COVID-19 hit soon after Muscat stepped down from office. ‘Coincidence? I think not!’

The Skinny • No. 34 | Joseph Muscat, COVID Economy Hero

What are we skinning? Former prime minister Joseph Muscat devising a post-COVID economic recovery plan for Malta. 

Why are we skinning it? Because our scandal-racked ex-PM being taken out of political cold storage to advise on the economy during a global emergency is quite a bit to unpack, wouldn’t you agree? 

I guess. But what’s the first thing that pops out at you about the move? I would say it’s the very fact that Muscat is only now back in the public limelight, and for this particular reason. 

How do you mean? Well, it confirms Muscat’s position as ‘the economy guy’. He symbolically represents Malta at its economic peak. 

But his administration is also tainted by the fallout of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation – do you honestly think the public will just forget about all that and treat him like an effective and inoffensive technocrat? There will always be a vocal section of the population who will oppose him at every turn, but in emergency conditions it’s clear that the general public will be willing to cut through miasma of still-murky accusations and counter-accusations and adopt a utilitarian stance. 

I remain sceptical about the degree to which Muscat’s involvement is in fact a ‘feel good factor’ in all of this. Almost anything that brings to mind pre-COVID times is going to have a feel-good factor attached to it, though. 

Even the months and months of endless protests in Valletta calling for the resignation of Muscat and his most immediate political aides? You’ve answered your own question: for one thing, the protests encouraged us to (safely) gather in public spaces, cheek by jowl and chanting for change. 

Ah, if only chanting would scare the virus away. There you go, exactly. 

So I’ve read Muscat’s nine-page report. Seems pretty solid. Feels like common sense. But really, couldn’t they have just hired some fusty but reliable economics professor to do the job? Sure, but then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, would we? 

Do say: “While the latter half of his political career was nothing short of problematic, Joseph Muscat did undeniably steer Malta through its most economically successful period in recent memory, and him being drafted to lend his advice during this time of uncertainty is a bit of a no-brainer, residual controversy aside...”

Don’t say: “The coronavirus hit soon after Muscat stepped down from office. Coincidence? I think not.”