A response redolent of typical Muscat bluster and confidence won’t wash anymore

The Skinny | No. 57 – Joseph Muscat Helps A Buddy Out

What are we skinning? Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat awarding disgraced former health and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi a €241,000-worth consultancy job right before resigning as PM.

Why are we skinning it? Because the fact that it’s been unambiguously highlighted as a problem by the Standards Commissioner may just mark a new era in which Muscat’s misdeeds are actually seen as such.

How do you mean? Muscat stepping down from the Maltese parliament earlier this month means that the formerly invincible – indeed, ‘invictus’ as his tattoo suggests – political figure can now, perhaps, begin to be viewed as a mere mortal subject to the same laws as the rest of us, and privy to the same degree of reputational damage.

He did justify the consultancy on the basis of precedents and political and business expediency, though. As is his wont. It was a response redolent of typical Muscat bluster and confidence.

It stood him in good stead for all these years. But it won’t wash anymore, now that he’s no longer steering a successful economic ship to port and is widely seen as being a key player in a political scene that was riddled with corruption and which ultimately led to the assassination of a prominent journalist.

Are you sure? I’m certainly nostalgic for some Muscat-ian bluster right now, given that we’re all facing the restrictions brought about by a pandemic and its attendant economic dip. You can bask in nostalgia all you like, but we’re gonna need more than ‘L-Aqwa Zmien’ feelgood factor to take us through this.

But wasn’t one of the fruits of Muscat’s economic policy - the citizenship scheme - key to making the covid wage supplement possible? Yes, but by that same token, think of just how much more money could be funneled into similar initiatives had we done away with gratuitous consultancies like those offered up to Konrad Mizzi et al.

Suddenly, the word ‘continuity’ feels a lot less reassuring. Quite.

Do say: “While such consultancies are sadly status quo in today’s society, one should also welcome the Standards Commissioner’s observations as hopefully signalling a change in culture, particularly as increased frugality becomes the name of the game during these trying times.”

Don’t say: “Let’s test Muscat’s confidence in Mizzi by giving him ALL the money to magically revive the tourism industry post-covid. I mean, Muscat seems to think he’s a literal business superhero, so why not pump him up and release him into the wild now that we need him the most?”

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