It is silly season in the football world so it might be the right time for fans to revive the arguments as to who deserves the title of “Greatest of All Time” – G.O.A.T. in short. Far from the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world the original claim to being the greatest belongs to Mohammed Ali in his earlier incarnation as Cassius Clay. In 1964 a young Clay used the phrase “I am the greatest” before his fight with Liston as part of the pre-fight trash talk.
Later in life Clay (now Ali) would say that he claimed to be the greatest before he knew that he was. Clay was capable of alternating between bouts of braggadocio and self-deprecating humour as he would show in a poem called “I am the greatest” where he would claim such things as “If Cassius says a cow can lay an egg, don’t ask how. Grease that skillet.”
In his previous life, Prime Minister Robert Abela has had a taste of the sporting world, competing in the world of bodybuilding where much muscle and shiny oil play a huge part in the climb to aesthetic glory for the lovers of the physical culture. That platform could surely bear its fair share of hyperbolic pumped up assertions (if you excuse the pun). Not the political world. At least not the normal political world.
When the prime minister of a 21st century nation claims that it aims to be the “best in the world” in 10 years’ time he had better not be hiding behind an ironic curtain of boxers’ bravado. Sadly, Abela delivered this ambitious declaration with the same straight face as when his disgraced predecessor had promised a government of transparent meritocracy.
It was not just that. It was also the parameters with which to measure such greatness that made most of us wonder whether Abela was not pulling the proverbial. Sustainable economic growth, infrastructure, education, good governance and (the important pillar) the environment. It might have got Abela’s goat that while he was announcing his nefarious world besting plan, the Planning Authority was taking a decision that spat in the face of every criterion that he had mentioned.
Not unlike Clay in his ironic poem, Abela wants everybody to believe that a cow can lay an egg and refrain from asking probing questions. “When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse, don’t ask how. Put your money where your mouse is.” Abela is surely gunning for the money. Which part of sustainable economic growth and good governance is ticked with the subsidy to estate agents travelling abroad to sell prime real estate?
Unless a massive u-turn is about to be made with practically every single government policy bar health then it is extremely hard to be enthusiastic about Abela’s G.O.A.T. promises.
Good governance? Will Minister Zammit Lewis’ continuing slip-ups in the field of justice reform suddenly be the motor for our transformation into the envy of the world? Will his bumbling, incompetent proposals suddenly transform into the sans pareil (without equal) of the western world and will he suddenly be hailed as a modern-day Pericles? Will the man who has managed to make Owen Bonnici look almost presentable produce a magic rabbit out of his hat? The Chamber of Advocates, the Venice Commission and most sane participants in the legal sector would beg to differ.
Abela still has other ghosts to deal with including one that reared its ugly head this weekend thanks to the investigative work of this portal. He may not be the Greatest of All Time but he did win the unenviable title of Person of the Year in Organised Crime and Corruption (admittedly POYCC might not be as catchy as GOAT). You can read all about it here and here. We learn, somewhat unsurprisingly, that disgraced former prime minister Muscat fashioned a very golden handshake presumably as a reward for his unswerving service to the people of this nation (particularly persons of trust and close commercial ties who benefited from his brand of meritocratic, sustainable economic growth).
Muscat is another master of the egg-laying cow type of assertions. Rather than facing the investigative journalists directly, the face behind the L-Aqwa Zmien (The Best of Times) rhetoric took to Facebook in a deviously worded reply. In an attempt at manufactured whataboutism of the highest order, the 2019 POYCC omitted to mention that in that same year he was also tweaking the policy for terminal benefits in his favour.
He tried his damnedest to equate his golden handshake with those of his predecessor but chose not to tell us that he had altered the conditions in his favour. As with the many issues, the 2019 POYCC chose to dabble with, his whole premise was built on a lie.
Nothing new under the sun. Muscat’s and Abela’s governments have gotten us used to the rule by law games where golden handshakes and unmeritocratic handouts are the standard. Was this not the same disgraced politician who arranged for his equally shady friend Konrad Mizzi to have a cushioned exit lined with money from the public purse after his fall from grace?
Abela’s choice to follow in Muscat’s shoes does not bode well for his declared aspirations. While he is proving equally capable of talking the talk, he is far from walking the walk. At this stage, the only sound that this aspirant G.O.A.T seems to make is bleat. One can only wonder how much longer the charmed people can hang on to the bleating in transfixed adulation.