Oh the arrogance!

We are expected to be happy with what we get to know from ministerial press conferences and work with that. But even those are incomplete

Economy minister Silvio Schembri
Economy minister Silvio Schembri

In a press point this week Labour Minister Silvio Schembri was asked on why is the government not submitting the National Plan for the EU Recovery funds? That’s €327 million worth of EU funding meant to bolster local businesses out of the pandemic. Pressed by the journalist for details, the ‘honourable’ minister retorted by telling the journalist “I will not go down to your level”, or, not to lose anything in translation, “mhux ser inkun il-pastaż tiegħek”.

Silvio’s arrogance is not an isolated incident. The very same handling of the National Recovery Plan speaks of government’s disdain to anyone and everything not party to its inner circle. EU funding rules in fact oblige government to engage in consultation and negotiation on where and how to spend EU money, available as from next month, to support the Maltese economy.

Such was done all across the European Union with unions, employer organisations and local authorities being involved in negotiating a national plan before this is discussed and approved by the national parliaments. In Italy for instance, the plan was subject to tough negotiations with regions bidding for their own projects to be included. Sicily, for instance, made the case for a new airport in Mela, a metro system in Palermo and the elusive Messina straight bridge.

None of that in Malta. We are expected to be happy with what we get to know from ministerial press conferences and work with that. But even those are incomplete. The recent announcement by Minister Dalli for instance leaves us in the dark as to whether the second interconnector will be financed as part of the recovery and resilience facility. Let us not bother citizens with details on how we get €170 million, right?

The outright disrespect to the public’s intelligence is at times reaching epic proportions. One such case is the government’s reaction to the Ombudsman’s findings of discriminatory and illegal treatment of promotions in the Armed forces. Let’s put that in context. The right context is Labour’s own initiative to address injustices in all government authorities. In April this year Minister Michael Falzon announced a whopping €10 million budget to “sees that justice is done with workers, even if legally we have no obligation to do that.”

In the case of promotions in the Armed Forces, the government persists in not seeing to the justice that it purportedly wants to ensure in other areas even in the face of a damning Ombudsman’s report telling it clearly how the record three-in-four-months promotions of Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi and his entourage were in direct contradiction to the rules and expectations of fairness and due process on the other officers which were overlooked.

If government’s defiance of its own Ombudsman is gross, its public reaction to such is even worse. In a statement issued a few hours after the Ombudsman’s conclusions the ministry in charge tries to undermine the Ombudsman’ authority by referring to unrelated court decisions. As we have seen frequently in the past, the government is proud of institutions that work, only when they work to its political taste.

To think that the said injustice could have been corrected with little effort given that the officers in question could have been promoted to posts which remained vacant until recently or included in the compensation for injustices mentioned above. But no. The arrogance of Labour power is such that it needs to make a show of those who have the courage to stand up against it.

The Nationalist Party was said to have become arrogant by 2013. If it did, it took it 25 years in power. It is taking Labour protagonists like Silvio Schembri, Ian Borg and PM Abela just a few years to surpass that arrogance. Roadworks without planning permits, trees uprooted without a shred of an email notifying residents or the local councils concerned and major decisions affecting the business community without even a zoom call with the Chambers of Commerce. Abela this week said he wants to be “the best in the world”. Talk is cheap. Maybe he should cut the hogwash and start from showing basic human decency closer to home.