The Kon-rat Principle

In 2013 he was presented to us as the Mozart of technocracy. What we got was a village bandmaster of corruption. We didn’t even get Dilbert. We got Kon-rat.

The latest investigation by The Shift shows Konrad Mizzi, as tourism minister, using Lionel Gerada to dispense largesse from the State’s coffers to favoured cronies. The Malta Tourism Authority budget for sponsorships tripled at one point, with the cronies making a killing.

Gerada, one of Mizzi’s political canvassers, was selected even though he had a criminal conviction for embezzlement of funds.

This was not a case of some people getting more cream than others. What Mizzi did, through Gerada, was damage the cultural events industry, which didn’t have a level playing field. If you weren’t in the favoured group, you got a pittance or nothing at all. With no explanation, either. You couldn’t hope to do better next time.

There is a larger story going on here, beyond the plunder. It puts paid to the myth that Mizzi, as minister, was a good manager and technocratic strategist – a managerial doer – who got swept up in the big corrupt projects of Tagħna Lkoll. The myth states that, yes, Mizzi may have been part of the Panama Gang; but he also did good work.

This story shows Mizzi’s true colours. Even at the operational level, he worked like a fixer, not a technocrat.

From the micro level of operations all the way to the highest levels of strategy, Mizzi can be found aiding and abetting private interests against national ones: on energy, health and alliances with dubious regimes.

Mizzi was not pushed to the fore because he was a technocrat. He was promoted on the basis of what we can now call the Kon-rat Principle: get a new guy, with no political past, to be the blank slate on which voters can project their aspirations; but who, being new, will owe his political career only to his bosses.

The only question, really, is how so many fell for it. Because anyone who was paying attention during the general election of 2013, when Mizzi first appeared publicly, should have heard the alarms go off then.

During that campaign, Mizzi was the chief salesman of the new power station that was to work wonders for our economy. He was repeatedly caught out saying things that industry experts said were not possible. He repeatedly promised to back his claims with evidence, or that we could find it on the internet. But he didn’t and we couldn’t.

The central premise of the new power station – fixed prices for energy that would make Maltese industry competitive – could be recognised as nonsense by anyone with a basic economics background. You’re not competitive if your prices are fixed at levels above the prices your competitors are paying. And that was evidently a huge risk.

Mizzi retorted that what business needs is stability, not competitive prices. The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), among others, let him get away with that. Now Malta is paying hand over fist for its energy. The hotel industry is now asking for relief on their energy costs, which are way above market rates.

The point of this trip down memory lane is simply this: Mizzi was never a technocrat who lost his way. From the start, he showed no regard for truths or basic economic fundamentals that a technocrat with professional pride would care for.

Technocracy was his disguise. It wasn’t even a very good one: just an obviously false nose hooked up to a moustache and glasses.

Today, the fraud is hiding away from Malta – in London, we are told. Up to the day of his resignation as minister, he told us he stands tall. Now, he is cowering from us all – using John Dalli’s old reason for not coming to Malta.

In his heyday, he repeatedly told us he had answered our questions exhaustively and would not take any more questions. We didn’t fall for that. We just went along with it. Will we do so again?

                           
                               
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