‘Business-friendly’ as Joseph Muscat meant it is ultimately a business-unfriendly form of government. As he flirted with private interests at those lunches before 2013 that Sandro Chetcuti and others organised for him, Joseph Muscat promised business leaders he would run his government as some sort of clearing house for them.
This sounded appealing. Certainly, more appealing than the daily grind of climbing bureaucratic walls to get permits, licences or whatever it is businesses need to run properly.
Perhaps today’s Sunday Times’s back page that would have been the front page had Keith Schembri not gone to sleep in prison, best represents the ‘business-friendliness’ Joseph Muscat had in mind. There’s a homo-erotic picture of Joe Cuschieri and Yorgen Fenech sticking their tongues out at the rest of us as they celebrated their power and impunity. And the story said that using their private email Edwina Licari and Joe Cuschieri drafted for Yorgen Fenech the letter he needed to send them for their formal approval to allow him to expand his mafia casino.
In effect this has proven catastrophic for business. I speak to players in the gaming industry. They are apoplectic and it isn’t because they didn’t get to cavort naked with Joe Cuschieri in a hot-tub. It’s because most of them never needed to because they do not operate mafia casinos. But now no one is helping them solve the consequences of ‘business friendliness’.
Gaming companies still cannot get a bank to allow them to deposit their employees’ salaries. No bank will touch them because they are all stained by the brush of Yorgen Fenech. They try to chase Silvio Schembri to do something about it but instead of a government minister they find a child with a very poor understanding of the basic workings of banking, let alone its importance to run a business.
These people never wanted a “friend”. If they wanted someone to cavort in a hot tub with them they have the means to arrange for it. They wanted a government, distant, distinct, that listens and acts without expecting a cut on the deal.
I’m not speaking here specifically on behalf of the gaming industry. This is happening everywhere. Businesses are beside themselves alienated and cut off having to unlearn the system of patronage that Labour erected in the last 7 years, now faced instead by a desert of administrative paralysis.
We have a narrow window of opportunity. We can only hope that the incest between government and business has produced its worst blue-skinned aberration and that we learn from this to keep government for the government and business for people of business and to conduct interactions between the two on a rule-based system not a system of lunches, complimentary trips and kickbacks.
But who’s going to do the learning? Robert Abela?