‘I did NOT have political relations, with that responsibility…’

For let’s face it: I am hardly the first to point out a certain resemblance, between the human sexual impulse… and the equally primordial, equally unstoppable, human urge to acquire POWER

Whenever local politicians talk about ‘responsibility’, it always reminds me of that classic moment – in 1998 - when former US President Bill Clinton waved a pointed finger in the air, while saying: “I did NOT have sexual relations with that woman…!”

Now: leaving aside that we never really got to find out where Clinton’s finger was actually pointing, at the precise moment he uttered those words. [And as a better wisecrack than myself once quipped: ‘Who knows? It might have been at his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright…’]

But no matter, because… not only was it bleedingly obvious that Bill Clinton most certainly DID have sexual relations, with a certain woman named Monica Lewinsky; but we even got to discover – through a CSI-style investigation of the Oval Office, no less – every last lurid detail of the sexual relations themselves (all the way down to where the last drop Clinton semen actually landed, on Ms Lewinski’s blouse…)

And let’s face it: you can’t get more literally ‘caught with your pants down’ than that, can you?

But just look at how Bill Clinton behaved throughout that crisis. First, he denied having had any form of ‘sexual relations’, whatsoever. Later, he grudgingly admitted that: “Oh, OK, maybe I did... but hey! That sort of ‘relation’ doesn’t really count as ‘sexual’, does it?’ (Or, as Mr Spock might have said to Captain James Kirk: “It’s sex, Jim; but not of the kind you usually have with your wife…”)

In brief, he did exactly what every married man would probably ever have done, under the same circumstances. He lied through his teeth (and who can blame him, really? His wife did, after all, prove perfectly capable of ‘bombing Libya to smithereens’… so what the heck would she have done to her own, cheating husband?)

It remains a fact, however, that Bill Clinton DID engage in oral sex, with at least one female White House intern; and from there, we can easily deduce that he must also have been driven by that most primordial of all human passions: lust… desire… sexual attraction… call it what you will.

In other words: he WANTED to have ‘sexual relations with that woman’; at least, for as long as his… let’s say, ‘passion’ remained ‘aroused’. [Note:  I sincerely hope you’re all appreciating the sheer effort I’m making to avoid vulgarity. I could just as easily have said ‘He had a boner’, you know…)

In any case: by now you should have worked out why all this reminds me of ‘political responsibility’; and how it tends to actually play out in this country (and yes, probably everywhere else in the world, too).

For let’s face it: I am hardly the first to point out a certain resemblance, between the human sexual impulse… and the equally primordial, equally unstoppable, human urge to acquire POWER.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Henry Kissinger himself who once said that ‘power is the ultimate aphrodisiac’ (and – DAD JOKE ALERT! – he probably said that while he was “kissing’er”, too!) So it’s not exactly surprising, that politicians always tend to crave positions of political responsibility, with the same uncontrollable desire of a ‘Bill-Clinton-on-Viagra’.

But – just like Bill Clinton, after the Viagra has worn off – no sooner is this passionate impulse of theirs ‘gratified’, than… well, that’s it really. All their drive, all their energy, all their ‘desire to bring about meaningful change’, blah, blah, blah... all of it seems to suddenly go, well… ‘limp’.

And not only do they appear to instantly lose interest, in the object of all their previous lust – and how often does THAT happen in real ‘sexual relations’, huh? -  but they also seem to instantly forget all about the political responsibility that was supposed to have come with their new position…

Take Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, for instance. (Not because he is the most ideal Cabinet minister to illustrate the above paradox … but more because he is the most recent). Interviewed on Saviour Balzan’s ‘Xtra Sajf’, he was very quick to remind us – indeed, it was among the first things he actually said – that his ministry is ‘responsible for planning in this country’.

Not only that: but he also explained that – because of the recent reshuffle of ministerial portfolios – his own responsibility now extends to cover every single last aspect, of the entire ‘planning and development’ sector.

In his own words: “We have a situation where the Planning Authority, the Building Construction Authority, the Health and Safety Authority – and every other authority that is involved in the construction sector – all fall under the same ministerial portfolio [i.e., his own].”

Got that, folks? So Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is, by his own definition, responsible not just for the ‘policy’ side of the entire planning sector – you know: drawing up all the laws, regulations, local plans, etc., which dictate what entities such as the PA can, and cannot, actually approve - but also, for all the individual regulatory entities that (again, in his own words): “act as consultative bodies, for all the decisions taken by the Planning Authority”.

Hmmm. I guess that leaves us with only one possible conclusion, really. Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi must also be politically responsible for the - let’s see now: how can I put this as nicely as possible?  - complete, utter and unmitigated DISASTER, that we are currently witnessing in every single one of those sectors, without exception.

Starting with the one Zrinzo Azzopardi mentioned himself: Occupational Health and Safety. A few days ago, a construction worker in Hal-Qormi became the sixth work-place accident victim of 2022… which already makes this year’s casualty rate higher than 2021’s; which was, in turn, higher than the previous year; and so on, ad infinitum. Meanwhile, the latest NSO statistics also reveal that the majority of non-fatal accidents  occurred in (surprise, surprise) the construction sector.

In other words: it is clearly becoming ‘deadlier’ - year in, year out - to actually work on a Maltese building site (and presumably, for much the same reason that our annual traffic fatality rates are also accelerating, at similar pace). There is too simply much construction going on, in too many places, for the OHSA to even be physically capable of monitoring at any given moment; and there is far, FAR too little in the way of enforcement, to control such a sprawling, disorganized mess.

And… remind me again: whose responsibility was it, to ‘clean up this mess’ for us? Among other things, by seeing to it that:

a) the country gets the sort of Health and Safety standards it really needs: i.e, a legal/regulatory framework that is up-to-date, and a proper reflection of the real occupational hazards on the ground;

b)  the OHSA itself is adequately staffed, and equipped, to actually conduct regular on-site inspections (bearing in mind the sheer number of construction sites they now have to inspect, on a regular basis), and lastly;

c) to ensure that we have a proper planning regime in place, that can avoid all this rampant over-development - which, by the way, is a partial cause of the recent spike in workplace accidents – by simply drawing up effective laws, and enforcing them?

Well, a few seconds ago, Stefan Azzopardi told us that the responsibility for all of the above, and more, was his; and his alone. And yet, when Saviour gently drew the minister’s attention to this detail, a little later on in the same interview… how did Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi actually respond?

Why, exactly like Bill Clinton, as it happens. He instantly disavowed all responsibility for the entire sector: and as for the mess, he blamed it on ‘everything and everyone, but himself’.

Starting with the Planning Authority: which the minister accused of having ignored “a 2020 circular distributed across the PA [which] advised the regulator to take into account the local context of planning applications before making decisions.”

See what I mean? If your townscapes are being raped, and their skylines disfigured, by an unstoppable cancer of ghastly, soulless, urban sprawl… it is not the fault of the responsible minister, or the government he represents, for having ‘failed to reform the Planning Laws’ (despite countless electoral promises, etc.)    

Oh, no: it is the fault of the PA itself, for disregarding what was effectively a non-binding, legally unenforceable – and therefore, perfectly worthless – little bit of ‘friendly ministerial advice’…

Same with the Local Plans: “while acknowledging the high level of construction underway in contemporary Malta, Zrinzo Azzopardi blamed the 2006 local plans for the overdevelopment…”

Ah yes, of course: the inevitable ‘remind-everyone-that-the-Nationalists-are-always-really-to-blame’ strategy. How very original….

The small problem here, however, is that – while the Nationalists did indeed expand the development boundaries, in 2005/6 (and deserve all the criticism they ever get, for that disastrous blunder) – the permits for all these new construction projects are actually coming out TODAY.

And not only can Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi easily ‘do something’ about that particular situation, at any time he likes – in extremis, by demanding an immediate moratorium, on all major development projects – but there is nothing actually stopping his government from reforming those blasted 2006 Local Plans itself (just like the Nationalists had done, all those years ago).

Because Zrinzo Azzopardi actually got it right the first time, you know. Unlike the ‘Planning Authority’, or ‘the 2006 local plans’, etc… he himself is the only one truly responsible for the unmitigated DISASTER that is ‘planning in Malta’.

Yet what is he actually doing about it? Why, he’s waving a pointed finger around, of course; saying: ‘I did NOT have sexual relations, with that responsibility…’