Whenever I hear those words from the mouth of a politician, whether it is from Donald Trump or from our Prime Minister, it sends a shiver down my spine and a trickle of cold sweat forms on my forehead.
Politicians who use this term either have a finger in the pie or have fallen prey to the heavy lobbying efforts of business, oligarchs, construction industry, illicit gambling or mafias.
A trickle-down economy is one where everything is organised so that selected elites are given red carpets wherever they go, are allowed almost complete freedom to carry out their business without interference or controls, and where legislation is passed to facilitate the creation of wealth by the selected top 10 per cent of society in the hope that some of this wealth would trickle down to the lower levels of society.
Intricate connections exist between decision-makers and the selected elite – between Castille and the oligarchs, property developers and low-wage workforce importers (aka people traffickers). These are the people running our country.
Where the regulators that manage areas like planning, environment, police or financial services are not independent, there is little hope that the wealthy will freely share with the poorer and more dependent sections of society, their staff, their service providers or their customers.
Charities in our country seem to profit during these times of the law of the jungle. The Maltese seem to have a deep-down fear of hell. They know they are going there because they have cheated the system and made shady backroom deals with the government to obtain permits, public land, seabed rights, foreshore exclusivity, banking licences, EU passports, illegal visas, hospitals, power stations, road contracts, direct orders and usury rates for rental contracts. They know they are trampling workers’ rights as trade unions stand by and applaud, and as workers from abroad take Maltese jobs at slave labour conditions.
The list can go on and on. The Church tells us, and in our private and innermost conscience we know, that all these acts are sins.
Perhaps hell does not exist, but the cheaters in politics and in the private sector, as good Maltese and as good Catholics, have to hedge their bets. So they give donations and promise votes to both parties before elections, just in case, and then they vote for whoever strikes the best secret pre-election deal, whether on a power station, a hospital privatisation or a high-rise building.
Like people did in the Dark Ages, they buy their way to heaven. Our Prime Minister leads the way by giving €5 million of public argent (anagram of Egrant) to a charity on TV, out of his heart’s generosity or his soul’s fear. On TV, the db Group gives away a big cheque to show everyone that they publicly repent for having fleeced us all in underpaying for the ITS premises.
I will not list all of the charities and donations or the many post-mortem donations to the various old people’s homes and religious orders since these are too many to count.
This is also part of the trickle-down economy.
Do we want to live in such a society?
I certainly find such a society disgusting.
Worst of all, the trickle-down economy was not what was promised before the 2013 election. In fact, the opposite was promised, and it was probably those promises – of a fairer, better regulated, more environmental, more transparent and more accountable society based upon meritocracy – that won the election.
Perhaps hell does not exist, but the cheaters in politics and private sector, as good Maltese and as good Catholics, have to hedge their bets
Trump, at least, promised a trickle-down economy openly. He is a Fascist who hates Socialism, and he stands by what he believes.
Unlike Trump, our Prime Minister was not open about his intentions. On the contrary, he promised a Socialist heaven on earth and instead produced a ruthless, capitalist, hell on earth, built upon imported slave labour without consideration for the environment and cultural heritage, nor a care for skylines.
He strengthened the tax haven policies inherited from his predecessors by lowering the level of supervision. He allowed shady characters to buy three hospitals. He promoted oil and gas deals with despotic countries, secretly arranged before the election, and ensured pro-oligarchic government intervention in the labour, construction, town planning and social affairs of the country.
He also sells our birth right by granting passports for money to tax fugitives, despotic politicians and people seeking secret ways to enter other European countries. He allows bankers to escape with incriminating documents in the dead of night on a private jet owned by a company that received a very lucrative advertising contract from the government shortly after the getaway by night.
That this was done intentionally is obvious from the secret pre-election meetings with Cambridge Analytica and the opening of bank accounts and secret companies in Panama by three senior political figures at the top of Castille a few days after the election. Names of two are known to all but they retain their positions. The third, still unnamed but likely to be very politically exposed, remains a mystery. Your guess is as good as mine.
Whoever it is, the fact that the company was set up is a shame and a dishonour to our country.
We are in a world of man-eating-man, where the top 10 per cent of our society (around 40,000 people) are getting richer, and the remaining 400,000 citizens may, at best, feed off the crumbs that fall from the table.
Reality has shown that this system does not function. It does not function in the US, it does not function in Russia, and it does not function in Malta. As many as 92,000 are at risk of immediate poverty, not earning enough to survive or to put aside some savings for the future.
We are made to believe that by building another 100,000 luxury apartments we will get billionaires investing in Malta so long as all the foreshore is reserved for them, as well as the seashore and seabed.
A lot of normal Maltese mortals have to survive on between €500 and €1,200 per month, which is not enough to pay for rent and essentials. They have to take a second or a third job just to make ends meet.
We are asked to believe that by building a couple of walled-in enclaves for six-star tourists and big spenders, these people will actually come. Why should they when the rest of the country looks like a one-star rubbish heap with broken pavements, rubbish outside houses in plastic bags, potholes in most roads, traffic congestion with terrible air quality, cheap coffee shops encroaching on every pavement and a very unhappy 90 per cent of the country. Six-star tourists want a six-star country outside the high walls that enclose their resort.
When our trade unions turn their heads the other way and pretend not to see the plight of their members, when the entire world looks at us and calls us corrupt, how can we continue to accept a trickle-down economy forced upon us by stealth in 2013?
Maybe it is time to don our yellow vests and march in the streets or maybe our tolerance still has some way to run before the cup of dismay and disappointment overflows.
It is time for a change. I would welcome a mixed economy with more control, regulation, honesty and a fairer distribution of revenues in the near future.
John Vassallo is a former ambassador of Malta to the EU.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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