Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo dished out funds to three Mellieħa band clubs, not to improve his chances at reelection — they’re in his district, after all — but “to promote cultural initiatives for the benefit of domestic and international tourism”.
His ministry is also investing €400,000 in new lighting for the Naxxar parish church. The fact that this is also in Bartolo’s electoral district is just a coincidence.
It seems throwing money at churches is the latest public spending craze.
Mosta’s parish church is also getting new floodlights, and Mdina’s is getting another €1 million for lights, thanks to all those dodgy customers who bought Maltese (EU) passports. The passport peddling fund is administered by Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Alex Muscat, whose 11th electoral district just happens to include both.
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri dished out €90,000 for roof repairs on Fgura’s parish church. And… you guessed it, this uniquely designed church which is in such bad need of help just happens to be situated in Camilleri’s 4th electoral district. That money’s tied to passport sales, too
But Camilleri didn’t limit himself to buying indulgences from the faithful. He also scraped up €90,000 for a local garden and football pitch in Tarxien.
Not to be outdone by his colleagues’ use of public funds to shine lights into dark corners, Rabat’s parish church is getting new paving courtesy of Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg. You wouldn’t expect him to spend that €100,000 on trees, would you?
Given Borg’s track record with culverts and rainwater canals, let’s hope the parish priest can part the inevitable litter-strewn seas for his parishioners when the next rainy season comes around.
These latest additions to the funding frenzy come on top of earlier self-serving sprees by ministers desperate to do something for voters in their district before the inevitable election is called.
Glenn Bedingfield got in on the frenzy with €7.6 million in funding for 25 restoration projects in his district. The money was dished out by the Cottonera Foundation, a State-funded entity chaired by the government whip and hobby blogger.
Culture Minister Jose Herrera announced that poor beleaguered Marsa — coincidentally in his electoral district — has been chosen as Malta’s first ever ‘town of culture’. The €200,000 prize will apparently be spent on an avant-garde cultural renaissance featuring band club music, fireworks and a Christmas village.
And Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri dished out another €3 million on a single refurbishment project in Marsalforn — and that’s on top of his Sports Complex debacle, part of the frenzied race to pave, overbuild, and fully employ Gozo.
Of course, we all know buying votes is illegal. This sudden flurry of cash-fuelled improvements is totally routine. It’s just that everyone’s doing it at once.
And we haven’t even begun talking about jobs for the boys.
Will we see a repeat of the frantic hiring of 2017 when anti-corruption rallies were sweeping the country and Joseph Muscat was on the ropes?
His snap election netted 1,000 secure public sector jobs for Labour supporters, including 220 in Konrad Mizzi’s electoral district. One-third of the army got promotions, and police officers who had retired or been dismissed for having criminal records were reinstated. Close to 600 building illegalities were regularised, too – 405 of them in the final two weeks of the campaign.
The stakes are even higher when a change in leadership could result in prosecutions for the laundry list of crimes linked to or facilitated by members of government since 2013.
In the meantime, everyone seems to be doubling down in the hope that a victory at the polls will somehow whitewash the crimes of the past. But we’ve already seen how useless Muscat’s claims of being exonerated by the electorate were at avoiding the inevitable consequences of the path he chose for the country.
Nothing’s being done to implement the recommendations of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and none of the ministers deemed responsible for her death have been dismissed from their posts. They’re still clinging to the money machine, backed by a prime minister who’s too afraid of his own baggage to cut them loose.
No substantial actions are being taken to get off the FATF grey list, apart from passing more paper laws no one will bother enforcing. Financial services companies have already accepted the inevitable and started jumping ship.
And nothing’s being done to deal with Malta’s rising cost of living, apart from putting more followers on the public payroll — something that drains resources rather than creates them.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana isn’t even crunching numbers to make a new plan in the face of a staggering fiscal deficit of 12.4% of GDP.
Rather than deal with these problems, the can is being kicked down the road so they can make just a little more hay. “Reforms” will have to wait until the morning after, when the cost of their eight year corruption bender finally brings the remaining walls down.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has called a Labour Party rally for 20 September, where he plans to give a speech.
Will he explain exactly how he came up with “13.4%” economic growth when Malta’s GDP shrank by 7.8%? You’ll have to book a seat in advance to find out.