[WATCH] Fenech Adami: Full-time politicians would reduce corruption

PN deputy leader suggests full-time politicans could help the country deal with corruption and conflicts of interest

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami (left) and economy minister Chris Cardona on Xtra
PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami (left) and economy minister Chris Cardona on Xtra


If the country expects politicians not to have any professional interests outside of their political career, then a discussion must be had on having full-time politicians, according to Nationalist Party deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami.

Fenech Adami was speaking during a discussion about the current state of the Maltese economy on Xtra where he said that some 60% of lawyers work in the financial services sector, not to mention other business sectors.

“We are either going to exclude a large chunk of people from politics, or else it might be time to discuss full-time politicians,” he said.

The suggestion was made during a heated exchange with economy minister Chris Cardona on corruption and good governance.

The minister rubbished an assertion by host Saviour Balzan, that this year was an annus horribilis for the government, on the count several scandals that the government has had to deal with.

On the Panama Papers scandal, Cardona said that it was simply a matter bad judgement and that there was no proof of corruption to which Fenech Adami replied that there is nobody in the country that believes that the intention was not that of hiding funds from commissions.

Cardona pointed to the introduction of the Whistleblower Act as well as laws governing the financing of political parties and prescription on politicians as proof of the government’s commitment to fighting corruption.

“They are things that the PN kept of the backburner for 15 years,” said Cardona.

Malta’s economic performance

Asked by Balzan whether the economy is doing well because of actions taken by the government or whether it is more to do with circumstance, Cardona said that in 2013, Malta had a problem with debt as well as high unemployment, among other things.

“Before the election, we were told we would need a bail out but today nobody says that, not even the opposition. What they say now is that we are not distributing wealth well enough,” said Cardona

He argued that the improved economic performance was down to fiscal consolidation as well a campaign by the government to bring investment towards Malta. This, coupled with the fact that there is a higher level of consumption have spurred the Maltese economy on according the economy minister.

Moreover, Cardona said that the government had given people better access to institutions resulting in a government that is more aware of the needs of the country.

While this sounds positive on paper, Fenech Adami said that the culture of going to the minister to get things done is what gave the country scandals such as the Gaffarena and the Café Premier scandals and the Paceville masterplan, adding that this can work in the short term, but will eventually catch up with the government.

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami
PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami

Cardona disagreed that there should be less access to the government and said that if anything, giving businesses less is more likely to result in abuse.

“Before we had a government whose accessibility was limited to 5 families and now we have a government that is accessible to everyone,” said Cardona.

Economist Gordon Cordina, giving his opinions via video, put the economy’s growth down to increased employment and increasing tourism numbers. He warned however, that the economy must be viewed in the long term and suggested that an economy like Malta’s need to re-invent itself every ten years.

Cardona agreed and added that Malta’s small size as well as its hard-working work force, made it possible for the economy to reinvent itself quickly, suggesting that this should happen every year. While acknowledging that construction is a big driving force, he said that there were a number of sectors like banking and financial services, as well as new sectors such as the life sciences, and medical tourism that are also making a big contribution.

“In a few weeks, we will be launching a fintech scheme. We are always looking for new industries that can be as good to us as gaming, shipping and other industries have been,” he said.


Turning to privatisation, Balzan asked whether it is ironic that the party in Opposition, that had a long track record of privatisation, was now voicing so many concerns.  Fenech Adami explained that the PN still has many doubts on how contracts were negotiated.

“Everything that Konrad Mizzi was involved in fills us with doubt,” he said.

Fenech Adami said that the PN was against the privatisation in the health sector because in Gozo this would lead to a situation where there is no public hospital, adding that the lack of experience and sketchy track record of those entrusted with the running of the hospitals was also of concern.

Similarly, he said that with the partial privatisation of Enemalta, the government had sold off too many assets.

The steps taken on Enemalta had put it in a position where it is now able to turn a profit said Cardona. He accused the Opposition of being hypocritical in their criticism of government contracts since there were several contracts signed by the previous administration that had not been published, adding that the government had committed itself to publishing all of the contracts by the end of the legislature.

White Rocks

Economy minister and Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona
Economy minister and Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona

On the White Rocks project, Cardona said that the project is still in the pipeline and will be launched before the end of this legislature. He said that the project will involve the regeneration of the existing structure without any high-rise developments.

“We are performing due diligence on the bidders who are still in the running and we hope to launch the project by the end of the legislature,” said Cardona after being pressed for an answer by Balzan.

Quick fire questions

Asked about their biggest achievements as deputy leaders of their respective parties, Fenech Adami said that he took on his role after a massive electoral defeat however what seemed is impossible is now possible. Cardona said that he was happy to have helped focus the Labour party’s discussions with stakeholders for the party’s manifesto and being receptive to people’s needs.   

On how he justified Cedoli, Fenech Adami said that it was a loan scheme, the most important aspect of which was that it left the PN with no obligations.

“When you have obligations, you end up with a Pacevilli masterplan,” he quipped

On high-rise buildings, Fenech Adami said that the PN does not agree with the sudden rush to build towers, adding that he was against them especially when they risk ruining the skyline.

Asked to name the best quality of the opposing party leader, Cardona said that Simon Busuttil is tenacious, while Fenech Adami said that Joseph Muscat knows how to play the political game. 

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