The Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi speaking at the AZAD premises, said that Malta has weathered the economic storm. Apart from the fact that GonziPN is wrong, one wonders if this could be an excuse for the Gonzi government to re-instate the € 500 weekly increase that the Ministers had awarded themselves.
GonziPN has never admitted that it was wrong to award oneself an increase of € 500 a week, especially when the cost-of-living increase at the time was € 1.16 for the remaining citizens of Malta. Indeed, Gonzi and the PN, voted against the withdrawal of this exorbitant increase when it was discussed in Parliament. It was truly a case of ‘all (animals) are equal, but some are more equal than others’.
After three years, Gonzi announced the suspension of this increase, citing a different economic climate to the time it was introduced behind (almost) everybody’s back. Now that we have, according to Gonzi, weathered the storm, will the improvement in Malta’s economic climate justify the Ministers increase again?
In 2008, the Gonzi government decided to give its cabinet ministers a weekly increase of € 500. This was done without it having been discussed within the PN parliamentary group, let alone in the Maltese parliament. When this ‘news’ became public, some three years later, there was a public outcry. Both Government and Opposition MPs were caught unawares. Several MPs from government sides had said that they disagreed with the decision and the way it was implemented. PN back bencher, Dr. Jean Pierre Farrugia, was possibly the most vociferous and he spoke openly against it.
Whilst Joseph Muscat, on behalf of the Labour party, moved a motion in Parliament to disapprove these arbitrary actions and the lack of transparency, GonziPN defended the decision and ensured that all Nationalist MPs vote against the opposition’s motion, even those that had disagreed.
This increase was also criticised by the Auditor General, who referred to it as ‘a good example of bad practice’. Alas, GonziPN and his administration, have not dropped the ‘bad practice tag’.
It is most ironic that Minister Tonio Borg has just launched a white paper on, among other things; ‘unethical behaviour by MPs’ and accountability. If approved, will this bill have the power to investigate retroactively? Will this bill have the power to censure the Prime Minister and his cabinet for having awarded themselves a salary increase of € 500 a week without bringing this pay rise before parliament? Finally, will this bill have the power to demand a full refund from Ministers, if the proposed Parliamentary Commissioner for standards finds cases of unethical behaviour?
The Labour party has already said that when elected to govern, Ministers will revert to the old pay scale. It is high time that GonziPN will come clean on this issue and admit that the increase of € 500 per week to Ministers was wrong, ill-timed and awarded behind everybody else’s back.