I must be one of the few people in this country who did not receive an email from Paul Borg Olivier asking - nay, begging - for... MONEY.
Maybe he instinctively knows that I am simply not much help in that department. Or maybe he figured out beforehand that my answer would have been... hmm, let's just say most newspapers wouldn't have published it, and stop there.
But of course I got to see the email anyway - all over the world wide web, where it went forth and multiplied this week - and my only question is: what the bloody hell was he thinking?
Let's take a closer look, shall we? 'Labour is rich, we are poor,' PBO said... only to be immediately backed by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who added (on a YouTube clip, no less) that "elections cost money" and that "without your help, the PN cannot cover the costs of the campaign."
Really? And why that is, exactly? Because looking at it purely from an outsider's perspective, a couple of interpretations immediately spring to mind... though I somehow doubt they're the ones the PN intended to impart.
1) If one political is richer than the other, it usually means that it receives more in the way of public donations... which in turn means it currently enjoys greater levels of popular support on a national level. So what better way for the PN to kick off its election campaign, than by publicly admitting that they have become so very unpopular, that even their own donors have finally given up on them? (And while I'm at it, what's their campaign slogan going to be, I wonder? "Vote for us, because no one else in his right mind will even dream of it"? I mean, honestly...)
2) If the Labour Party has fewer financial problems than the PN, it could well be because - how can I put this? - it has managed its own financial resources slightly better. That's what this sort of thing normally means in the business world, you know. And this in turn suggests that - who knows? - maybe a Labour government will manage the country's financial resources slightly better, too.
Is this what Paul Borg Olivier is trying to tell us? And if so: why? Could it be that he is secretly trying to finish what JPO started... and provide the final, killer blow that smashes the PN's electoral chances once and for all?
Besides: can anyone explain what financial sense it makes to pump more of our hard-earned money into an institution that clearly doesn't seem to know what money is even worth?
Here I am reminded of the late George Carlin (the last of the great American stand-up comics, who unfortunately stands up no longer) and his classic take on religion... in particular, his description of God as "all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise... somehow just can't handle money!"
Religion (Carlin continues) "takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more." Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
Replace 'Religion' with 'PN' (not a very difficult thing to do, I'm sure you'll all agree) and replace 'God' with 'Gonzi' (ditto) and... well, what's the difference? Perhaps the only difference is that, unlike God, Gonzi might actually be able to answer the following question: where does all the money you guzzle up each year actually go? Because last I looked, the two parties have for decades benefited from an incongruous state of affairs whereby no donation - no matter how astronomical - has to be registered, or appear on any statement of accounts, anywhere.
In practice, this translates directly into a liquid injection of funds amounting to hundreds of thousands of euros from various quarters - mostly big businesses, which for obvious reasons have no interest in making that money visible, either - that, unlike an ordinary taxpayer's salary, all this ill-gotten booty never comes to the attention of the taxman at all.
Oh, and I almost forgot: the Nationalist Party also operates a commercial television station - NET TV - which consistently places next to last in the Broadcasting Authority's annual TV audience surveys. But despite registering a microscopic share of Malta's total TV audience, NET TV nonetheless commands a respectable slice of the national advertising pie: for reasons which are not exactly rocket science material, seeing as the PN is also in government and therefore controls the national flow of goodies, etc.
So what we are dealing with is in fact a constant, never-ending stream of mostly undeclared income... and oh look: it seems to have all simply disappeared.
Do I need to add that, if this were a commercial enterprise we were talking about (and not a political party currently hogging the reins of government)... it would already be under the investigation by the Auditor General, and its financial comptroller quite possibly facing criminal charges over money laundering? No, I didn't think so either.
Meanwhile, instead of offering some sort of explanation or justification - if not to the general public, at least to the Inland Revenue Department - as to how the Nationalist Party so prodigally managed to make hundreds of thousands of euros of other people's money simply vanish a trace, leaving little or nothing to show that it ever existed... what they do?
Why, they simply turn around with their begging bowls, and ask us all for MORE.
Where's the strategic political thinking in any of that, I wonder? Don't all speak at once...