The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

A dangerous mixture

Rachel Borg Saturday, 8 August 2020, 08:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

In our construction industry we are faced with destruction of property and of life.  Once it happens, a building collapses and a life is taken, it is over, final and there is nothing to say that can justify such incompetence and gross error allowed to operate in the neighbourhood.

Tuesday night’s devastating explosion in Lebanon, a Mediterranean country, that left not just its citizens but the entire international community, in utter shock and horror, sent waves of fear into our homes and anger will soon follow for the Lebanese.

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The anger will be justified.  Prime Minister Hassan Diab may say that he will be sure to find the culprits but the man on the street and foreigners who have made Beirut their home, will tell you right away that the main culprit is the government who has allowed Lebanon to suffer economic and fiscal incompetence and corruption.

In an analysis by Zeina Karam Associated Press on August 03, just a day before the incident, she wrote:

“But the current crisis is largely of Lebanon’s own making; a culmination of decades of corruption and greed by a political class that pillaged nearly every sector of the economy.”

It is reported by reliable sources that there had been several letters and notifications issued stating that the storage of the ammonium nitrate, that caused the explosion in Beirut, was not safe and action needed to be taken to ensure its removal.  It was ignored for 6 years.  The result is that over a hundred and more persons have lost their life, 100 are missing, thousands have been injured leaving them with permanent disabilities and the property and economy that was left around the wide radius of the blast is irreparable at this stage and survivors of businesses or habitation have been told to leave in case the air is polluted.

The explosion will now come to symbolise the corruption and failure of the state. 

In Lebanon, it is openly alleged how the incompetent president, while continuing to claim to be rooting out corruption, presides over his son-in-law's decade-long looting of the electricity budget's billions (one of the main reasons the country is bankrupt). 

There is no way that we can continue to carry on with just some argument here and there about the endemic corruption and infantile management we face in our own shores.  Besides bankruptcy, the possibility of catastrophe is not small when you assess the prevalent trend and composition of irresponsibility and impunity on a national scale.

At times it takes a catastrophe, an unprecedented event to illustrate what should have been plain to see.  Perhaps this is brushed aside as the old ‘hindsight’ so very handily used to cover incompetence these days.  But in reality it is far more serious than that. 

For now the event that is highlighting the underlying corruption and institutional failure is reflected in the surge of coronavirus cases in the past weeks whilst families bear the tragic loss of their loved ones in construction failures and continue protesting for justice.  The link between the ostentatious permissiveness of the mass tourism and the rapid resurgence of the virus can be laid squarely at the Prime Minister’s door who chose to run with the corporate demands of the MTA and the MHRA and become complicit with only one intention in mind, to show-off to Europe and the world and follow Joseph the salesman in renting out our island to the highest bidders.

Much of our economy has been based on rent.  Now the sacrifices we made to make Malta safe have been rented out and commercialised for the few.  Make no mistake, this has not worked at all to the benefit of the tourism sector in Malta.  It didn’t when tourism was good and it hasn’t especially now when we are trying to market our islands as a safe destination.

We have no more secure pillars to keep us going through the adversity around.  Without proper foreign investment and foreign currency there will be little to keep us afloat.  We cannot go on building and getting into debt. 

Holding on to this pattern of corruption at a state level is unsustainable.  The reforms that are needed cannot be cosmetic changes that do little to synchronise reality with truth.  The change must begin from the top level of the government and every institution that has become a pawn and source of personal income for the likes of Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and other beneficiaries. 

The problem is that corruption has become a commodity and an occupation.  By extending it to the public and making them a part of it, even simply by rewarding them with a Labour flag to fly, refuting the system will require a national effort. 

At this time we mourn with Lebanon and the tragic loss they have suffered.  Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees.  How many Lebanese will themselves have to leave their country, not just as a result of the explosion but also because of the huge unemployment and the corruption, amongst other factors, that has kept the country from providing a secure future?  On top of all, the virus plagues the economy although the medical services there are well used to dealing with emergencies.  80% of imports come in through the port that is now in ruins and Lebanon depend on imports.

Finding our way back is not going to be easy.  We should take heed of the events presenting themselves and create a safe and prosperous environment for all.   We cannot afford to be abandoned to selfish and short-sighted actions that no longer have any meaning or sustainable future.

Robert, we are watching and we are not for rent.  Your presumptuous and impetuous actions are not what we expect from a leader at this critical time.  The Labour government is not a private entity.  Neither are we consoled by a Fawlty Towers handling of emergency.

It is not a matter of corruption designer label for Joseph Muscat, the brand you must follow.  A country has a diverse public with its own needs and that is what a government is there for, to address those needs and ensure their concerns are a priority.  It is not a functionary of the lobbies and donors of the party. 

Pray for Lebanon.  May this tragic incident bring about the help they need to overcome past and present losses.

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