Living on borrowed money and borrowed time

The prime minister seems to have lost the plot and started making up answers as he goes along.

After a week of silence on the issue, The Figurehead suddenly rumbled to life. A bicep twitched. An eyelid fluttered. A mutter was heard. And then he mumbled that Joseph Muscat’s newly renovated office at Sa Maison was part of the disgraced politician’s severance package.

Yes, “I can confirm the office was part of the severance package agreed in 2019,” he said. You know, that mysterious €120,000 golden handshake Muscat seems to have given himself after raising the limits on payments given to his longer-serving predecessors.

Predecessors who actually finished their terms of office, rather than calling an early election over corruption allegations and then being tossed out of office by determined citizens who’d had enough.

As always, Abela’s response left more questions than answers.

How was this deal worked out, given that Abela said there’s “no documentation“? Was it done on a wink and a nod? There certainly aren’t any provisions in the law that sanction such an arrangement.

Was Muscat given the building outright or just the use of it?

Did he pay for the renovations, the paving of the parking lot and that new access road? If not, why did the State suddenly grow interested in it?

What happened to the people who used to work there? Was this a derelict property, or were they given the bum’s rush to make way for the deposed?

Is Muscat’s apparently unwritten severance package open-ended, and will it include anything he happens to get caught having taken?

Abela could answer all these questions by providing news media with the documentation on this transaction, which you’re fully entitled to see.

I suppose a week’s response time is better than waiting for the reply from yet another Freedom of Information request.

Anyway, the prime minister has full faith in the institutions to work it all out. Well, not that magistrate who ordered a search on Muscat’s home. She’s treading a fine line, ta. But she’s been warned.

But the other institutions, yes. Including the MFSA, comfortably chaired once again by the reliable John Mamo.

Okay, it wasn’t very tactful of him to say he’d never open a company in a grey listed place like Malta. “If I had to open my own company, I would definitely not go to a greylisted jurisdiction,” he said. “That is so obvious.” It remains to be seen how he will convince foreign investors why they should.

Abela will soon be able to have faith in the Standards Commissioner, too, once that irritating George Hyzler is kicked upstairs to Europe. How could he argue with a nice ‘promotion’ and a better pay package?

It’ll be a relief to have someone nice and compliant in that role — or to just stall indefinitely on appointing anyone new. No more need to rely on the embarrassing antics of Glenn Bedingfield, or the obvious interventions of the constitutionally ‘neutral’ Speaker of the House.

Get a compliant Commissioner in the role and there’ll just be that endlessly annoying Auditor General to compromise.

In the meantime, money for everyone! Students and workers will get €100 and pensioners €200. No special reason for this. Your government simply cares about more than just helping itself, its friends, and all those persons of trust. Cheque’s in the mail — that outta shut up the proles. Now don’t spend it all at once (wink).

Given the focus of the narrative on costs, they seem to have finally realised that the rising cost of living paired with all these ‘loot the public purse’ scandals is spiralling into an election issue.

The finance minister was with Abela when this sudden largesse of cheques was announced, and he was quick to remind the proles that tax refunds would also be saving some of them between €60 and €145.

The government’s ‘aggressive intervention’ into rising energy and fuel prices is allegedly saving citizens €500 per year on their household bills, too.

Of course they didn’t intervene nearly as aggressively as Muscat, Mizzi, Schembri and Fenech did in the wholesale transformation of the island’s energy grid into something that benefits 17 Black and ‘who knows’ who else while leaving appliances sputtering in Għajnsielem and water heaters dispensing a lukewarm drool.

Other ‘mechanisms’ are apparently in the works too, according to Clyde Caruana. You can be sure they’ll be whipped up and announced on an ad hoc basis according to polls and public rage.

Announcements timed alongside new financial scandals are a sure sign of the usual governance by improvisation we’ve come to expect from this lot.

As former finance minister Tonio Fenech said, the government is buying votes with your own money at the cost of a rapidly rising deficit: “This is no tax refund, many recipients have not even paid tax let alone deserve a refund”.

To be fair, this government’s been buying a lot more than votes with your money. It’s been a hiring free-for-all for friends of friends, sexual and romantic partners of ministers, and lucrative contracts for children fresh out of school.

And don’t worry if you’re one of those who hasn’t paid a tax bill since Mintoff was just a gleam in a commie dictator’s eye. You can still benefit from direct orders and public contracts if you wink at the right people.

You’d think Abela would just want to get this election over with. To win a majority before the economy gets any worse, and before the price of all their frantic looting and spending really hits home.

But he seems to be playing and praying on percentages. In what passes for the echoing caverns of his mind, I detect the fervent hope of winning a bigger majority than his disgraced predecessor’s expensive 2017 snap re-election.

It’s the only way Abela can claw himself out from under Muscat’s smothering shadow. To silence internal Party dissent and give himself the power to wipe the slate clean and replace it with his own handpicked supporters.

If that’s what it takes to stay in power — spending money that isn’t theirs, leveraged on a borrowed future, without a plan for getting the nation’s shattered finances back on a track that doesn’t lead to economic collapse — then so be it.

I mean, really, what’s the alternative? Jail?

You’ll be picking up the tab for the prime minister’s gamble. And we still have no idea what it will cost.

 

                           
                               
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viv
viv
3 months ago

Mechanisms – almost accurate.
Maybe someone could train the House Speaker on his perch that the
correct pronunciation is ‘machinations’.

Mick
Mick
3 months ago

Spot on the money Ryan. no pun intended, looks like we’ll have to save the handout to pay the next round of utility bills, they haven’t even mentioned the hike that is headed this way, its going to be a gahan buster!

gadflyg
gadflyg
3 months ago

Unfortunately we have become worse than a banana republic. Our republic is in truth a res privata (but with our own money). Few, if any politicians are completely honest but this lot takes the cake. Ministers and their incompetent hangers on have taken advantage if the ignorance of the majority of voters. These voters are worse than gahan; they are unthinking morons who would lose an intelligence test when competing with a dumb goat. abela & co can rest assured they will win the next election with a more than comfortable majority and yet they still distribute 70m.

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
3 months ago

Abela was, is and will remain under Joseph Muscat’s claws!!!

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
3 months ago

ONE CAN NEVER BELIEVE A PL GOVERNMENT THAT
THRIVES ON LIES.

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