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‘Getting Things Done’ while everyone is stuck in traffic

Malta traffic
17 September, 2019: The online map of ongoing roadworks published by Transport Malta.

Ian Borg may be ‘Getting Things Done’, but you probably aren’t.

More than anything, the Transport Minister seems to be digging himself an enormous hole — or an island-wide series of them — as the real-time roadworks map published by Transport Malta shows.

He promised to pave every road on the island, and it seems he’s determined to do them all simultaneously, even if it means nothing else moves.

Borg may want to reread the book Getting Things Done’ by David Allen, or sign up for one of the productivity seminars of the same name by the globally famous management consultant. If he’s using Allen’s registered trademark, he might as well be using the methods, too.

Now that Joseph Muscat has told potential Labour leadership rivals to wait until he’s actually out of his chair before they start fighting to occupy it, Borg and his rival frontrunners can work together to sort out the total gridlock on Malta’s streets.

Perhaps it’s time for the Minister of Roads and Planning Private Villas to conjure up The Konrad Mizzi Effect? You may not be able to drive on those new roads when Mizzi gets through with them, once they’ve been sold to the unknown foreign owners of offshore companies for an undisclosed sum which never quite makes it to the taxpayer. But a massive public relations campaign will be launched to remind you that ‘you’ve never had it so smooth’.

Incidentally, while we’re on the topic, please allow me to congratulate Minister Mizzi for successfully spending money on an advertisement.

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) joins such illustrious paid advertisers as Aeroflot (‘Official Carrier of Manchester United’), Harves (‘Official Indoor Entertainment Centre Partner for the People’s Republic of China’), and Mlily (‘Official Global Mattress and Pillow Partner of Manchester United’) in supporting Europe’s second-richest football club with your advertising euro.

Given this government’s penchant for secrecy, we don’t know what the MTA paid the Manchester United football club to put ‘Visit Malta’ on their stadium advertising billboards. As usual, the government refused to disclose the contract, judging the matter too sensitive for the other half of parliament — or the people who paid for it — to know how much they spent.

But we do know that Chevrolet paid US$559 million (€506 million) over seven years for a similar Global Sponsor ‘partnership’. Rumour has it the decision cost General Motors’ (GM) chief marketing officer at the time, Joel Ewanick, his job. GM pulled the poorly-performing Chevrolet brand out of Europe not long afterwards.

No one will get fired in Malta, of course. The Minister who signed the deal should have left the scene three years ago, when Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed he owned a secret company in Panama.

But stay tuned for the actual cost of the deal to appear in Manchester United’s next publicly available balance sheet. The football club is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Anyway, great job Minister Mizzi. You bought something with the taxpayers’ credit card again. That gurgling sound of public money going down a drain should be the new Konrad Mizzi Effect ringtone.

But in the end, none of this matters, because everyone knows Malta is the best in Europe. The best at what? The Council of Europe and Moneyval would give very different answers from Henley & Partners.

“What’s really true?” you might ask.

Well, judging by the amount of money this government spends on trying to convince you, it depends on how much they pay. It’s clear that your elected representatives believe perception is reality.

They cranked up the advertising machine to tell you how great their 2019 Budget was, with an advertising spend of over €66,000.

The Environment Ministry spent €700,000 to tell you what a great job it’s doing, even as the toxic cloud of a burning waste collection plant at Maghtab blanketed the island. Some €88,000 of that was spent by the Fisheries and Agriculture department alone, the same people responsible for regulating tuna cages. They want you to know that the slime on your beaches is just a natural phenomenon.

Minister Konrad Mizzi ran paid adverts on social media to promote himself, spending approximately €1,100 per month in taxpayer’s money, while dodging the press at various events. He could have gotten your attention for free by giving straight answers to direct questions.

And Edward Scicluna’s Finance Ministry spent €237,502 in 2018 alone to commission ratings agency reports to tell you that Malta’s economy is booming. It’s very important to them that you believe this because they know their support remains secure as long as enough people are convinced Joseph Muscat is putting money in their pockets. Everything else will be overlooked.

But no matter how much money they throw into propaganda to convince you that you’re living in the best of times, their carefully manufactured perceptions will always slam up against this simple reality, like Ian Borg saying the government is ‘Getting Things Done’ while everyone else is stuck in traffic.

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Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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