Saviour Balzan| Sunday, 06 September 2009
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The suicide note

The imaginary conversations published in this opinion column are finally over. Here I am in this air-conditioned room, facing the real world, the real bills, together with the general malaise, the mismanagement and the bad decisions.
Here we are walking the tightrope of independent journalism (1), trying our best to present our opinion of the events that have a direct influence on our lives. We are trying to make ourselves believe that Tonio Fenech will be turning our economy around, when he does not have a clue. Which is no surprise, considering that the only talent he has is the gift of the gab.
Now let us face it, the financial situation is so bad that it can only get worse. Yet instead of cushioning the spiralling costs, we are inundated with higher bills and tariffs.
Being a businessman in Malta right now feels like being a terrorist in sight of a Mossad sniper. It’s simply madness to do business here. It’s okay if you are a big boy (2) and want to take over the Casino. But if you are a small guy, then you might as well close shop and start a new life elsewhere.
The real challenge today is not climbing up Everest but getting the middle class into 2010. The government’s vision for the future just translates into a suicide note. And if you really think I am exaggerating, here are some succinct reminders of this suicide note.
- The increase in electricity and water tariffs.
- The increase in gas prices.
- The hike in the prices of essential items.
- The planned spending of millions in the Piano project.
- The postponement of so many budgetary promises.
- The failure of Smart City.
- The failure to privatise the Dockyard.
- The crisis at Mater Dei.
- The increase in unemployment.
- The drop in tourist arrivals.
- The drive to privatise everything even if it means higher consumer costs.
- The failure to cut cargo handling costs for imported products.
- The idea of imposing a €7 increment per week on employers in the next budget.
- No visible investment.
- A bureaucratic civil service.
- A traffic warden system solely interested in collecting fines.

Another suicide note
Since we are on the subject of suicide notes, we might as well embrace the great news emanating from Alternattiva Demokratika. The news being that Carmel Cacopardo is to be the new chairman of the Greens. Now, if that is not a suicide note then what is?
Anyone who knows Mr Cacopardo will be assured of one salient fact. That he will take the Greens nowhere is common knowledge, because he is not a unifying force, but merely a disgruntled Nationalist with a chip on his shoulder.
What AD really needed is a Michael Brigulio, or someone with a new political vision with something new to offer.

Smart City
There have been many rumours about Smart City (3) being closed down, and all of them have been vehemently denied. The truth of the matter is that Smart City is one big white elephant and no matter what is said, the works at Smart City are definitely on a slowdown. There is a probability that the targets set out for Smart City by the government will not be met, which will mean certain fiscal penalties on the Dubai company.
Rest assured that when we get confirmation that Smart City is no more, the government spokesmen will announce the news at the most appropriate time (4).

Media Warehouse
A company produces a survey on who reads what and listens to what. This is now the new bible when it comes to the issuing of government tenders on advertising. I have said this and I will say it again: the media surveys by Media Warehouse do not tally with our internal surveys, and are not reflective of the real picture.
Needless to say, the surveys are used to keep media such as MaltaToday out of government advertising budgets. But what is worse is that tenders such as the Employment Training Corporation’s CT 2184/2009 have made prior reference to the survey’s findings as a requisite for dishing thousands.
Today, as we all know, MaltaToday surpasses The Malta Independent on Sunday in sales and is even read before the Sunday Times. The same applies for sister newspaper Illum, which has grown exponentially and is fast replacing Il-Mument and It-Torca.
The decision to make reference to an unreliable survey by government is, needless to say, a decision taken from within the Office of the Prime Minister. In typical Jesuit vein for the people inside OPM, they try to rout out the media by cutting potential revenues.
No big deal, but I guess it would be helpful if readers know what is happening behind the scenes.

On declaring one’s assets
Everyone has a right to his own privacy. But if anyone thinks that a parliamentarian or politician, or any political animal has the right not to declare his interests, then we have a problem. What am I getting at?
Well, it would be interesting to see which of our parliamentarians have declared the properties that they have purchased in the past 10 years in Malta and abroad. It would be more helpful if they declare these properties before I do so in this column.
Do not be too impressed with those parliamentarians and ministers who reside in small grubby flats. There are individuals who own property in Sicily and London and could have only done this in one of the following manners:
(i) Striking gold.
(ii) Inherited their grand-aunt’s possessions.
(iii) Had an undeclared salary increase.
(iv) Won Super 5.
Any suggestion that the purchase of property here and abroad by some of our esteemed parliamentarians had came about after some ‘thoughtful’ donation should be ignored.

Is Joe Saliba a private person?
The big question is whether Joe Saliba, the former secretary-general of the Nationalist Party is a public or private person. Well, yes he is a private person but with a very relevant connection to public scrutiny.
It is a well-known fact that Mr Saliba is a consultant to big business. This is undoubtedly an amazing step forward, considering the fact that Mr Saliba was a semi-literate stonemason. Which goes to show how one should not underestimate the capabilities of individuals.
The question, and I would say very relevant query to Mr Saliba is: why should Mr Saliba be of any special use to big business? What, for example, can Mr Saliba do for, say, Mr Caqnu or Mr Tumas, that I could not do? I mean why can’t I consult the two illustrious gentlemen in their endeavour to make their business empire bigger than it already is?
I guess the rumour that Joe Saliba opens doors, just because he is what he is, should be ignored. The real reason behind Joe Saliba’s consultancy success must be because of his immense charisma, his general understanding of the world of business, and his ability to promote the upright sort of business, that loves a competitive world in which everyone co-exists and works together to scrounge from within the amazing world of capitalism.

Muscat and Labour
Sorry. I’m still waiting for the Labour party to return from its long summer holiday. If anyone has any idea what Joseph Muscat is up to please give me a ring.

(1) Independent journalism: According to the Maltese definition, independent journalism is characterised by adulation for the government and relentless attacks on the Opposition. Even though it is the government that takes all the frigging decisions.
(2) Big boy: A definition for a big businessman (yes, with a cigar and preferably with horses, a super yacht and possibly with the assistance of the larger-than-life consultant Joe Saliba).
(3) Mr Tumas: The name commonly used to describe George Fenech, the business tycoon who once described me as ‘perikoluz’. Needless to say, not in the real sense.
(4) Appropriate time: A time when everyone is looking the other way, or abroad, or still sleeping or in permanent exile. Appropriate time techniques have been perfected by the Edgar Galea Curmi brigade, a unit set up especially to give the impression that ‘kollox miexi fuq ir-rubini!’


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