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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Inside Joseph’s kitchen cabinet

The weakest link limits the strength of the chain. Muscat has been ill-served by his own chosen cronies

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
12 January 2016, 7:54am
The reaction to the setting of the Prime Minister’s speech wishing us citizens a Happy New Year has managed to unite the country. Even the staunchest Labour supporters had no option but to laugh it off.
The reaction to the setting of the Prime Minister’s speech wishing us citizens a Happy New Year has managed to unite the country. Even the staunchest Labour supporters had no option but to laugh it off.
The reaction to the setting of the Prime Minister’s speech wishing us citizens a Happy New Year has managed to unite the country. Even the staunchest Labour supporters had no option but to laugh it off.

My comments about the inane and artificial setting are superfluous and so I will refrain from joining the chorus of mockery that the broadcast provoked – not because of its politicial content but because of the mise en scène that attempted to strut it up and only managed to destroy it completely.

Ask anyone whether he remembers what the Prime Minister’s message contained and the reply concerns someone playing a grand piano on the cliffs and Joseph acting at having tea from an empty cup. In short, the nonsense stole the show and nobody really knows what the Prime Minsiter tried to tell the nation.

Does any Prime Minister need such obviously artificial props to impress the citizens of his country? Anyone who thought the answer was ‘yes’ is the worst advisor that Joseph could have.

Which brings me to the point I would like to make: who the hell advises Joseph Muscat on his PR?

Previous Prime Minsiters would make their end of year speech sitting down comfortably, sometimes near a fireplace in Castille. This is as it should be: the occasion is not a dead serious one but the dignity of the country’s head of government should be palpable. This is not part of an election campaign where a carnival of sorts is the norm.

Mintoff sometimes made speeches that were in fact broadcasts from the House of Representatives theoretically discussing the final motion in the budget process. The speeches sometimes took over two hours, Fidel Castro-like. On other occasions when he had to talk from a television studio, he took with him his ‘kitchen cabinet’ – usually his secretary and messenger, Wistin Abela, Albert Mizzi, Edgar Mizzi, some Army bigwig etc. – so that he felt at ease ‘explaining things’ to them rather than talking to the unseen multitude through the lens of a television camera. Crowds made Mintoff hot up – glass lenses left him cold.

This year’s broadcast was obviously pre-recorded. I understand it was produced by the cronies in Castille and sent to PBS. So did anyone take a second look at this masterpiece in inanity before sending it on to PBS to be broadcast? Or did the person, who thought this was a bright idea of his, keep on thinking on how brilliant he is?

Even if the Prime Minsiter had no time to lose reviewing his own ‘speech’, surely someone in his kitchen cabinet should have reviewed it to gauge the reaction of the ordinary viewer to the finished product... rather than wait for the public reaction to the idea of having the Prime Minister in the kitchen of some ‘ordinary folk’ that turned out to be quite identifiable!

The weakest link limits the strength of the chain.

Muscat has been ill-served by his own chosen cronies.

 

An innovative approach to health

The news that renowned cardiac surgeon and Nationalist MP Albert Fenech will set up a new cardiology hospital within St Luke’s Hospital is intriguing. This development is part of a €200 million investment project to be set up by Vitals Global Healthcare, the winning bidder for a €200 million investment project into St Luke’s Hospital, the Gozo General Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital 

When Konrad Mizzi was given the Ministerial responsibility for Health many raised their eyebrows. At the same time Chris Fearne was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health. Obviously Fearne is in charge of the day to day running of Malta’s health services while Mizzi is looking at a much broader picture: the overall involvement of the private sector in the health sector.

Mizzi has already reformed the energy sector by involving private investment. His only ‘fault’ in this case was that the time frame of the electorally promised Delimara gas fired electricity generating unit went haywire. The official reason for this is the Chinese involvement in Enemalta that was some sort of ‘afterthought’ previously not part of the reform... and this had to be settled first. Yet, I always thought that the two-year parameter was an impossible target anyway.  

Mizzi’s energy reform was the result of thinking outside the box. He is probably the only minister that approaches problematic situations with this attitude and this must have been the reason why he was also given the health portfolio.

Including the private sector in state health services available in Malta is more complicated than giving a share in Enemalta to the Chinese or agreeing to buy electricity from a privately owned plant.

Yet it does seem that Konrad Mizzi has managed to grapple with this one successfully. I do not blame the Opposition for complaining that it has not been given the opportunity to know what is going on. However if it does not know much because the current administration has this obsession of keeping contracts secret, this does not lead to the conclusion that what the government is doing is necessarily wrong. I sympathise with Simon Busuttil’s predicament as a result of Joseph Muscat’s game of playing with mirrors to keep the Opposition guessing and fall into the trap of opposing something that it would have to accept later. 

The new private public partnership in the health sector could lead to a new tourism niche: foreigners coming to Malta for operations and treatment. As Albert Fenech himself put it: ‘Cardiac treatment is too expensive in the USA, so the US government often sends patients to Indian hospitals for care,’ adding that thanks to these new facilities, we will be attracting a fraction of those American patients to Malta. 

There is no doubt that as Fenech himself stated, Malta’s social, environmental and cultural aspects are considered better than those in some other countries. This is a niche that everybody knew about but there has never been a serious attempt to exploit it.

This looks like another feather in Konrad Mizzi’s hat.

Pity about the government job given to his wife: that should have been a no-no, irrespective of her capabilities.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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