Saviour Balzan | Sunday, 05 July 2009
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Pay your bills and shut up

The other day I was having lunch with a leading PN functionary, or to be precise, a GonziPN functionary.
Today the party consists of two factions on the verge of a civil war, GonziPN and the real PN. The GonziPN faction is led by the Cardinal and Austin Gatt, with the help of the usual bunch of toadies.
As we were leaving the restaurant, the owner turned to the PN functionary and asked him: “Listen… who is the Prime Minister: Austin Gatt or Lawrence Gonzi?”
The question was prompted by the fact that the restaurateur had just received his water and electricity bill, which ran into thousands of euros. “You saw with your very eyes. You were the only two clients in the restaurant today!”
For weeks now, the writing has been on the wall. The water and electricity tariffs have led the public to revolt. Others have lost faith because they do not feel in synch with a political formation that means nothing to them.
And yet, in the last days we have had abundant proof that the tariffs will go up rather than down. Tonio Fenech and Austin Gatt have been making statements that literally contradict Gonzi and his sessions of shedding crocodile tears, saying that he will listen to the people. We have heard this so many times it makes one wonder if there’s anyone who takes him seriously anymore.
The owner of the restaurant continued: “I am from Sliema and this is not the political party we know!”
But instead of empathising with him, as one in politics is wont to do, the ‘functionary’ frowned and insisted that Dr Gonzi was the Prime Minister.
These last days, hundreds of restaurants and small businesses have received their water and electricity bills. With declining consumer spending – as high as 40% from last year in some cases – these bills are the make and break of doing business.
And yet Austin Gatt, who sees no problem with the conflict of interest of Claudio Grech being both head of the Malta IT Agency and chief executive of Smart City; or Alex Tranter with being chairman of Enemalta and a director with Zaren Vassallo (the man who will be benefiting from million euro Enemalta projects), continues to impose his fiscal politics on a prime minister who lacks the confidence to say: “Enough is enough, Aust!”
Sarkozy’s France has just reduced VAT in restaurants from 19.5% to 5%. The move is expected to create 40,000 new jobs. Across Europe, fiscal packages have been put in place to inject confidence, but here Austin Gatt and Tonio Fenech are simply saying we need to make more fiscal changes that translate into higher bills.
So next time you get your utility bill and suffer a cardiac arrest, say: “Thank you Lawrence, for being such an understanding bleeding social heart.”

Pretty on the fence
Sitting pretty on the fence, Joseph Muscat continues to defy our intelligence, and instead of taking a clear stand on an issue he states that he will wait for what the public says, and then pronounce himself.
The Piano project is a just a case in point.
Once again, it has been pointed out that everyone should embrace Piano. Well, here I am and I have no intention of embracing Piano so to hell to all those who think that just because Piano has parachuted into the country, then we should all be saying yes to the sire, and patting everyone the back and say this plan is exactly what this country needs.
The same thinking processes were applied when Gatt, with much pomp and spectacle, announced that Smart City was coming to Malta. Joe Saliba went as far as making the theme of that year’s Independence celebration ‘Smart Malta’. One particular editor even posed for a picture in a government-sponsored campaign promoting the country’s advance into the world of IT, thanks to Smart city.
Little did they know that Smart City is all about real estate and very little to do with IT.
Or should I say that it’s just about turning into the biggest white elephant we’ve ever had? Sister newspaper Illum today carries a story about the corruption and financial failures within the Dubai company behind Smart City.
On Valletta, Muscat should take a clear stand and stop waiting for the public to voice an opinion. That is what leadership is all about!

Chapter 2
Cardinal Richard is a man who likes the opulence that comes with power. Driving into Malta International Airport, he is treated like a prince. Invariably late, he loves to meet some of his aides inside the VIP lounge.
At the very last moment before the plane leaves, the wannabe European Commissioner embarks on the airplane to Brussels. On board, his specially prepared meal awaits him inside first class, where he asks his assistants to be readily available.
I remember being with the Cardinal on Air Malta on one occasion. After a few minutes, he waved to the stewardess: “Tell the pilot that there is a smell (of koko) on the plane.”
The stewardess looked at him in bewilderment and disappeared into the cockpit. Returning, she informed the irate Cardinal that they were seeing to it.
Some time later, the same unfortunate stewardess presented the Cardinal with his meal. Looking at his meal, he screeched: “Where is my low-cholesterol meal?”
Red in the face, the stewardess mumbled something, the Cardinal huffed and puffed.
Arriving in Brussels, the Cardinal suggested that we should meet early for supper to discuss the next day over a hearty meal. Waiting in the lobby, I was hoping we would be eating something not too ‘diet oriented’.
Then he arrived, as usual accompanied by his assistant. We walked outside and then he pointed to… Quick – the fast food chain renowned for its high-calorie dishes.
I looked on bewildered. On arriving, the Cardinal did not even look at the menu and simply ordered “Steak with béarnaise sauce and chips!”

Next week: the Cardinal and funny hairstyles

The miskina
As a general rule I ignore the bile and cruel snipes by il-miskina from Bidnija. I have ignored The Malta Independent and blogs– no matter what gets said, I refuse getting conditioned by what the other media spin.
But I am told that il-miskina has once again made reference to my late wife. The first time when she alluded that she was not yet cold in her grave shortly after her death.
Every time I criticise her close friend and mentor Richard Cachia Caruana, she loses her cool and turns into a tasteless and malicious fountain of abuse.
In a clear attempt to intimidate anyone in her path or his path, she mocks and passes personal remarks – many of them incorrect – on friends, family and acquaintances and individuals who have nothing whatsoever to do with my work or the issues raised here and beyond.
I will not blame her for her conceited commentary. She certainly won’t intimidate me.
I will blame Lawrence Gonzi and Richard Cachia Caruana for her writings and they should know that I hold them personally responsible for her thuggish tactics and the ‘squadrismo’ she wages with her pen.
I will only not hold them responsible if they publicly disassociate themselves from this woman, and understand once and for all the harm she is doing to the whole concept of democracy and the PN.
To many Nationalists she is a modern-day version of il-Qahbu, one of Labour’s own thugs from the 1980s. Il-Qahbu could never express his intolerance and hatred in writing so he used his fist instead. Il-miskina does it through her pen and she does it well. But just like Heinrich Himmler might have been very good at carting off Jews, gays and gypsies to the gas chambers the fact that she knows how to scribble does not mean that her warped thinking should be celebrated and praised.
It is certainly applauded by the small circle of people at the Office of the Prime Minister and by Richard Cachia Caruana.
I will not stoop down to her level, even though I can easily do so, even though I have incalculable firepower to do so, and that should not be underestimated.
I will not be silenced and I won’t waste my time discussing her drivel. Instead I will point my guns at the individuals who bless her litany of odium, I have better things to do with my life.
Because guess what… I do have a life!


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