The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

TMIS Editorial: When non-reactions speak volumes

Sunday, 2 December 2018, 20:30 Last update: about 15 days ago

It is now more than blatantly obvious that the government has closed ranks rather tightly and intends not to react in any tangible way to the damning ElectroGas report published by the Auditor General on the commissioning of the Delimara power station, that centre of gravity from where it seems so much rot has spread.

Well, that non-reaction is actually a reaction that speaks volumes, as do all the government’s other non-reactions.

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Apart from Minister Konrad Mizzi’s rather strange assertions that the Auditor General, and a European Commissioner, believe that the whole thing, in spite of the 600-page report in pure black and white, was an example of ‘best practice’, and the reality defying statements from the Prime Minister, this appears to be yet another case of clamming up and burying heads in the sand until the storm blows safely over.

Just as in the case of the recent 17 Black revelations and the demands to publish the full Egrant magisterial inquiry, which the Opposition Leader has had to appeal to the Courts for it to be released.

When Mizzi says the power station project was an example of ‘best practice’, perhaps the appropriate question would be: Best practice, for whom?

After all, the Prime Minister has always said that his Labour Version 2.0 under his stewardship would always be business friendly, we just did not realise at the time just how business-friendly he would be, or what, or whose, business he was talking about exactly.

The government should not be in the business of business, it should foster and nurture business, but those running the country should certainly not be making business happen for its own people.

That is exactly what Mizzi and his cohort at the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, have been doing since day one.

A Prime Minister worth his salt would have defenestrated the pair from one of the upper level windows of Castille a long time ago. It is only the Prime Minister who has the authority to remove them and the fact that he has not means that he is either willingly complicit in these multiple daylight robberies of the state coffers, or he is being forced to comply, or he is in complete dereliction of duty.

At this stage, we would really like to know which one it is, there is very little else that is of more national importance than this.

Sweetheart deals are nothing new when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment into a country, and Malta in the past entered into several arrangements with the private sector, which received advantageous terms in return for investing in the country and employing its workers.

But today’s sweetheart deals have a completely new meaning, when the sweethearts are actually those who are running the country.

In fact, such sweetheart deals take on a completely new ominous context when it is suspected that members of government are benefitting in one way or another from such deals.

The ElectroGas deal has been one such glaring example, the Vitals Global Healthcare deal is another. Both are worth billions and both feed off crucial state services that never run dry and present continual, never-ending revenue flows.

Vitals Global healthcare was a tiny, unknown company with absolutely no track record in healthcare, let alone in running state facilities. And again, the company is owned by persons unknown in the secretive jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands, and that company, like Gasol, is exiting Malta by selling its concession after just 21 months of operations.

But the government appears to not be bothered about what it made from the deal. Nor does it appear to be concerned about who the beneficiaries of the deal are. Like the power station deal, the beneficiaries of the hospitals deal remain hidden in a shady jurisdiction’s secret corporate registry, and they will perhaps never be known save for a fortuitous Panama Papers style leak.

Thanks to the Opposition, this case will also be investigated by the courts after PN leader Adrian Delia took the issue to Court.

In both cases, the companies that enter into sweetheart deals with the government see their value driven upwards by the attractive incentives offered by the government, and sell out at a profit which is in most cases earned off the back of the Maltese taxpayer.

The other question is: in addition to these high profile, multi-million euro deals, how many other smaller ones have been struck that no one knows anything about?

But if all the sweetheart deals are to be investigated by the Auditor General, will they merely suffer the same fate as the ElectroGas report? Will they merely be ignored until, one day, the administration of this country, which is perhaps viewed by some as little more than a piggy bank to be raided, is changed and real action is taken?

It seems that, sadly, this will in all probability be the case.

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