There’s a lot of chatter, which I have sought to ignore, about people taking credit not due to them or refusing to give credit where it is due when talking about Friday’s massive court decisions. I think a discussion on credit is secondary to the substance of the matter and as readers of this blog know I will not qualify my appreciation of what someone might have done according to what I think of them.
Still, it is especially egregious of Robert Abela to speak about the court decision of last Friday as if it had been his idea and a result of his heroic efforts. Adrian Delia was not out to do Robert Abela any favours whatever somersaults Robert Abela will do to try to come out of this disaster smelling of rum and raisins.
Robert Abela is saying that he will not be paying Steward the €100 million compensation they might claim from the contract if, after appealing, they definitively lose the hospitals concession. Again, he presents this tough talking as if it was his idea. But it is the court, on Adrian Delia’s request, that has struck down the legal validity of Robert Abela’s government’s commitment to pay that sum. Note that never before now, that Adrian Delia and the court have done the job for him, has Robert Abela ever, ever said that he would not pay the €136 million promised to Steward by Konrad Mizzi. That’s how tough he is. As tough as ephemeral flatulence.
On Friday, Joseph Muscat reacted to the court’s decision on Facebook. I broke a personal rule and failed to prevent my fingers from typing a short comment under Muscat’s post. “Admittedly it is a slow burn,” I told Muscat. “But you’re toast.”
Muscat still has fans, believe it or not. And on cue some of them reminded me of Arriva and why I should be too embarrassed by that memory to speak about Muscat’s disasters.
I think that’s worthy of breaking another personal rule and giving some response.
In 2013 the Labour government decided that Arriva had fallen short of their contractual obligations and resorted to the contract Arriva had signed with the previous government to find a basis for their removal. Arriva and the government discussed and agreed on terms of divorce.
The Arriva group would absorb the debts incurred by their Maltese operation. The assets they used would remain here for the government to use and to sell on. The government paid the marvellous sum of €3 to buy Arriva’s shares in the Malta bus operation, buses and all. They were worth rather more than €3 because eventually the government sold them to a new operator for €8 million.
Now compare that with the exit clauses the Labour government agreed with Steward not just in case of an amicable divorce but even in case a Maltese court were to rule the concession unlawful and borne of fraud. The government would cover all of Steward’s debts, whatever the amount, now estimated at just shy of €30 million and a cash gift of €100 million.
Should anyone feel shame denouncing that? I don’t.