Bread and circuses

People  tend  to  talk  of  abuses  carried  out by individual politicians for the benefit of their own pocket, but this ‘system’ has done a COVID and spread to all levels  of  government.  Dishing  out  money  has become the only way for this government to ensure its popularity!

The events section of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has been very busy this year. Getting out of COVID (or so everyone thought), the events the MTA had to organise  to  attract  tourists  from  all  corners of the universe were a big undertaking  that  only  the  boys  and  girls  at  MTA  could carry out.

And this involved many events in Valletta  that  –  COVID  or  no  COVID  –  attracted  huge  crowds  that  had  travelled  to   Malta   to   see   them.   These   events   are  mind-boggling  –  for  example,  the  Christmas  market  in  front  of  the  Hotel  Phoenicia  is  a  monument  to  originality.  Where can a tourist find anything like it?

So   the   tourists   flocked.   There   were   even  some  from  as  far  away  as  Għarb,  Gozo.  For  those  who  lack  geographical  knowledge,  I  hasten  to  add  that  I  have  nothing against Għarb, but in the greater  Maltese  archipelago  (also  recognised  as  the  universe  by  some  locals),  Għarb  is the locality that is furthest away from Valletta.

MTA  has  paid  dearly  for  these  events.  As  part  of  the  contracts  it  makes  with  foreign  artists  and  entertainment  companies, it pays for the accommodation in hotel rooms used by the performers and the accompanying staff.

And to monitor these events, the MTA had   to   employ   serious   officials   who   worked night and day to ensure success – to the extent that they had no time to go  home  for  a  shower  and  a  break.  Indeed, the vital need to ensure the smooth running  of  these  events  created  a  big  logistical problem for the MTA.

However,  as  the  good  employer  it  is,  MTA  solved  the  problem  by  arranging  for its staff to stay at lavish Valletta hotels  so  that  they  are  close  to  where  the  action  was  happening.  What  is  a  stay  at  a €150 a day hotel – apart from breakfast and other services – for each hard-working MTA official?

Why not? It also helps the hotel occupancy statistics!

Wasting  public  money  for  events  has  become  the  most  important  activity  for  the MTA. Apart from events in Valletta, MTA  ensures  that  there  are  also  events  in  the  electoral  district  from  where  the  Minister of Tourism is elected.

It  is  difficult  to  estimate  how  many  tourists   were   attracted   by   these   shenanigans,  but  the  MTA  does  not  seem  to  worry  if  the  numbers  are  somewhat  scant.

Money is no problem, and the MTA is not at fault if foreign tourists do not visit Malta to follow these magnificent events - it’s the fault of COVID, of course.

Seriously,  the  MTA  has  become  an  important  part  of  the  classical  Roman  policy of ‘panem et circensis’ (bread and circuses)  that  the  current  administration has promoted to retain its popularity.  Spending  money  that  does  not  lead  to even one foreigner visiting Malta and Gozo is par for the course for MTA nowadays.

People  tend  to  talk  of  abuses  carried  out by individual politicians for the benefit of their own pocket, but this ‘system’ has done a COVID and spread to all levels  of  government.  Dishing  out  money  has become the only way for this government to ensure its popularity!

And  in  this,  the  MTA  should  not  be  singled out. The MTA follows the agenda that is today encouraged by the state in all its ramifications.

Contracts  are  given  by  direct  orders  not only to friends of friends but directly to friends.

‘Money  no  problem’  has  become  the  motto of the Maltese, even though there is no Latin motto in our current coat-of-arms.

Those of my age remember that the old Maltese coat of arms that was launched on  Independence  Day  in  1964  included  the  motto  ‘Virtute  et  Constantia’  (by  Valour  and  Firmness).  The  same  motto  had  also  been  previously  adopted  by  a  number of noble families in Europe.

That was dropped when Malta became a republic in 1975.The  current  official  coat-of-arms  does  not have a motto in Latin – a shortcoming  that  can  be  solved  by  the  adoption  of  ‘Panem  et  Circensis’  as  our  national  motto.  History  repeats  itself  and  even  the  biggest  empires  meet  their  end.  But  meanwhile,  ‘Panem  et  Circensis’  would  certainly fit the bill.

Justyne gets sillier

Justyne   Caruana,   the   minister   who   dished  out  a  lucrative  contract  to  her  personal  friend  –  who  is  not  qualified  to  carry  out  the  job  he  was  ‘entrusted’  to  do  –  resigned  last  Wednesday,  after  leaving  the  Maltese  and  Gozitan  public  with bated breath, waiting to see whether she had any other alternative. She also said she will not contest the next general election.

Following this sordid story, all she had to  do  was  shut  up  and  disappear  from  the public’s gaze for some time, waiting for time to heal her wounds.

Instead Justyne got sillier.

Within  hours  of  resigning,  she  got  her  lawyers  to  file  a  legal  action  challenging the constitutional validity of the law which  led  to  her  being  investigated  by  the  Standards  Commissioner.  Obviously,  she  conveniently  forgot  that,  as  an  MP, she had voted in favour of that law!

Caruana’s  lawyers  filed  constitutional  proceedings  arguing  that  the  Gozitan  MP  did  not  get  a  fair  hearing,  adding  that   she   was   also   ‘seriously   preoccupied’  by  the  way  the  whole  process  was  applied in her regard. The issue is about the  process  leading  to  the  report  of  the  Standards  Commissioner  regarding  the  contract  of  employment  granted  by  her  to her friend Daniel Bogdanovic.

The  office  of  the  Standards  Commissioner  is  not  a  Court  of  Justice  and  the  technical issue raised by her lawyers does not seem – to me – to have any chance of success.

In  any  case,  her  action  is  an  attempt  to  generate  a  situation  akin  to  that  of  a  lawyer of a criminal getting his client off the hook because of a legal technicality, rather than because he is innocent.

Whoever gave Justyne Caruana the advice to take up this road, is pushing her to yet another public debacle.

In fact, she did not challenge the truth of  the  facts  that  led  to  her  resignation.  She just complained on the way the truth was investigated!

Everyone knows that the facts are correct and that her position was indefensible.  In  politics,  legal  niceties  on  technicalities do not wash.

Here’s  wishing  a  belated  happy  Christmas  and  a  prosperous  New  Year  to  all  readers of MaltaToday!