Konrad Mizzi's legacy

What the minister did not say is that the payments to be made to Steward Healthcare over a number of years add up to much more than they spent on the medical school – in fact giving them a handsome profit

Konrad Mizzi
Konrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi might have been kicked out of the Labour Party but his legacy is still haunting Malta, and, more so the current Labour administration.

Just consider Mizzi’s Air Malta ‘miracle’. Last week, the recently appointed finance minister, Clyde Caruana, was quoted by Maltese-language weekly Illum that currently Air Malta is losing some €170,000 every day in operational losses.

Caruana said Air Malta, which had its aircraft grounded during the pandemic and was forced to make most of its pilot staff complement redundant, was facing losses of some €62 million for the entire year.

Air Malta failed to publish its 2019 accounts in March 2020. These are expected to provide a picture of its financial health this year in its bid to win EU permission to accept State aid from the Maltese government. To be successful in this bid, the minister said that we have to show that Malta is a credible and honest country!

One understands that the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on Air Malta but according to the minister: “If before the pandemic the airline was already in a state of unhappiness, as it were, now it is has become pitiful.”

State of unhappiness? How come? On the 23rd March 2019 – hardly two years ago – during the company’s general meeting, we were told that Air Malta had returned to profitability after almost two decades. It had even registered an operating profit of €1.2 million in 2018. That was touted as a Konrad Mizzi ‘miracle’.

We were told that during 2018, Air Malta’s operating revenue increased by €5.3 million to €197.5 million, mainly driven by 11% more passengers (2018: 1.7 million passengers, 2017: 1.5 million passengers), 8.5% more flights (2018: 14,126, 2017: 13,024) and a 2.8% improvement in seat load factor (2018: 77.6%, 2017: 74.8%). Total operating costs decreased by €6.5 million mainly attributed to a decrease in fuel, aircraft leases and maintenance costs.

On that occasion Konrad Mizzi bragged about these results. Now that incredible success story is being described by the current minister as “a state of unhappiness”!

Clyde Caruana even implies that Malta’s reputation lacks the aura of credibility and honesty.

Take Konrad Mizzi’s leading Enemalta to a profit from Enemalta’s Montenegro windfarm deal. Mizzi had bragged about the income Enemalta will be making from this deal. Now an internal probe has raised concern about a €6.8 million under-declaration of the sale price. Which means that under Konrad Mizzi, Enemalta had probably ‘lied’ about the real cost of the deal. And no one in the Enemalta board of directors seemed to question the deal.

While Enemalta bought shares in the project from Cifidex for €10.3 million, the sale price listed on the contract signed between the two companies and declared to tax authorities in Montenegro was €3.5 million. In actual fact Cifidex sold the shares for €10.3 million after having bought them for €2.9 million just two weeks earlier!

Cifidex even included a clause in the contract, leaving the door open for “further additional compensation” to be paid by Enemalta to Cifidex – as if the €6.8 million ‘profit’ was not enough! A case of undue diligence, no doubt.

During this ‘operation’, Cifidex was secretly funded by Yorgen Fenech’s Dubai registered company, 17 Black.

Or take the very complicated Vitals deal on Hospitals. Answering a recent parliamentary question, the Deputy PM and health minister Chris Fearne confirmed that government is paying €1.2 million per year to Steward Healthcare to make use of the Barts Medical School.

The minister explained that the infrastructural facilities and equipment, stipulated in the contract between government and the Queen Mary University of London, were funded by Steward Healthcare Malta.

What the minister did not say is that the payments to be made to Steward Healthcare over a number of years add up to much more than they spent on the medical school – in fact giving them a handsome profit.

So the investment was made by Steward Healthcare Malta, not by the government of Malta as the deal was depicted by Konrad Mizzi and the Labour media.

The Vitals/Stewards deal includes other suspect aspects, of course. Consider these and other Konrad Mizzi ‘investments’ and ponder why Joseph Muscat did not fire Konrad Mizzi as soon as his Panama bank account was revealed. As Muscat explained, he could not do without Mizzi’s creative input...

Climate warming or freezing?

There is no doubt that climate change is delivering a lot of freaky weather. Whether it is the freeze in Texas or the cold wind from Siberia arriving in Europe up to Malta, it may seem a contradiction that global warming would create a record cold wave.

Strangely enough, bouts of severe weather fit a pattern of worsening extremes under climate change.

It is not just about heat, although nineteen of the twenty hottest years in the Earth’s recorded history have occurred in the last 20 years.

It is about the apparent state of confusion of the atmosphere — hotter hots, colder colds, bigger and wetter and stronger storms, odd combinations in the polar regions and the Gulf Stream and in other natural forces that everybody takes for granted.

When we talk about weather, we are simply talking about what occurs on a daily basis: what you see outside your window right now. However, when scientists refer to climate change, they are referring to how temperature averages are going to change over a long period of time.

Increasing average global temperatures are well documented since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It’s also well documented that the rate of warming is speeding up. The seven warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014.

In fact, the last decade was the warmest ever recorded, and 2020 ranked among the warmest years.

There’s no sign of any slowing down, even in winter. January 2021 marked the 45th consecutive January and the 433rd consecutive month with temperatures higher than the 20th century average. Those averages are a reflection of global trends – not just what’s happening in one particular area.

Climate change impacts on everything from drought to wildfires to sea level rise to flooding and beyond. Scientists predict it will drive even more extreme weather in the future. Short-term bouts of cold weather do not cancel out decades of warmer temperatures.

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