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It’s one big blame game

As the saying goes – any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.

Attributing the country’s ills to the Opposition and shrugging off responsibility is a time-honoured tactic of the PN
- Claire Bonello

That’s something which the Prime Minister should have kept in mind before pinning the blame for Malta’s credit rating being downgraded by Standard and Poor’s, on Labour.

The major reason for the country being relegated to what Karmenu Vella refers to as an economic Serie B, is the fact that Malta has a whopping debt burden and that Enemalta is a huge drain on the public coffers – a sort of Dockyards Mark II.

The report describes it as an “ailing energy utility” and makes reference to “permanently loss-making state enterprises”. In other words, whoever has been responsible for the economy has been throwing money down the bottomless pit that is Enemalta and burdening the national economy with crippling interest payments.

Now before Tonio Fenech set up shop as resident critic of desk-top presentations on every local television station, he was Finance minister. In that role you’d expect him to have much more to say about the country’s economic policy than Joseph Muscat. It’s the minister who makes decisions about matters of finance, and the Leader of the Opposition may huff and puff, but ultimately what the minister says, goes.

If Fenech had done this successfully and managed to secure a favourable rating from S&P, he would have patted himself on the back and probably got us all to kneel at the shrine of his great financial savviness.

However, seeing that didn’t happen, there is no way that Fenech can shrug off the negative rating as he would a drift of dandruff and blame it all on the Opposition. It just won’t wash and reflects badly on the PN which has been in government for a quarter of a century.

Attributing the country’s ills to the Opposition and shrugging off responsibility is a time-honoured tactic of the PN. A few days back, Lawrence Gonzi blamed Labour for the fact that Maltese living abroad cannot vote in their country of residence. The Labour Party was blamed for this state of affairs, as the Labour MPs had walked out of some parliamentary select committee where the issue was being discussed. The walk-out took place after the kerfuffle when Tonio Borg insisted that Labour MP Justyne Caruana had voted against her party.

However that storm in a teacup happened last year. The PN had all the time in the world, prior to that, to lay down regulations to allow Maltese citizens living abroad to vote in embassies in their country of residence. Labour’s presence at another talking shop wasn’t really necessary, so why blame Labour?

Another example of the Prime Minister’s penchant for finger-pointing instead of soul-searching cropped up when he came over all indignant and faux-shocked about the funding for Labour’s campaign.

Quite clearly reeling from Labour’s hype and awe publicity campaign, the Prime Minister thought he could scandalise us by implying that Labour had mysterious donors in the wings.

“I calculate that the Labour campaign has until now cost €1 million,” he thundered. “Where is the money coming from?”

Oh dear. Perhaps this is where the Prime Minister thought we would recoil at the prospect of the Labour Party being in hock to the donors who are bankrolling their campaign. And yes, we are, to some extent. I find it very hard to believe that the funding for the wall-to-wall billboards, tons of printed matter and other propaganda stunts are funded by whip arounds at the local każini or even the ftit tal-ħafna – many small donations.

A campaign of this sort needs deep pockets, which means big donors. And it’s only logical to assume that once Labour is elected, these donors will expect some form of ‘return’ on their ‘investment. This means favours granted, and favourable treatment meted out to the donors in exchange for their pre-electoral generosity. Anyone can join the dots and conclude it’s a very unsatisfactory scenario and that the lack of transparency in the whole process could lead to abuse.

So, we should rap Labour for accepting big donations and not being upfront about their point of origin. But then we should also be coming down hard on the other party which has been doing the same thing for the last 20 years and digging in its heels and absolutely refusing to introduce party financing laws.

That’s the Nationalist Party for you. Permanently seeking out the mote in others’ eyes and steadfastly refusing to look at the enormous beam in its own.

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