When I was reading the news reports about the Prime Minister Robert Abela’s vision for the country for the next 10 years, I thought that he sounded like he had already legalised cannabis in the Auberge de Castille.
How would you explain a document that borders on fiction? Not content with being the ‘Best in Europe’, our prime minister would also like Malta to be the ‘Best in the World’. That’s quite a step up, isn’t it? Not for him, the tired mantra of his predecessor who was gifted €120,000 for his efforts to make our country the ‘Best in Europe’.
Let’s see how Malta has fared under the ‘Best in Europe’, shall we? I shall be using the five pillars touted by the prime minister of hyperbole.
First is sustainable economic growth. As with the rest of the document, this section waffles on by using soundbites but fails to underscore that sustainable economic growth means also investing in human resources. And no, this does not mean investing in your chums. Moreover, how can Abela speak about economic growth when huge chunks of taxpayers’ money that can be invested for the common good are finding their way into the deep pockets of blue-eyed boys like the Apap Bolognas, the Gasans, James Barbara of James Caterers Ltd, Silvio Debono of db Group, the Zammit Tabonas…?
So, what’s the ‘Best in the World’ going to look like? Nepotism, clientelism and corruption on steroids? Now this would make a striking electoral campaign slogan, prime minister. At least, it’s not built on lies.
Next up is infrastructure, Ian Borg and Frederick Azzopardi’s personal kingdom bequeathed to them by direct order. I jest, but do I really? Last March, we learnt that just 0.5 per cent of Malta’s land area is covered by trees. Sure, Malta was never a country that luxuriates in rolling verdant hills but the way these two go about literally covering every bit of greenery with parking lots, tarmac on country roads and flyovers that need multiple inaugurations by a drooling prime minister is nothing short of glee.
Borg’s Wikipedia page reads: “[Borg] has an extreme dislike for trees, possibly stemming from a case of dendrophobia.” So, was the direct witness report by an eminent environmentalist of Borg filming and smirking his way through the destruction of the trees in Attard some sort of mandated therapy? Will being the ‘Best in the World’ in infrastructure mean that Caligula and Incitatus uproot the remaining 0.5 per cent?
What’s the ‘Best in the World’ going to look like? Nepotism, clientelism and corruption on steroids?– Alessandra Dee Crespo
Ah education, next. Such a remarkable triumvirate of ministers! Evarist Bartolo, Owen Bonnici and Justyne Caruana. Bartolo spent most of his time, and still does, writing pointless sermons on Facebook, all the while oblivious (cough) to his canvasser’s and aide’s alleged corrupt practices. Bonnici was such an outstanding role model for responsible citizenship to his charges after having been found guilty by the highest court in the land of repeatedly trampling over our rights to protest and freedom of expression, while Caruana gifted her special friend an iced bun to visit schools that were closed because of the pandemic to draft recommendations on how to improve the national sports school’s ability to produce elite athletes.
According to reports, even when this contract was rescinded after a public outcry, her friend is still employed in her ministry. So many distractions, so little time to work on education. No wonder, as Manuel Delia noted in a blog about the prime minister’s preposterous claims that “our educational system ranks 55th in the world but Malta is 71st in the world in the rankings for the rate of people who make it beyond sixth form and our adult literacy ranks 74th in the world”. You needn’t go far to see this. Just one look at the comments on social media and you want to gouge your eyes out with toothpicks. By the time we become the best in the world, we would only understand the language of emojis.
Good governance makes Edward Zammit Lewis write tall stories in the press and spin like those fetching ballerinas in Disney’s Fantasia. According to the Council of Europe, good governance is the responsible conduct of public affairs and management of public resources.
Abela pledges that good governance is one of the pillars of his 10-year economic vision. I can hear you all laughing from here. The list is too long for a poor, little column like this one but, in the era of the ‘Best in Europe’, a journalist was blown up for pointing out that politically exposed persons were behaving badly, that the government was in bed, some literally, with big business and that the public resources is an orgy of mismanagement and pillage.
Journalists are called arrogant by the government for wanting answers to their questions or are blacklisted. We are 81st in world rankings on media freedom, the ‘Best in Europe’ only for the likes of Viktor Orbán. What will ‘Best in the World’ look like? I shudder to contemplate.
Next up is the environment. Abela pushes these outlandish claims like the environment means anything to him except to monetise public spaces for the few and to pull down vernacular buildings to blight our landscape with monstrous high-rises to make way for ‘modernity’. After having built almost everywhere during the ‘Best of Europe’ era, will the ‘Best in the World’ mean appropriating the coast and beyond? Oh, wait… isn’t that happening already? Now who had said “wherever environmental damage is greatest, so is corruption?”. I know. Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Carmelo Abela, you know the minister who may or may not have been involved in a bank heist, bragged recently that 84 per cent of promises of the Labour governments have already been implemented. He might know a thing or two about unfinished business, right? Methinks that the prime minister is going to too much trouble to implement the remaining 16 per cent, unless the 10-year vision is another road map and backroom promises must be kept. After all, Abela is the mirror image of his predecessor but with bigger muscles and a bigger Messiah complex.
Alessandra Dee Crespo, president-elect, Repubblika
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.