A Trump-inspired crisis management framework | Kristina Buhagiar

Malta’s democracy is in a state of crisis; we do not have an opposition; we do not have a leader and we do not have any alternatives. What we have is a train wreck

Fast-forward a couple of years, what do you think the most memorable moment/s of 2020 will be?

Locally, we’ve been spoilt for choice. Maybe you’ll remember the ‘the ultimate weekend experience’, three days and two nights of drunken pool partying amid a pandemic, or, the time Malta opened the floodgates to COVID-19 by prematurely welcoming tourists, you may also remember Malta’s revitalized destination strategy i.e. as a ‘festival island’ aimed at attracting masses.

If there is one thing we will all remember when we think of 2020, it is how our leaders, from the prime minister to the opposition, went about securing our well-being during a pandemic.

It was evident that the Maltese government did actually have a framework in place to contain the transmission rate of COVID-19. As a nation, we also did our bit – we came together, followed strict policies, respected one another and did our utmost to ensure that the diffusion of COVID-19 was kept to a minimum.

However, as summer approached, government decided that a laissez-faire attitude towards the pandemic was sufficient. Little did we, the citizens, know that we were about to go on a road trip through Dante’s inferno.

To be fair, the majority of people constituting society were pretty aware of the likely consequences associated with abruptly alleviating COVID-19 measures.

However, we wrongly assumed that our leaders were also blessed with this ‘divine’ logic and we erroneously overestimated their capacity to anticipate the long-term ramifications of impulsively alleviating COVID-19 measures.

Overnight, with absolutely no regard and no shame, Malta applied a band-aid strategy, the Trump-inspired crisis management framework: ignorance, incompetence and impunity.

Describing the last few weeks as ignorance in abundance is an understatement.

For example, it does not take extraordinary cognitive capabilities to comprehend that branding Malta a ‘festival island’ during a pandemic is absurd, by both local and international standards – as was evident by the influx of negative press and social media attention this strategy gathered.

Another example: the claim that COVID-19 is particularly mild in Malta. This sweeping statement is irresponsible and short-sighted. Do we have empirical evidence to substantiate this claim? Could it be that COVID-19 is ‘mild’ because the worst is yet to come?

Ignorance is so blissful amongst the upper echelons in Malta, that the Medical Association of Malta needs to strike on what seems to be a weekly basis.

Incompetence in Maltese politics does not discriminate by political party – it’s a phenomenon. Everyone wears the incompetence badge with honour. Out of all the members constituting the Maltese parliament, did no one realise that a pandemic might actually represent a golden opportunity? That is, not a lip-smacking opportunity to Scrooge McDuck-dive into pools of filthy lucre, capitalising on crisis by hosting mass parties that other countries had passed on.

Rather, it could (even should) have been an opportunity to win new votes through tackling crisis effectively. Given our current situation, we may conclude that no politicians seem bothered to legitimately earn a vote by working for it (perhaps they assume our loyalty?).

Maybe this blinkered vision is the result of incompetence, strategic ignorance or a coalition between the opposition and the current government. However, the general apathy Maltese politicians adopt towards voters and their concerns reveals that our interests are considered insignificant. And politicians may be underestimating our abilities to critically reflect and demand accountability for political blunders.

With the situation as it is and as it has been for the past few eras, the Maltese people are not provided with a healthy democracy, one with contrasting viewpoints and healthy debates.

The final pillar of Malta’s crisis management framework: impunity.

Reflect on the effort you put into your work each and every day. Apparently, if you, an ordinary citizen, fail to perform effectively at work, on the third notice you’re fired. How is it that citizens are held more accountable than politicians for their performance?

If this does not infuriate you, I am not too sure what will. The system in place is neither just nor fair. Politicians do not seem to be held accountable for their mistakes, negligence and irresponsibility in Malta – we have yet to see a politician resign for a series of uncalculated decisions.

Abandoning your country and leadership position during a pandemic for a vacation is quite a good example of impunity. So is branding Malta a trash can for mass tourism.

The people have elected each and every politician to lead the country – lead by example, or, is this the ‘illuminati’? Does a position in politics guarantee permanence? Why is it that Malta’s political situation is so dire? Why do politicians favour commercial interests over and above human welfare? Why are we, citizens, not doing anything to change the situation?

Malta’s democracy is in a state of crisis; we do not have an opposition; we do not have a leader and we do not have any alternatives.

What we have is a train wreck.

However, as passengers, we can either choose to demand political reform, or, we can remain complacent phantoms in a system rigged towards political opportunism.

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