Do they really not get it, all those “prosit ministru” types still defending their Labour heroes despite the truckloads of evidence against them? Do they really not see what’s been going on, right under their very noses?
They’re being robbed blind, and instead of protesting, they thank their muggers and congratulate them on doing a good job. The country’s precious, very limited, resources and assets are being looted, day by day, draining it of the very lifeblood it needs to continue functioning, and more than half the population can’t see it.
This can’t last. No matter how genuine their deference to the “Onorevoli,” the day will come when they have to face up to the reality that not only do many of their heroes have feet of clay, but most of them should also be in jail.
Every week, sometimes several times a week, The Shift carries stories about the way this government is misusing the Maltese taxpayer’s money. From eye-watering sums of money disbursed by ministers to their friends and allies in the form of direct order contracts, to phantom jobs and cushy directorships awarded to relatives and constituents, hundreds of millions of euros are being squandered on cronyism and corruption, on a regular and uninterrupted basis.
We read reports of public land being handed over or sold to large companies, generally a litany of usual suspects, who are then permitted to build and sell apartments, houses, villas, all on publicly-owned land.
Like handing these companies a licence to print money, protected areas such as Comino and unique spots like Ghajn Tuffieha will become residential enclaves of the wealthy – while the companies that built them bank the proceeds and ban the hoi polloi from approaching their vicinity: It’s private land, Ġaħan.
The frenetic pace of construction, planning permits for monstrous ‘towers’ and shoddy concrete edifices in the very heart of formerly-unspoiled villages – this, again, is plunder on a monumental scale. The very fabric of Maltese society ripped apart in order to allow big contractors and ‘friends of friends’ to get rich quick, while the rest of the population pays for it.
Well, some of the rest of the population. Ġaħan, to use Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis’ unforgettable description, is who pays for it.
Maltese politicians expect the general public to obey the rules, respect the laws of the land and pay their taxes like the conscientious citizens they should be. But somehow, these good, dutiful people paying their taxes without fail, and in most cases, without choice, are expected to sit back and watch as the privileged few are excused the obligations of the rest.
How is it possible that Malta’s political parties put forward for election politicians who have been exposed as having been corrupt, as having behaved unethically, as having failed to pay their own taxes? Characters such as PL’s former junior minister Rosianne Cutajar and sitting minister Carmelo Abela? Zammit Lewis himself, exposed so hideously embarrassingly as an obsequious brown-noser of corrupters of politicians?
How is it possible that political parties select candidates who have already broken the social contract in some way, who have already compromised themselves in such a way as to make their bids to become lawmakers a travesty of good standards?
And of course, it’s not only the PL, though after eight years of ransacking and pillage on an unprecedented scale while in government, the entire cabinet of PL ministers should be booted out by their own Party.
The Opposition has its own issues too, though. PN leader, Bernard Grech, revealed to have spent most of his working life not paying taxes, only regularised his position with the taxman when he decided to enter the PN leadership race. If he’s elected prime minister, how is he going to persuade anyone that they must pay their taxes for the good of the entire country?
His predecessor, Adrian Delia, is similarly weighed down with baggage. Yet he’s been selected as a PN candidate on not one, but two districts.
Both the main political parties have used slippery tactics and tricky ruses to rake in donations that would otherwise be breaking the law. Both own media companies which have failed to pay the taxes they owe for years so that they now reportedly owe some €5 million each.
We read just yesterday that the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry for Social Policy, that hundreds of employees’ national insurance contributions had not been paid between 2000 and 2007, with a total of some €10 million in contributions gone missing.
We read regularly, news reports of large companies being given the opportunity to “settle” unpaid tax issues, usually by agreeing on an amount much lower than their total tax payments would have been – thereby rewarding them for having broken the law, rather than punishing them.
And then we have the hundreds of thousands of ordinary men or women-in-the-street, breaking their backs to earn enough to feed, house and clothe their families, paying every last cent in tax and national insurance that they owe, because, unlike the politicians and the businessmen who behave as if they’re above the law, they have no choice.
The time will, and must, come when these ordinary, hard-working people say “no more”. There’s a social contract that keeps the fabric of a community intact: we all work hard, we all pay our dues, and we all take the rewards we’ve earned.
But the politicians we elect to ensure that social contract is respected, enhanced and obeyed are themselves openly flouting it. How much longer will the general public feel obliged to adhere to it?
The stories of corruption, cronyism and outright theft of public money are bad enough in themselves, but perhaps even worse is the fact that they are eroding the very foundations of the democratic contract that keeps our society functioning.