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2012 was a lousy year

The outgoing year was a lousy one, with very few positives to leaven the mix. It was so for countries as well as individuals.

For Malta, the mix was worse than bittersweet
- Lino Spiteri

In the United States, Barack Obama won his coveted second term but not the heart of Congress.

Unless a deal is cut soon, America will topple over its fiscal cliff – raising taxes and cutting expenditure – with potentially disastrous effects on it and the rest of the world.

In China, new leadership brought along a mix of expectancy and uncertainty.

In the European Union, prospects continued to deteriorate with each summit that had been expected to make them better.

For Malta, the mix was worse than bittersweet. It opened with a double murder that remained unsolved, with more unsolved crimes added to the list.

Its thousands of people living at the risk of poverty rose while thousands of others had a reasonable life and a selected few gorged, in all making the island a more unjust society than ever before.

Some sectors of the economy, the cavalier ones of online betting and other services, did well.

Various other sectors sat in the doldrums. The banks advanced but are growing more cautious than ever in their lending, glancing frequently at portfolios of non-performing loans.

For specific individuals, there was much more trouble than joy.

Lawrence Gonzi lived through nightmare after nightmare. He had to sacrifice all his political dignity and much creditworthiness to continue to govern without majority support. Eventually, the threatening knife did cut him down – he became one of Malta’s few Prime Ministers thrown out of office.

He could still smile because his ruses of hanging on had largely worked but he has not much to hope for from the objective history books, other than that parts of the economy did well under his headship.

John Dalli’s year was a terror. Fine European commissioner one day, he was mysteriously shown the door the next. That was only part of the mystery. The rest, perhaps including a whodunit exposé, still has to be played out.

Labour’s former deputy leader, Anġlu Farrugia, woke up on a brief holiday morning to find out what real cynicism means. Sure of his position one minute, he was asked by his leader to resign the next.

Manfully, he did so, though he could have refused and so drag the Labour Party through the cesspit. Various conspiracy theories conspire. The truth is simpler. Joseph Muscat’s advisers saw an opportunity to replace Farrugia with a more acceptable face.

Less colourfully but no less cynically, the Nationalist leader kicked his former deputy upstairs to make way for a younger man with a louder noise.

Tonio Borg replaced Dalli as European commissioner but if the Nationalists lose that lasts only for another two years. After that, Borg will not even be an MP.

Out of all this, Simon Busuttil and Louis Grech, two popular and able members of the European Parliament, who were not really interested in local politics, found themselves close to the top of the heap.

Franco Debono tormented the Prime Minister and finally brought him down. Whether that raised him up is another matter.

Another man who went down and out is former judge Ray Pace, a gentleman who had given no prior cause for suspicion. He resigned.

Bucking the trend, Mgr Charles Scicluna was moved from the Vatican bureaucracy to become Archbishop Paul Cremona’s right-hand man. Arriving to much fanfare, there were also a few whispers in his regard.

The Mayan prediction did not come true. The world still stands, and Malta with it. But both move into 2013 tottering on uneasy legs.

The outlook is dark.

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