Where has ‘Labour’ gone?

The party known as “Labour Party” is nothing more than a vehicle for the powerful to protect their interests.

By powerful, I do not mean the workers or the dispossessed, who have strength in numbers. Instead, Labour is really and truly the party of Yorgen Fenech, Sandro Chetcuti and friends.

There was no better illustration of this horrible truth than a couple of events that happened in the past week or so.

First, the court cases against (just some) of the participants in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia carried on. We heard how Yorgen Fenech, who stands accused with conspiring to assassinate the journalist, was being kept abreast of developments in the investigation by none other than the Chief of Staff of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

Even worse, it appears that Joseph Muscat himself had set up a direct line with Yorgen Fenech and told him “we need to talk” prior to that infamous birthday party at Girgenti where the “elite” sang and drank in honour of Muscat.

Some in the so-called ‘Labour’ camp might argue that what happened under Muscat is the past and the party has now moved on.

Then how can we describe Finance Minister Clyde Caruana’s statement this week against the introduction of living wages “for the years to come”?

The concept behind a living wage is simple and obvious: It should be possible for anyone who works to be able to live off their wages.

EU estimates suggest that in 2018 close to 83,000 people lived at risk of poverty. The figure will only get worse as Malta deals with the fallout of the pandemic. That is, unless the government adopts socially-conscious measures to ensure that the blow of the pandemic is softened across the board.

Caruana justified his position by saying that “the economy” needed protection and paying people fairly at this stage would be a “kiss of death” for the economy that will lead to job losses. And who sits at the top of the local economy? Yorgen Fenech, Sandro Chetcuti and friends.

How come Caruana is against the living wage but has signed off on tax revenue being foregone pursuant to the stamp duty discounts for property transactions?

Caruana and team will doubtless argue that the stamp duty discounts will help buyers of properties as they pay less taxes. Yes, it also helps developers flog more of the properties they build. In fact, the developers’ lobby MDA said that property transactions netted €3 billion in 2020, the exact same turnover as in 2019.

Therefore, in effect, the stamp duty discount has generated a bail out of the construction sector. The cost to the government was foregone tax receipts. This money could have been spent on better public services or a wage top-up. Instead, Caruana has spent the money on propping up the business of Sandro and friends.

It is possible to support the people and the economy. The first thing to do is to eliminate the influence of the privileged class that lords over the economy because of friendships and connections. Once that is done, it should be possible to see things more clearly.

Alas, for the Maltese government, there’s only one reality: Insiders, like Yorgen and Sandro whose interests are protected; and outsiders who are made to pay the price, even if that means poverty.

The faces at the top have changed but the policy remains the same. Labour’s soul is as good as dead.

Matthew Mizzi
ADPD Executive Member
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 14 February 2021