I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.’

– Hotel California, The Eagles

Robert told us that we are in Heaven. Since my pre-school lessons at the Franciscan Sisters in Ħamrun, many moons ago, I was always taught that Heaven is above while Hell is below.

With daily covid infection numbers staying high, maybe this is what Robert had in mind.

Malta is also down in the worldwide corruption index. Transparency International says Malta keeps sliding. It is now in 53rd place. Call that Hell. Malta was a ‘significant decliner’ in the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), dropping seven points since 2015 and hitting ‘a new all-time low.’

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is virginal pure. Malta, named a ‘country to watch’ in the 2020 report section dedicated to Western Europe and the EU, had a score of 54 in the 2019 index and was ranked 50th. In the 2020 report, Malta’s score dropped to 53 and the country is tied for 52nd with Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and Grenada.

According to an EU report about the rule of law in Malta, ‘deep corruption patterns have been unveiled and have raised a strong public demand for a significantly strengthened capacity to tackle corruption and wider rule of law reforms’. In 2019 a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia highlighted high-level corruption and led to the resignation of the prime minister. His former chief-of-staff was arrested in 2020 for an alleged kickback in the sale of the golden passport scheme.

Get this Minister Michael Farrugia: corruption is not perception. Or to put it more simply a ‘perception’ in a ‘corruption perception index’ does not mean someone has ‘imagined’ that corruption exists. It means it does and people having anything to do with Malta think so.

Reno Bugeja is a guy who is looking ‘up’. After retiring to make way for Norma Saliba, a fair and impartial editor if there ever was one, the former TVM Head of News took up work for Projects Malta, is heading a new media literacy development board and is a chosen prophet of national unity.

Some others are less lucky. 12,490 unemployed Maltese are looking at Hell. They have to try and live on €800 a month. All relatives of the more than 300 people who died because of covid are also down there. There were no celebrations for them, only despair as the loss of their mother, their grandfather, sisters or brothers. No, Robert, they are not living in Heaven.

Rosianne Cutajar is okay, though. She netted thousands of euro in a property deal involving the alleged mastermind of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Ms Cutajar has yet to deny with any clarity that she received the money and Robert is waiting for the Commissioner of Standards’ report to see what and if he will take any action.

Also up there is former Minister for Finance, Edward Scicluna who is now Governor of the Central Bank paid €150,000 per annum. This monkey is worth every peanut. He made sure he was suitably compensated for making way for Robert Abela’s Chief of Staff. The septuagenarian adjusted the package to ensure for himself a handsome income he denied his predecessor.

Joe Cuschieri, formerly boss of the Malta Financial Services Authority, never left Heaven. He cashed an honorarium properly due only to board members. This was confirmed by John Mamo during grilling in Parliament. Joe Cuschieri travelled no less than 38 times with Edwina Licari, General Counsel at the MFSA, costing the exchequer more than €500,000. They flew to Mauritius, Peru, Australia, New York, Macau and went on the notorious jaunt to Las Vegas with Yorgen Fenech.

While he clocked up air miles, Malta squirmed in the heat of scrutiny from Moneyval and the FATF. We’re still waiting to find out if his resignation was enough.