Malta Tagħna Lkoll no more
The slogan Malta Tagħna Lkoll (Malta Belongs to Us All) seems to have caught the imagination of many. We saw blue ties and background, an electoral programme that spoke more of continuity than change, meritocracy promised as the order of the day, the famous catchphrase that “you may not agree with us but you can work with us”, and billboards that looked nothing like old Labour messages but more like the positive themes that should be portrayed by a party in Government.
The Labour campaign looked more Nationalist then the Nationalists’. Frankly it worked, and by no small margin. People felt safe to vote Labour, they liked this idea of a movement. Labour seemed nothing like Labour of the past. Nationalists were made safe to vote Labour and to actually feel proud to be called switchers.
One month on and we discover that Malta Tagħna Lkoll meant nothing to what the switchers understood it to mean, and it is becoming more evident that what Labour meant was Malta “tagħna il-Laburisti fuq kollox”.
The first decisions taken by the new Labour Government reflect nothing of being a movement and everything of the arrogant old Labour. We have a Principal Permanent Secretary from the old General Workers’ Union militant school of thought, and as head of secretariat the renowned businessman who ran Labour’s electoral campaign.
Joseph Muscat assures us that no conflict of interest will arise, and to make sure there are no checks and balances, off with the head of practically all the previous permanent secretaries and in with a new breed, clearly with strong Labour sympathies.
He also appointed the biggest and most expensive Cabinet since Independence and has now obliged the seemingly overnight richer taxpayer to foot a higher bill to pay back loyalists. The excuse is “value for money”, whatever that would mean.
Indeed, now we have more ministers and parliamentary secretaries that have much less on their plate but who need the desperate support of MPs being rewarded with consultants’ roles in ministries.
Consultants should be experts in the field and not token titles to keep backbenchers happy and reward them financially.
All this against the background of a three-year crusade to highlight the previous administration as greedy and arrogant, for paying ministers and parliamentary secretaries the honoraria of a couple of thousand euros.
The so-called value for money of this new administration will cost the public around €6 million more per year, with an increase in cost from €9 million to €15.4 million a year.
Co-ordinating Government in the coming five years will cost this country as much as building the new Parliament, the open-air theatre and the related infrastructure at around €80 million.
Using Labour’s pre-electoral campaign logic, without so many ministries how much further could water and electricity rates be reduced?
What about meritocracy? For Muscat, I was incompetent to run the economy because I was an accountant, not an economist. Now we have two lawyers running the Economy Ministry and the economist given the accountant’s job at finance; a medical doctor will run the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, but as a personal assistant he will have Robert Musumeci, who one should think will resign from his private practice to avoid any conflict of interest.
The Justice and Home Affairs Minister very strangely has also Public Broadcasting Services and the Film Commission under his portfolio. Strange to say the least, because these entities were initially assigned to the Economy Ministry. With the appointment of Silvio Scerri as Justice and Home Affairs Ministry Head of Secretariat, the Prime Minister changed his decision and gave Scerri something that really interests him, considering his business interest.
On the other hand, the Frederick Mifsud Bonnicis of this world have no place in Labour meritocracy, since for Labour, meritocracy means meriting a reward for serving Labour’s electoral interests.
So Mifsud Bonnici, a highly respected professional was booted out, and in with the former shipyards chairman under whose headship we saw the Fairmont Fjord ship conversion contract which cost Malta €80 million.
Labour, then in Opposition, never mentioned the former chairman’s role in the decision-making process and rather tried to put the blame on the minister then responsible.
And then, for the sake of open Government, the new Government appointed a Speaker from outside Parliament, when it already had a nine-seat majority, with zero consultation and a like-it-or-lump-it attitude.
That this attitude is the way this Government wants to approach the Opposition, then fine, but this same arrogant attitude was also used with the social partners in the Prime Minister’s choice of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development chairman.
There was no discussion, again it was a take it or leave it attitude. Indeed, a new way of doing Government.
Tonio Fenech is a Nationalist MP.