On Saturday I will vote Nationalist. Here’s why. But first, a couple of things that my choice is not about. It is certainly not about my love for Malta. I have never loved Malta and never will, and I am also resolved never to die, kill or do anything else for it. I find the whole shebang of flags, slogans, amorous songs, declarations and rhetoric positively insufferable.
That said, I live here and plan to continue doing so. So I have a stake in the politics and governance of the place. It’s in my interest that Malta be run as soundly as possible.
Nor is my choice about a higher moral order or a party that is purer than the other. I’m sure there are as many potential crooks in the Nationalist as there are in the Labour party. I’m also convinced that there are a fair few Nationalist politicians who would love to populate a Panama account with their assets. Thing is, if and when that happens, I should be delighted to help boot them out.
The questions must be whether or not the country has been properly governed, and whether or not Labour deserve the chop.
My answer to the first is that it has been something of a curate’s egg. Joseph Muscat likes to tell us that corruption is the only weapon in the Nationalist arsenal, but he is not necessarily right.
For example, I am unimpressed by tales of the über-economy. First, it’s not as if we were rescued from the brink of starvation. The notion that under the Gonzi government the economy was staġnat (stagnant) is a myth that has been repeated enough times to become obviously true.
Second, I don’t see anything new about the fabled Muscat economy. For the most part, it’s just a glut of the same: two rather than one million tourists, a fleet as opposed to a flotilla of boats, a zillion flats, and so on.
Third, swathes of the economy are doing well in spite of, not because of, government. In construction and so-called development, for example, a general laissez-faire and devil-may-care has produced yet another boom at the expense of good governance and sustainability. A government that issues permits at the drop of a hat is not a good one – it is simply one that lets people freewheel to the bank at the expense of everything else.
Not only has Muscat turned a blind eye to corruption; he has managed to implode a government that could have been one of the most stable ever
Finally, the Muscat economy has little time for things like social justice. The mantra is that when wealth is produced at the top, some will trickle down. It doesn’t seem to occur to the Partit tal-Ħaddiema to produce wealth at the bottom and let it well up. When the campaigners for a decent minimum wage suggested this, they were accused of putting the über-economy at risk. As do things like infrastructural works – four years into the fabulous seam, our roads are still rubbish.
Still, these are small things compared to the reason why Muscat has to go. Which is that his handling of the Panama and Egrant matters is completely unacceptable and a paragon of bad judgement and governance.
The one economic sector in which Muscat excelled is that of economy with the truth. He has said that he had no option but to call a snap election. That’s because the Nationalists, and latterly the Russians, had made up stories that threatened to destablise the country.
On the Russians, the jokes have been cracked to death so I’ll stick to the serious bits. I’m not sure what the Prime Minister meant when he described some countries as “allies”. I was not aware we enjoyed a special relationship with some over others. Besides, it seems not to have crossed the his mind that the CIA and MI6 have every reason to goad Malta into a ruck with Russia – in other words, the US and Britain framed Russia with the canard that Russia framed Muscat.
Except it doesn’t matter, because there are at least two things about the whole thing that make it tosh. First, the Pilatus Mata Hari would be the first secret agent in human history to blow her own cover and testify in court. At this rate I’d say Russian intelligence was due for a major overhaul.
Second, Muscat’s is the last government the Kremlin would want to destabilise. Oligarchs tend to like things like dodgy banks and bespoke citizenship. Putin is fond of oligarchs, Muscat’s government of dodgy banks and bespoke citizenship. Since the Kremlin and Castille have common interests, it follows they should get on rather well.
So, was it the Nationalist Party that destabilised the system? Yes, and I caused the Punic Wars. The PN was well within its right to cry foul about Panama, and to wage war about Egrant – these are very serious charges that concern the top people in government. Besides, since when is legitimate opposition a threat to the stability of a country?
Nor was there a threat to Labour’s parliamentary majority. Had Muscat nothing to hide, he would have first cleared his name and then gone to the polls. Meanwhile he would have governed a bit more and given us an extra helping of the wonder economy.
He would also have seen the presidency out the proper way. As is, government finds itself just about balancing the presidency even as its key people are taken up campaigning. In January we were told that all eyes would be on Malta. Presumably those same eyes are now on the billboards that show our Prime Minister in not exactly flattering terms.
Muscat has forced us into an election, when all we want to know is the outcome of an inquiry that concerns him and him alone. He knows that the country is headed for serious trouble as the result of the election and that of the inquiry clash head on. Which they will, very soon, whichever way things go.
This makes Muscat unworthy of the top job. Not only has he turned a blind eye to appalling corruption – he has also single-handedly managed to implode a government that could have been one of the most stable ever. By his own judgement, four years is enough.