It all started with, “oh, so what! These are doing what the others had done all along their 25 years. So what?” ’
Yes, this is how it first started. The staunch party followers ever loyal to their leader, the switchers who were as yet unsure whether they had done the right thing or not, the social climbers who were eagerly looking forward to their new middle class – all were in no mood to upset their apple cart, in no vein to spoil their dream.
Anyway they had had enough of the previous administration. Twenty-five years is a long time. It is true that successive Nationalist governments had changed the face of the country, put a stop to violence and given our children huge opportunities. Their plan to have us join the European Union proved to be the correct one after all the blabber we were dished out about partnership and the CET for VAT foibles. It is true that they had taken all the right decisions in an unstable international environment and set our economy on the right footing. But then some of them had become arrogant, and it is said, even corrupt.
No, it was going to take more than a stupid mistake with Café Premier or a gaffe with Gaffarena to sway the people from the huge electoral victory they had given the socialists.
As time went by everybody seemed to be getting a €60,000 job. Everybody? Well, not really. Many of those at the party station, and a few others. But if you mixed in the right company you could land yourself a cushy government job, or a promotion that you thought you had never deserved. Some people had multiple promotions over several weeks and months. But who cares, the going was good.
Permits were being issued left, right and centre. This boosted the economy further and there was a domino effect on other businesses down the line. That’s clever, no? But not right. Oh, come on, what’s the harm? And since when have we been looking at our ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? The going is good, lots of money going around. It did start getting somewhat messy, but why complain?
The people’s attention was being drawn to the possibility that all was not well. A well-informed journalist who had a huge following kept telling us that there were crooks everywhere. Yet, a well-organized army of columnists, contributors, broadcasters succeeded in demonizing this journalist, putting in doubt the truths she was penning. The Sicilian mafia has taken us over, she wrote. Most of the money that is running our economy is laundered money.
Life went on. The people carried on with what they were doing. They still read her. As a matter of fact, some never started the day without looking up her running commentary to be kept informed.
But that was about all that most of us were doing. Getting informed and sitting on the fence, wondering when somebody would do something about such disgusting happenings. Armchair critics abounded. Many an honest person was keeping abreast of what was going on, but with appalling inertia. A nation of people who expect having things done for them, all the while suspecting that there was a highly organised system working on a road map behind the scenes, and not so behind the scenes, were satisfied with just being kept informed.
The situation has now become desperate and we are deep in sh*t, more than we know.
We got to know – a few others already did, that notorious bosses have property in Gozo. Some are household names with many there taking regular strolls in St Francis Square. A few drinks with friends were frequently on offer. Of course, we have our own Toto’ Rinas of Maltese extraction. But we had become used to these and never dared ask questions, and now life would not be the same without their estates and businesses.
As long as money keeps coming in, as long as our banks keep on doing due diligence on the run of the mill citizen, we need not bother where all this money is coming from. It keeps the economy going, and ta’ Sta Maria can carry on with their squabbling against ta’ San Guzepp, B’kara against tal-Belt, tan-north against is-south and tal-pepe’ against il-hamalli, now the new middle class.
Meanwhile, the fact remains, we are deep in sh*t, more than we know.
Joe Psaila Savona is a medical doctor and a former Member of Parliament.