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Watch what they do, not what they say

When you want to evaluate someone, don’t listen to what they say. Watch what they do.

“Robert is his own man,” we were told. “He has a very independent mind. A very clear, sharp mind. He’s focused.” And that’s just what you need in a time of national crisis.

The Prime Minister held nothing back in his effort to save everyone, releasing no less than three economic stimulus packages designed to prop up the economy that was the envy of Europe.

Well, okay, it was really just one package re-released two more times. A sizeable chunk of the first one turned out to be tax deferrals — delayed payments of your taxes. Bills you could kick a little further down the road but that you’ll still have to pay, assuming you have a job or savings by the end of this. And that made a lot of citizens unhappy.

The Kickback King would have doubled down, thrusting out his chin with what looked like the pain and swelling of impacted wisdom teeth. But Bobby Backdown gets nervous when anyone yells.

And so Abela made one of his by now trademarked retreats after ‘listening to the people’ (ie. crumbling in the face of public outrage) and ‘getting unanimous Cabinet approval’ (ie. making everyone else responsible for it, too). He proposed another package, and then another, until the anger died down.

Thankfully other ministers are on the job while Abela’s decisive mind is busy playing pinball.

Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that his department would cope with COVID-19 by building a prefab hospital. It would be thrown up very quickly, and on no account would there be any jiggery-pokery with the bidding.

Those were his words, but look at his actions. He carefully avoided all mention of Vitals Global Healthcare, the troubled concessionaire that took over three public hospitals which seem to be doing nothing much.

Was Fearne afraid of pissing them off? They will allegedly get €100 million for leaving Malta, and it doesn’t matter if they default on the contract, leave voluntarily, or if the government kicks them out. A stellar return on a €1 investment.

It was another great deal brought to you by Chowsef’s star technocrat (great for someone, but not for you). But don’t worry, at least you’ll save money on your electricity bill now that oil and gas prices have hit historic lows.

Oh wait, that’s not going to happen, either. Slow Eddie Scicluna said he couldn’t reduce your electricity tariff because the government sold a big chunk of Enemalta to China, and decisions on price are now out of his hands. He changed his mind not long after, but there was still no reduction.

Anyway, Malta can’t benefit from a world gas price that’s currently in free fall, with no end in sight. You’re still buying from Azerbaijan at above market rates — and you’re stuck with it for 18 years. That was another Konny Con, too.

Sure, Slow Eddie has other ways of compensating you. It’s just that he doesn’t want to use them. In an interview with The Times of Malta, the Minister explained why his government decided to finance their COVID-19 aid package with loans and bank guarantees courtesy of the ECB, rather than seek help from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“The ESM will by its nature put so many conditions on the country which borrows, it will be like a bailout,” he said. “We don’t want that. We don’t need it.”

‘What sort of conditions?’ you might ask.

The ESM provides financial assistance to beneficiary countries “on the condition that they adjust their economic policies to overcome the problems that led them to seek financial aid.”

In the case of Greece, ESM conditions included implementing anti-corruption recommendations in public administration, and modernising human resources management — a move that would result in vast unemployment in Malta’s ‘person of trust’ economic sector.

And wouldn’t it be inconvenient if the assessment team wanted to look at the Electrogas and Vitals Global Healthcare agreements? I don’t think they’d react very well when told they can’t see them because, you know, ‘commercial sensitivity’.

So we’re stuck with Slow Eddie’s compromise. But I wouldn’t let it worry you much because Sandro and the Concrete Kings are coming to the rescue.

Bobby Backdown expressed outrage last month when Miriam Pace was killed after workers on an adjacent construction site caused her home to collapse. He promised to protect the people and said that nothing like this would happen again.

Those were his words, but his actions didn’t match. His Planning Authority just used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to extend more than 3,400 development permits which were set to expire.

Construction is still grinding and shaking and roaring along, seemingly immune to the virus —and from the quarantine that has been imposed on everyone else.

Is this why Abela continues to resist a full lockdown despite the Health Minister’s pressure to follow the rest of Europe’s lead? The MDA obviously has more pull.

But this is all for your own good — and not just for the good of Bobby Backdown’s powerful friends. The Prime Minister told you the construction industry was the engine of Malta’s economic miracle, and that ramping it up as quickly as possible will be vital to ending this frightening economic shutdown.

Of course, he didn’t say who would be buying all those empty flats, or why they’re still needed given the collapse of global tourism, and economic uncertainty in every key sector that once propped up the bubble Joseph blew.

It’s too bad if you live beside a construction site — who doesn’t, these days? — and you have to endure a chaos of noise and dust from dawn to dusk while you’re confined to your home. But it’s the price we all have to pay to make someone else rich.

Anyway, there’s no time to whine about that, because Bobby has other special interest groups to appease.

You see, hunters really really need to blast away at everything with wings, shooting birds during the breeding season, a short-sighted conservation disaster that the rest of Europe put an end to long ago. So fire up that illegal bird caller that goes “Me-me-me-me-meeeeeeeee!” It’s their tradition and their hobby, and it’s not their problem if people are dying on ventilators.

Abela was decisive about one thing, at least. He’s not going to touch the highly vaunted but still unseen ‘war chest’ accumulated from the sale of European Union passports.

Does it exist, or was it already spirited away by the same people who brought us Electrogas, Vitals Global Healthcare, and so many other elements of Joseph Muscat’s Roadmap to Ruin?

When you want to evaluate someone, don’t listen to what they say. Watch what they do.

The Prime Minister is proving himself a puppet, and the old Inner Circle is still pulling the strings.

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