ing the deal­ings of Panam­abased law firm Mos­sack Fonseca and its clients – of­ten the world’s elite. It ex­posed the com­pli­cated fi­nan­cial struc­tures set up to con­ceal a client’s wealth by tak­ing ad­van­tage of fi­nan­cially se­cre­tive ju­ris­dic­tions such as Panama and the Bri­tish Vir­gin Isles. This can be – and has been – used to legally avoid pay­ing tax, but se­ri­ous ques­tions have been raised as to how eth­i­cal it is to use them. While such fi­nan­cial struc­tures can be used to cover up il­le­gal­i­ties, be­ing named in the scan­dal does not nec­es­sar­ily im­ply that the per­son con­cerned was in­volved in il­le­gal­i­ties.

Min­is­ter Konrad Mizzi, when he still held the En­ergy and Health port­fo­lios, and the Prime Min­is­ter’s chief of staff Keith Schem­bri, had both been iden­ti­fied as own­ing a com­pany in Panama shel­tered by a trust in New Zealand. Be­ing po­lit­i­cally naïve was cited as part of an apol­ogy at the time, but both de­nied the more se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions that arise as a re­sult of such fi­nan­cial struc­tures such as tax avoid­ance and re­ceiv­ing kick-backs. The re­sul­tant con­tro­versy led to Dr Mizzi los­ing 17.6 per­cent­age points be­tween April 2015 and April 2016.

While Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ed­ward Sci­cluna kept his po­si­tion steady, at third best per­form­ing min­is­ter, he lost three per­cent­age points. He had been crit­i­cised for not act­ing more boldly at the time that Panama Pa­pers was un­fold­ing, but gen­eral pub­lic per­cep­tion from both sides of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide views him as hon­est and ca­pa­ble. The way in which the pub­lic re­sponded to the re­cently an­nounced 2017 bud­get also pre­vented him los­ing a higher num­ber of men­tions.

The top 10, in or­der, are: Ed­u­ca­tion and Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo, Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ed­ward Sci­cluna, Min­is­ter with­out Port­fo­lio Konrad Mizzi, Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat, Tourism Min­is­ter Ed­ward Zam­mit Lewis, Jus­tice and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici, Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Ac­tive Age­ing and Peo­ple with Dis­abil­ity Justyne Caru­ana, Econ­omy Min­is­ter Chris Car­dona and So­cial Di­a­logue, Civil Lib­er­ties and Con­sumer Af­fairs Min­ster He­lena Dalli.

Dr Dalli lost out, go­ing from sev­enth to tenth, but this is still bet­ter than in April 2015, when she re­ceived no men­tions.

Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Joe Mizzi no longer made the top-10 list, de­spite gain­ing 0.2 per­cent­age points – from 1.8 per cent last April to two per cent and 12th po­si­tion now. Dr Justyne Caru­ana took his place at num­ber eight, gain­ing 1.2 per­cent­age points since April, from 1.8 per cent to three per cent.

The sub­ject of traf­fic con­tin­ues to per­sist, but it must be said that the Kap­para fly-over – a ma­jor in­fras­truc­tural project – is com­ing along quickly.

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