You shouldn't hoard them all for yourself, but really and truly there's no hard-and-fast rule that's stopping you

No. 209 - I Came In Like A Racketball

Labour MP Silvio Grixti has resigned from parliament
Labour MP Silvio Grixti has resigned from parliament

What are we skinning? The disability benefits racket allegedly spearheaded by former Labour MP Silvio Grixti and which appears to have defrauded government -- and by extension, taxpayers -- out of something like 2 million euro.

Why are we skinning it? Because it's as avid an illustration as any that old school forms of corruption continue to thrive in supposedly modern Malta.

But the case has been uncovered. Yes, and it prised open the inner workings of a system through which beneficiaries who suffer from no disabilities -- let alone the severe kind -- were able to take home something like 450 eur a month in exchange for party loyalty.

Those responsible have been caught though... or at the very least, are under investigation. Right? Yes, Grixti resigned in late 2021, for reasons that hinted at the racket... though nobody would have believed it actually ran that deep.

How deep does it run? We don't know. And chances are that we never will.

Why do you say that? Oh, maybe because of the Maltese archipelago's historic tendency towards omerta' around these things? Maybe because an already embattled political class who may not wish to rock its own boat, despite the classic tribalism still reigning supreme?

But that's just armchair cynicism. Surely we can muster more passion than all of that for something that looks so fundamentally egregious? I guess we could, but there's a lot going around keeping us distracted: from the Film Commission/Tourism Ministry's double-speak about the Hollywood cash rebate, to large-scale end-of-summer events taking up column- and head-space, down to ongoing headaches with overstuffed and badly timed roadworks causing daily traffic gridlocks...

Though I'm fairly certain that people suffering from genuine disabilities are more than irked at this state of affairs. They may very well be, but one needs to ask whether there exists a clear and coherent way for their voices to be heard, in what is increasingly becoming a cacophony of preening and grandstanding for the benefit of the status quo.

Were we better off before? At least the current government has made strides in civil liberties, which presumably implies that a more diverse amount of people are getting a slice of the government-aid pie. I don't think nostalgia or its direct opposite are of any use to us here, frankly.

And now that you mention it, there is something 'old school' to a benefits racket. Yes, it's all about the illicit movements of local monies, locally. A refreshing change from all of the offshore banking drama that has characterised this latter-day phase of Maltese political corruption.

Wanna take bets on whether someone else will resign on the back of this? That would be as baseless an economic activity as anything implied in the racket drama itself.

Do say: "The erosion of trust in government that such a case engenders is not to be sniffed at. Justice needs to be seen to have been done, and fast."

Don't say: "The news cycle around this whole thing was really educational. I'd always assumed that 'benefits' were perks every citizen was privy to, like that bowl of mints in corporate waiting rooms. You shouldn't hoard them all for yourself, but really and truly there's no hard-and-fast rule that's stopping you."