The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

TMIS Editorial: Metro project – how corrupt will it be?

Sunday, 10 October 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 11 days ago

Government last week announced a proposed €6bn metro project and the country went into a frenzy. Suddenly, our “dream” of having an underground system, similar to the ones we love to use when travelling in foreign cities, became closer to reality.

A metro system could be highly beneficial for a country whose roads are getting increasingly congested. There are also multiple environmental benefits to having such a system and fewer cars on the roads.

Naturally, people have launched discussions on several different aspects of the metro.

There are those who question whether the project is affordable and viable. There are those who expressed concern at the potential impact on the environment. Some have questioned whether those people whose homes will have a tunnel dug underneath them will have to live with constant vibration and noise, both during the construction phase and during the subsequent years of operation.

Perhaps fewer have questioned how the project will affect corruption in Malta.

We say this not because we want to be negative, but because history has taught us that mega projects that take place under Labour administrations are almost always tainted with corruption, nepotism and direct orders.

Just look at the infamous hospitals’ privatisation deal. Joseph Muscat’s administration gave away three public hospitals to a shady company that had no experience whatsoever in the field of healthcare. The company eventually fled after robbing the Maltese taxpayer of millions of euros, with nothing to show for it. That concession was eventually transferred to another company but, once again, the deal was a mess, with deadlines missed, budget overruns and a legal bid by the Opposition to take the hospitals back. Government itself has admitted the fiasco and is trying to change the conditions of the contract.

Just look at the Electrogas deal, in which suspected Daphne murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech was a main figure. This power station deal turned out to be one of the most controversial contracts ever given. It was, and still is, tainted with allegations of corruption, bad governance and conflicts of interest.

Look at the Montenegro windfarm deal, once again involving Yorgen Fenech, and from which his 17 Black allegedly made a killing. Enemalta lost millions through that deal, which is now subject to a police investigation.

Another case in point is the AUM/Sadeen deal, where a private company with no previous experience in education was given two prime pieces of real estate – one in Cospicua and the other in Zonqor. Several years down the line, the AUM is still a failing enterprise.

There are several other examples one could quote, but we don’t have the space required to name them all.

Now, one might argue that the Muscat and Konrad Mizzi days are behind us, but the fact is that this administration remains one that is tainted with corruption, a government that is viewed as untrustworthy by its international peers.

Many of Muscat’s ministers are still part of Robert Abela’s Cabinet. These are the same people who closed an eye to the corruption that took place during the Muscat years.

Many of the people in the civil service, who played a part in dodgy deals, are still there.

None of the people involved in these scandals have been prosecuted. No one has spent a single day behind bars.

So how can we be assured that the metro deal – arguably the biggest and most expensive project this country will have ever undertaken – will not be tainted by corruption too?

When you think about the huge amount of money involved, the large number of investors and contractors that will be involved, one cannot but think that this will be the perfect environment for corruption to fester.

Before Malta goes through with the project, we the electorate, must think things through.

Is the PL the government we want to lead such a project? Does it have the credentials to ensure that everything will be done by the book, that there will be no kickbacks, conflicts of interest and backhand deals?

Is the current class of politicians the right one for the job? Or are they too old-school, too entrenched in this attitude of laissez-faire to do the job properly and cleanly?

This is what we must keep in mind when voting in our next Parliament.

As the country embarks on this project of massive proportions, we need a political class that does things differently – a new generation of young policymakers that have standards and ethics at heart.

We need people who have no link to previous administrations and the scandals that came with them, irrespective of which side of the fence they sit on.

We have already seen what corruption does to a country. We are paying the price of it now.

The grey listing is not only about technical failures on money laundering rules. No, it is also about how our country is perceived abroad today, as a result of years of unbridled corruption and political parties that are in the pockets of big developers. It is a result of years of inaction by people who are still in the driving seat today.

Are these the people we want to steer this €6 billion project?

 

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