Opinion | Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bookmark and Share

Questions best left unanswered

I was just wondering. Why is it that most privatisations are primarily captained by the same person, that is, Michael Bianchi? And that most of the major privatisations have been mainly clinched by the very same: a low-profile ‘broker’ who has represented most of the successful foreign companies in privatisation bids?
The reason for his success rate could very well be that Mr Bianchi is a super-broker: very apt at negotiating and choosing the right companies with the right credentials.
In which case, this question should be ignored at once. I know Mr Bianchi to be a charming man with a charisma that should not be underestimated. Guess everything helps. Question is, is this enough?


People settling differences or giving vent to their frustrations by beating someone up is becoming a rather commonplace occurrence.
But I still cannot quite understand how it works, when certain people get beaten up and their aggressors fail to get the media’s attention, and are even given light sentences by the courts.
Take for example the treatment meted out to Sandro Chetcuti, who stupidly blew his top with ‘Censu’ Farrugia by giving the loquacious GRTU chief a gorilla-like beating. The press, the police and the PN media of course took it upon themselves to transform Chetcuti into a monster.
If one recalls what happened to Tarcisio Mifsud and Grezzju Mercieca, two individuals who were also beaten up by wayward characters, the difference could be that in these cases, one is dealing with two leading figures from the Labour side. And there was no political mileage to be had there. In the case of Vince Farrugia, the PN media needed to gain some political points and it did.


It is not unreasonable to state that the idea of hedging for oil is a mistake. We could of course go into a very long debate about this. But for those who suffer from amnesia it would be useful to recall the illustrious words of Josef Bonnici, a former Nationalist minister who was later refused a ministerial job with the Gonzi administration and was then nominated for the post of auditor with the EU… a typical Lawrence Gonzi way of kicking someone upstairs and out of the way.
To cut a long story short, Josef was completely against hedging. He accused Labour of burdening Enemalta with an enormous and unnecessary bill.
Anyone with nothing better to do with themselves should at least listen to what he had to say when Labour had a short stint in government between 1996 and 1998. Then Josef was busy launching missiles against Labour over their hedging agreement.
Well, Josef later became minister and reneged on hedging oil, only to be replaced by Dr Austin Gatt. Wonder of wonders, hedging then suddenly became very acceptable to the Nationalist administration, but unacceptable to the Labour opposition… hawwadni ha nifhmek.
The hedging agreement, coupled with the lack of political resolve to reform the energy sector with all its problems of loss of energy, subsidised rates, over-staffing and incompetence, led to the refusal by the administration to adjust the price gradually due to increased costs. Draconian measures which have exacerbated the recession.
And instead of thinking up ways of finding an alternative to hedging, the present minister responsible for Enemalta insists on hedging and hedging. The legitimate question here is rather simple: can anyone tell this man that hedging is a mistake?


It is of course rather ironical that the press pick on Joseph Muscat’s lack of respect for being on time, but have in the past ignored the numerous times personalities such as Guido de Marco made it a point not to be on time.
The Times for example have long stood by the de Marco family, so there is nothing surprising about their refusal to talk about Guido. Completely understandable, considering that the family is intrinsically linked to The Times.
So, it is understood that The Times serves as a gatekeeper for this administration. Yet, it is still relevant and very interesting to know that Muscat continues to be late and to ignore protocol. It is wrong and he has no excuses for this. It shows arrogance and a lack of respect.
Guido could get away with it, but then as I have always said, God is a Nationalist… and until that remains, Muscat should be more cautious about the political leanings of the Lord and his luck with destiny.
But this news item of course reflects the ability and competence of the PN and PN-leaning media to expose a weakness, a mistake or a stupid decision, and amplify it to such an extent that everyone seems to forget what the whole issue is about.
So my wee little question is: who the hell is advising Muscat about all these little irrelevant, non-political details that are so important for the party’s image?


If there is one justified saving, thanks to Tonio’s austerity measures, it has to be eating out. I have to say that the joy of cooking at home is replicated when I dig into the same plate at a particular restaurant and end up paying through the nose.
There is abundant evidence that shows restaurants are finding it difficult to make profits and have innumerable hidden costs. But there is horrendous evidence to prove that many restaurants offer overpriced menus, supported by lousy service, which deters a constant flow of local patrons.
I will not be doing a Mona, but this trend is not a Maltese trend. It is a worldwide phenomenon and it is simply unsustainable for most people to go on spending hundreds of euros in eateries, when they could be better off hosting friends at home in the comfort of their homes.
The other day I ate at a Sicilian restaurant in Valletta. The cheapest secondo was €22. And by the way: you have no view and you eat in a claustrophobic dungeon-like chamber.
That secondo came without the contorni. For side-dishes you need to add another €8 per secondo, and if it is fresh fish you prefer, well that was €55.
Now all of us have eaten in good restaurants in Paris, Rome and Berlin. Those kind of prices are simply not on not unless you are in the very top restos. And all this fuss over Sicilian and Italian restaurants in Malta is really a perfect example of an inferiority complex. Just because the waiters look like footballers and the Ralph Lauren polo-wearing patron has white hair and postbox-red spectacles, does not make the place great.
No wonder the only people who continue to spend money in such restos are the ones with entertainment accounts that make no business sense.
But it is not only these foreign run restaurants which pose a threat and hazard to your pocket. There are many local restaurants with overpriced dishes. Last March, in those luxuriant gardens and idyllic of settings in Naxxar, I decided to treat my better half at what is understood to be one of the top three restaurants on the island.
The service was abysmal. It was hot, so I ordered a beer, and when it did not arrive – after reminding two waiters every time I managed to catch their attention – I tried my luck with a third waiter who had more gel on his hair than I had risotto in my plate. He promptly replied: “Sabih, ghadu ma giex?” (Love/darling/sweety… hasn’t it arrived yet?)
I looked at the waiter, a boy model all dolled up in a white tuxedo,: “Le SAABIHH ghadu ma giex!”
The one starter by the way was shared; there were two mains, one beer, one water and yet another shared dessert. It all came to €84.
I chose not to complain, but I will be spending my money elsewhere next time around, or simply cook at home. Everyone is entitled to throw away their money, a national pastime as many of those who manage our country’s finances surely know.
So anyway… the legitimate question is: why are people so friggin’ stupid to continue throwing away their money? And why are restaurants not realising they are losing out on their clients?

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

Download the MaltaToday newspaper advertising rates in PDF format

Download the Gourmet Today advertising rates in PDF format


Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email