On June 3, I will vote for Forza Nazzjonali for a simple reason. I want to live in a normal country. Like many other citizens, I am tired of Malta’s deficit in governance. And Joseph Muscat’s government has been tainted with corruption and scandals from the first days of his premiership.
In the past four years, Muscat adopted a cavalier attitude with taxpayer money. He bailed out Café Premier and parcelled out public property in dubious ways. Scandals involving the latter include Australia Hall, Żonqor and Gaffarena. Not to mention that one of Muscat’s first decisions as prime minister was to rent his own car to himself.
His government also locked the country in major contracts with questionable credentials. These include the costly energy contract which will make Malta dependent on Azerbaijani energy for the next 18 years and the mysterious health privatisation deal with a company that has no experience in healthcare.
In addition, Muscat’s gang of four created the sale of passports scheme though it did not feature in Labour’s grand manifesto in 2013. It was implemented as one of the government’s flagships, with Muscat assuming the role of salesman. Given its dubious credentials, lack of transparency and lack of accountability, it was not surprising to read about kickbacks.
In the meantime, while Malta’s image is being associated with corruption, Muscat seems to care only for his gang. He did not remove Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri when the Panama Papers scandal erupted. And the only plausible reason why he called a snap election one year before it was due was to save his skin.
So how come Muscat was not purged from his party? I think that he banked on popular support in two ways. First by exploiting traditionally-loyal Labour supporters, and second by buying people’s support. The former was a dishonest hijacking of people who were tired of being in opposition. The latter was carried out through the positions-of-trust industry and through an ‘anything goes’ approach. Enforcement, permit-granting and regulations were used as partisan tools rather than civic guarantors.
The Planning Authority, the police and other state institutions generally acted to implement this strategy. Such patronage renders people dependent on ministers’ whims, rather than active citizens with rights and responsibilities. Do we want more of this in the next five years? A pro-Muscat argument would say that despite such shortcomings, Malta’s economy flourished under Muscat. This argument could easily be rebutted in various ways.
First, Malta’s economy was always relatively stable under previous Nationalist governments, even when global turbulence was much greater than it is today. In a way, Muscat’s government reaped the fruit that was created through the economic infrastructure that was already in place.
Second, Malta’s international reputation is going downhill due to the scandals involving Muscat’s gang of four. This can have terrible economic consequences, especially when considering that as a small island Malta is highly dependent on exports and the global economic framework.
Third, prospective prime minister Simon Busuttil has promised to retain the sustainable elements of Malta’s economy and develop new sectors such as the digital economy, the internet of things and the social economy.
Busuttil is also promising major infrastructural projects such as the development of a metro and progressive social policy.
And fourth, Busuttil is promising to clean up Malta’s image if he is elected prime minister. By installing confidence and trust in institutions such as the police, the Financial Services Authority, Parliament and the Attorney General, Malta will be sending a message that it wants its resilience to be based on good governance.
Indeed, good governance provides the basic political infrastructure for sustainable policy-making in economic, social and environmental matters. And I found that Forza Nazzjonali means business in this regard. From my own experience in this electoral campaign, I can testify that Busuttil uses the power of persuasion to show that Malta deserves a better form of governance.
Forza Nazzjonali has opened its arms to people who come from different backgrounds but who share a common dream: that of living in a normal country. Let us make it happen.