Simon Busuttil has represented the Nationalist Party in the European Parliament for a decade. Twice elected with massive votes.
Up to last week I held him in the highest esteem, even though on opposite sides of the local political fence. To me he personified the type of politician who could conceivably make me leap over the fence if I were to become utterly disaffected on the near side. The moderation in his writings , especially when criticizing the P L , often rendered me ambivalent with regard to his aspirations for the P N ‘s leadership which now looks most likely once GonziPN has totally lost its appeal and lustre with the party’s supporters. Busuttil replacing Gonzi should be good for the P N, but not so good for the P L - that’s my ambivalence until last week.
My assessment of Simon’s leadership qualities, however, suddenly dipped appreciably, not because of his decision to contest the forthcoming national elections (which I had anticipated), but because of one important reason he put forward for doing this, which depressed my political barometer heftily.
Why is it that sobriety is automatically lost when politicians shift from European to local matters? I fear the same could happen with the two other MEPs who have indicated such a move.
“In one or two years we could find ourselves knocking on Europe’s door for a bail-out - a disaster”. I would not have been shocked if such a prediction were made by the PM or his Finance Minister - we are now used to their wrong forecasts and un-kept promises. But from Simon Busuttil? Shell-shocked!
Unlike fellow MEP Edward Scicluna ( an economist ), Simon is a lawyer by profession, understandably not so capable of visualizing the extent to which a country’s public finances have to be stretched before it reaches the stage of an inevitable bail-out predicament.
A study of the national accounts during the Fenech Adami administration leaves no doubt that Malta was headed in this direction. No wonder he cleverly handed over the government in exchange for the Presidency at a time when Malta became committed to change its currency from the lira to the euro after at least a two-year trial period during which five economic stress tests had to be satisfied. None financial or fiscal. These were imposed later, well after we were already inside the euro area and when it was perceived by all that not enough discipline had been imposed on errant members to the detriment of the others and, indeed, of the whole eurozone. This problem has worsened and still remains unsolved.
Greece was first and by far the worst offender, then Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy Cyprus…perhaps others in the pipeline. We would probably have been in line with them had we not been warned, at times even bullied, to ensure compliance with the allowable perimeters in budget deficit and sovereign debt observance. Still a hot issue with the E U Commission, despite several creative accounting and financing techniques employed to patch up our failings.
Simon Busuttil betrayed his incompetence on economic and fiscal matters when, during the same interview, he also castigated the P L for its “eulogy of Mintoff’s economic policy”. How ironic! Critics of Mintoff’s economics persistently harp on his fixation against borrowing even for much-needed infrastructural development. Except for two, Mintoff’s budgets were always balanced or in surplus. The two ‘deficits’ would today be reckoned as risible in their paucity.
GonziPN’s electoral campaign looks likely to focus on the PL’s past. But only when it suits them. Certainly not on the possibility of a bail-out as Simon Busuttil predicts.
Don’t you think that the time has come when the PN could choose a non-lawyer as a leader?