The Malta Independent 4 December 2023, Monday
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The coming scam

Noel Grima Sunday, 1 October 2023, 07:58 Last update: about 3 months ago

Now everything’s turned mellifluous, saccharine even. All is well and all will be well.

Malta, in preparation for the European election, has turned into a Potemkin village.

The name comes from the extraordinary efforts by Grigori Potemkin, former lover of Empress Catherine II of Russia, to erect cardboard villages along the route of the Empress’s 1787 tour of Crimea. The fake villages were populated with fake cheerful peasants waving to the Empress. As soon as she passed, the fake village was taken down and the peasants taken down the river to re-enact the scam.


We now have our own Potemkin school. It has been reported that Ursula Von Der Leyen was taken to a school in Gozo when she visited Malta on Friday and shown a school rebuilt by European funds. Only, since only part of the school has been done, she was carefully screened from the neglected parts.

Almost without noticing it, we are now in the campaign for the European Parliament election. And all efforts are being made to persuade us we are well and all will be well.

This is the music we will be hearing over the coming months, starting with the Budget Speech. Perhaps even earlier we will be told about the resurrection of Air Malta under a different name. We will be flooded with billboards and statistics telling us our growth beats that of Europe and as for inflation and the deficit, why they are of no consequence.

We are in for entire months of Potemkin shams. But behind the cardboard facades of this Potemkin island, there’s a far different reality.

Let’s start with the quality of life. The number of people living below the poverty line has increased as has the number of people living in garages. People cannot find places to rent, not even at €1,000 a month. People are renting rooms, not entire apartments.

And as for those who have their own residence, they cannot be sure the views from their balconies or roofs are guaranteed, nor that the house next door will not be pulled down. Nor that the council or some authority pulls up the street and leaves it like that for months.

People have to endure long traffic jams, not alleviated by the newly-built roads. There is an almost complete absence of law and order, of police on the roads, except for sticking fines for relatively minor infractions.

People are angry, as witness the many cases of road rage one hears about.

Many get incoherent about their salaries especially with rampant inflation. They look with envy at those who have wangled a better job, a promotion, a person of trust status, a salary that is honestly far beyond what they should get.

As for the coming COLA increase, reported to be some €13 a week, that is no government largesse but we simply getting back what we have already spent.

Then, at the other end, you get those who have been caught up in this benefits scam, who certainly have already spent what they got and who now have to give back at €100 a month their illegal gains.

I am not speaking here of nationalists or labourites, but simply of people who try their best for their families but are defeated time and again.

They will now be mollified by a cheque or two for the most transparent reasons, or so it is hoped in this Potemkin country.

The list of grievances continues. Malta has become a far too crowded island and the doors have been thrown wide open in the foolish and madcap reasoning that more people mean more growth when actually this means more people using the health service than it can cope with. More people than the police can cope with. More people than the public transport can carry.

And as more trees are cut down and as more building goes on, the country has come to resemble a vast building site.

People are now reacting against a manifestly unjust system of justice that crucifies the small man but lets the big miscreants off the hook.  But whatever the polls might say, they are still not enough to bring a sea change. Easily led, easily scammed, they easily fall for the Potemkin ruse.


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