The Malta Independent 19 December 2018, Wednesday

On top of the heap

Noel Grima Sunday, 5 August 2018, 10:55 Last update: about 6 months ago

I honestly cannot understand the euphoria that accompanied the conclusions of the Bugeja inquiry on the Egrant claims. Or rather, I can perhaps understand the immense relief with which the Muscat family greeted the conclusions but not the feelings expressed by many others.

I mean: look around you – a Malta that has been turned into one big construction site, with ensuing chaos on practically every street, with a landscape dominated by cranes. Now even the roads are being dug up, simultaneously, in many places.

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Many will probably reply this is temporary and once finished the confusion, the dust; all the consequences we associate with construction will be finished. To which I can reply that once this construction will be concluded, another one will begin somewhere else, or else the industry will die.

And I am only referring to construction chaos, and not to so many chaos’ that proliferate. Who would want to be on top of this sorry heap?

After five years, or a legislature and a bit, what looked like solid achievements are now revealing their other side. A sense of euphoria swept the country and people rejoiced at economic growth fuelled by cuts in electricity bills. But now the growth is slowing and problems are re-emerging. If only problems could be solved with the redesign of roundabouts…

The country is filthy and dirty: it has lost its self-respect. Some localities are worse than others are, and while everybody knows about the problem, no one seems able to do anything about it. The government cannot point at one single victory in this regard. On the contrary, problems such as landfills and disposal of rubbish remain with no clear solution found.

The country is without a vision. For a long time, joining the EU was that kind of vision that inspired people. Once that was achieved, no other vision had that kind of potency – for some, it was putting Labour back in government, or Malta as the revolving presidency of the EU but that is not a lasting vision.

The government has become adept at finding ersatz substitutes, such are the regular ratings by the credit agencies but even that is fading. As our sister daily commented this week: “The government has of late been in the habit of issuing self-congratulatory statements each and every time that credit rating agencies or institutions such as the International Monetary Fund shower the country's economic growth with praise, at times glossing over the finer print and risk caveats.

“But when Standard and Poor's this week highlighted the increased reputational and operational risks Malta's banking sector is facing, and increased its overall risk rating from four to six-out-of-10, there was no such announcement from the finance ministry.

“In fact, there has been stone cold silence from those quarters since Thursday and instead it was the Central Bank and the Malta Financial Services Authority that did the talking.”

There are also two developments for which one is uncertain whether to blame the government or not. One: Malta is awash with drugs, as can ironically be seen by the repeated drug arrests. Visitors from abroad report that not even in their countries are drugs so openly available. Two: we seem to be getting maybe an increase in murders, each more gruesome than the preceding ones.

But there are two aspects that really define the heap.

One is the sordid and unbelievable manner with which the Bugeja report is being handled. The fact that it should have been the Commissioner of Police who called for an investigation and not the Prime Minister, who is the victim in this case, is being glossed over. The fact that the Prime Minister has a full copy but not the Leader of the Opposition speaks volumes. The drip feed of juicy titbits from the report to MaltaToday which is the news institution that Castille prefers to work with has enormous consequences.

But what makes the situation really past salvation is the sorry state of the Opposition, with two halves engaged in a war to the death, despite claims to the contrary.

I repeat: who would want to be on top of the heap in these circumstances?

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