One way to analyse Labour’s first three years in government is by judging the performance of different Cabinet ministers. Some, including Evarist Bartolo, Helena Dalli and Edward Zammit Lewis, are generally having a positive impact in their respective fields, namely education, civil liberties and tourism. Some others, such as Michael Farrugia, are more of a mixed bag through ‘third way’ social policy measures, while others, like Joe Mizzi, are conspicuous by their failures or their absence.
Leo Brincat, despite being a knowledgeable and decent minister, is a disappointment in matters such as ODZ and Mepa’s demerger.
Owen Bonnici is now as disappointing as he was promising in the initial months of the legislation.
Then there is Konrad Mizzi. In a normal democracy, he would have resigned as soon as the word Panama was announced.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is looking increasingly weak in the face of the controversies around.
One can also analyse Labour through policy impacts. For example, economic growth is high and unemployment rates are low in a relatively stable economy, the latter being inherited from the legacy of previous administrations.
Yet, this is coming at a price. Much economic growth – for example, in the construction sector – is not being reflected in a better quality of life for residents. And the fruits of economic growth do not seem be distributed in an equitable manner. Low-paying and precarious jobs are very present in certain sectors and some big business interests seem to be more equal than common citizens.
The government itself seems to have become a business
What makes matters worse is the widespread feeling that there seems to be no difference between certain big business interests and the interests of the ruling clique. The government itself seems to have become a business. Otherwise, how can one explain the government’s €10 million gift to the Labour Party in the Australia Hall controversy? How can one explain the Gaffarena issue? How can one explain Panamagate?
I will not repeat what I wrote about in my article last week in the Times of Malta. But I do insist that, in a normal democracy, it would simply be unacceptable to have a super minister and deputy leader and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff being involved in financial investments in Panama, a money-laundering haven.
Other big scandals under this administration and the one before it are pale in comparison to Panamagate. There are simply too many aspects of Panamagate that cannot be ignored.
Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri have not explained why they chose Panama, of all countries in the world, for their financial investments. And, to be frank, I cannot see anything to justify such a decision.
In such a context, the negotiations of Joseph Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri with the government of Azerbaijan, erstwhile known for corruption and authoritarian rule, were extremely suspicious, especially when one keeps in mind that these were hidden from the Maltese public and no public officer accompanied the govern-ment’s ruling clique.
Within the bigger picture of Malta’s non-transparent energy agreements, things become even more suspicious.
In such a context, why is Mizzi given so much preferential treatment by Muscat? Why was he promoted to party deputy leader? And why isn’t the commissioner of police investigating Panamagate?
The Labour business government has also been steadfast in its lack of transparency in other sectors, as was the case with the Sadeen institute.
Then there are other related issues which, to me, reflect the general malaise of the current Labour government. These range from non-enforcement in so many areas such as occupational health and safety, transport and environment, three deaths of persons under police custody, and the staunch refusal to allow a terminally-ill prisoner to spend the last days of his life with his family.
A party which is supposed to be somewhere on the left of the political spectrum should know much better on such issues. Which gives rise to the question: is Labour left at all?
The big picture of Labour’s three years is therefore negative. There are too many recurrent examples of bad governance and looting the common good. It is a pity that some positive initiatives in certain sectors are completely clouded by Labour’s stormy weather.
Michael Briguglio is a sociologist.