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‘They did it, too!’

Government spokesperson Kurt Farrugia (Photo: Facebook)

“It’s okay to give Kurt Farrugia Malta Enterprise because Lawrence Gonzi gave it to his former spokesman, too.”

We sure have come a long way from Joseph Muscat’s promise to deliver accountability, meritocracy, and transparency.

It isn’t like he forgot about it. Despite muddling through a first term rocked by weekly corruption scandals, Joseph Muscat made the same empty promises again in 2017.

“We intend to work harder to put this into practice,” he said when asked about the meritocracy pledge. “We realise we have disappointed some people on this, we have learned from our mistakes and we will make sure we will better deliver.”

Well, they certainly got better at delivering ‘jobs for the boys’. This latest move mirrors exactly the sort of corrupt behaviour that drove the PN from power in the first place.

Let’s do a brief comparison to get a sense of just how shamelessly this government has exceeded the corruption that plagued the final years of Lawrence Gonzi’s government.

You may recall that former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had appointed Alan Camilleri, his former Head of communications, as CEO of Malta Enterprise. Camilleri was given a €70,000 per year pay package, plus perks that included a car and driver, mobile and telephone costs, and a life insurance package that covered international and local health care.

This was clearly a hypocritical decision, made worse by the fact that Gonzi had promised to ensure greater transparency in appointments to State entities. But Farrugia’s contract with Malta Enterprise under a Labour government doesn’t just one-up what happened under the previous PN government. It takes such payoffs to unprecedented levels.

The Prime Minister’s former head of communications has been appointed CEO of Malta Enterprise with a salary package of €130,000 per year, plus performance bonuses, a ‘disturbance allowance due to frequent overseas travel’, an all-expenses-paid car with fuel, a lucrative life insurance policy, and international health insurance policies for himself and his immediate family.

The salary alone is more than double what his boss Prime Minister Joseph Muscat earns — at least, on paper. And it will creep up to €180,000 per year if Farrugia sticks around for the full duration of his nine year contract.

But it gets even stranger when you look at what happens if he quits.

If Farrugia quits his job after two years, he is entitled to a tax-free payout of €130,000 — the equivalent of one year’s salary. In the unlikely event that Farrugia is fired from his job or dismissed after a change in government, this cash payout goes up to more than €250,000.

Wrap your head around that for a moment.

Imagine quitting your job right now, for any reason or no reason at all, and getting a year’s pay in cash, no questions asked. And then imagine getting fired from your job and getting two years’ salary in cash instead. In such a situation, it almost pays to be incompetent.

Despite a lot of talk about meritocracy, transparency, and the promise of doing things differently, this government is doing exactly what they criticised Gonzi PN for from the opposition benches. The only difference is that Labour’s doing it on a larger scale, and justifying this wholesale rape of the public purse by saying, “They did it, too!”

The narrative that both parties are the same is nothing new. But when you allow them to frame their excuses in those terms, you help perpetuate the endless cycle of “Take power, take everything, and screw the other side”. They’ll be sure to get their cut before it all falls down. But where does that leave you?

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