With a straight face Robert Abela announced Malta will be the “best in the world”. Not the best in Europe, no, that was Joseph’s thing.
This wasn’t a crowd-rousing wild battle cry from a prime minister blinded by emotion at a mass meeting. This was government strategy Abela was announcing. His five pillar plan, he insisted, would make Malta the best in the world within the next decade. Which planet is the prime minister on?
Abela either believes his own distortions of reality or is so convinced of the utter gullibility of his audience that no bizarre fantasy is off limits. The longer he rambles, the more outlandishly weird his claims become.
Abela plans to “radically transform education”. How does he plan to do this? By “creating a culture where learning is an ongoing process”. The concept of lifelong learning was born at least six decades ago. The first lifelong learning institute was established at the New School for Social Research in 1962. Abela’s ‘radical’ solutions are nothing but rehashed hackneyed platitudes. These include “reskilling the workforce”, “aligning education curricula with tomorrow’s economy” and for more pie-in-the-sky – “establishing Malta as an international education hub of excellence”. We can barely teach our children to read but Abela wants to teach the world.
The most hilarious of Abela’s proposals is the “the most important pillar” – the environment. On the day the DB project was approved, Abela attempted to distract the public from the realisation that the environment is a slave to the enrichment of a select oligarchy.
Unashamedly, Abela proclaims that “the island is on the right track on environmental issues”. Having squandered huge tracts of arable land in mindless road widening, pseudo universities, and other development, Abela now proposes “efficient use of land” and the “restoration of nature habitats”.
To rub salt into the wound, Abela’s fifth pillar is governance and rule of law. The man who deviously tried to convince us the institutions are working, now decided they needed “to be beefed up”. After comprehensively annihilating the last vestiges of good governance, he had a Damascene conversion – that without good governance the whole country sinks.
Having spent his short reign desperately concealing information, refusing to answer simple questions, ‘losing’ key documents, rebutting freedom of information requests, and feigning ignorance, he now intends to strengthen transparency. That’s like Jack the Ripper planning to set up a shelter for female victims of domestic abuse.
Abela’s idea of governance is making his MPs vote against the Standard Commissioner’s report on Carmelo Abela and retaining him in cabinet despite accusations of involvement in violent bank heists. Abela’s governance consists of ordering Bedingfield to prevent the public account committee from asking the secretive associate of Yorgen Fenech probing questions about Electrogas. It consists of rewarding hundreds of unsuitable persons of trust for their partisan loyalty and refusing to disclose how many he’s appointed, how much they’re paid or when their appointments will end. That’s not good governance – that’s public garrotting of governance.
Abela told us that Labour delivers what it promises. His predecessor promised Malta would be the best in Europe. Look where we are now.
In 2020, Malta obtained the lowest score ever in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index. Malta is only one of five European countries considered a “flawed democracy”. This was Malta’s worst ranking since 2006. In three of Labour’s years in power, Malta fell 12 places – from 18th to 30th.
Malta hit an all time low on the corruption perception index published by Transparency International. The report commented that “Malta faces significant corruption challenges and suffers one of the steepest declines in the rule of law”. Malta is one of only two European countries on the “to watch” list. Malta is considered a “high secrecy, high corruption country” together with Angola, The Gambia, and Panama.
The Tax Justice Network ranked Malta the 18th most secretive country in finance. Under Lawrence Gonzi, Malta was in 40th place. Under Labour, Malta has risen spectacularly up the secrecy rankings. On secrecy for trust and foundations registers, only two other countries are more secretive than Malta – Joseph Muscat’s favourite, United Arab Emirates, and Keith Schembri’s favourite, the British Virgin Islands.
On the World Press Freedom Index, Malta plummeted 32 places in three years. It’s now categorised as “problematic”. Maltese journalists are under “intense judicial pressures”. Malta is at the same level as Haiti and Kyrgyzstan, having dropped consistently and precipitously since 2013. Under Gonzi, Malta ranked 45th – it now ranks 81st.
Where it really matters, Labour has been a disaster. The successful erosion of democracy and basic freedoms is Labour’s greatest “achievement”. Muscat kept his promise of making us the “best in Europe” – for the worst things.
While our democracy endures demolition, the prospects of restoring it depend on educating our future generations. But Labour spells disaster for education. The 2018 World Bank report ‘Growing United’ ranked Malta the worst in Europe for a number of educational factors. Over one-third of our 15-year-olds can barely read.
On a scale of opportunities for firms, Malta was ranked worst in Europe. For opportunities for people, Malta was second worst among European nations.
The World Atlas ranked Malta 102nd in the literacy rankings, way behind Cyprus which is at 52nd and below Fiji, Vietnam and Equatorial Guinea.
And that’s no surprise. Under Gonzi in 2009, Malta spent 5.4% of its GDP on education. Under Abela’s Labour, it’s only 4.9%. And that’s still more than the European average. Despite spending more than our European counterparts, education flounders. The European Commission highlighted that Malta has “challenges in efficiency of spending”. That’s because Abela’s Minister of Education fritters €5,000 a month on her unqualified personal friend to develop a national sports curriculum.
If Muscat’s promise to become the best in Europe meant wrecking our democracy and undermining education, Abela’s promise of becoming the best in the world only fills us with dread.